If you can?t afford truffles, you indulge in Truffade say the inhabitants of Auvergne, notoriously among the coldest and most rugged parts of France. Often served with sausages, Truffade is a potato cake flavored with bacon and laden with cheese, a buttress against the worst weather. Nippy Cantal is the local hard cheese, and Gruyère can be substituted.

Serves 4

  • 5-ounce/150-gram piece of lean bacon, cut in lardons
  • 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds/900 grams floury potatoes, thinly sliced
  • Pepper
  • 8 ounces/225 grams Cantal or Gruyère cheese, diced or cut in thin strips
  • 10-inch/25-centimeter nonstick frying pan

Heat the bacon lardons in the frying pan over medium until the fat runs but do not brown it. Remove and set it aside. Add the lard to the pan and heat it. Add the potatoes and sprinkle them with pepper. Lower the heat, cover and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the lardons and continue to cook uncovered over low heat, tossing or stirring often, until the potatoes are tender and some are browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Don?t worry if some of them are crushed, this helps hold the mixture in a cake.

Stir in the cheese, taste, and adjust seasoning. Press the mixture level in the pan. Turn the heat to high and let the mixture cook without stirring until the bottom is browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Press on it occasionally to hold it together. The cake should be brown around the edges and starting to pull from the sides of the pan. Take it off the heat, run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn it onto a hot platter. Serve hot.

photo by France Ruffenach
Excerpted from THE COUNTRY COOKING OF FRANCE
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.