To say that people “like” the combination of cheese and potato would be to grossly undersell the power and popularity of the combination. They are a match made in heaven or, more accurately, France. Pommes aligot is the ne plus ultra of cheesy mashed potatoes. Far from mere cheese-flavored potatoes, these could almost be called “potato-y cheese.”
Pommes aligot hails from Aubrac, a once-volcanic region in south-central France. It’s somewhere in between mashed potatoes and fondue, and it is intense, stretchy, and rib-stickingly comforting.
The phrase “dangerously cheesy” gets thrown around a lot, particularly by that cartoon cheetah, but this is one case where it actually rings true. This dish is 43% cheese by mass. It contains so much cheese that it behaves like cheese. The cheese energy is so powerful, I’m afraid to let my lactose-intolerant boyfriend look at the dish, much less eat it.
Making aligot is not technically difficult, but it will give your arm a workout. Unlike most mashed potatoes, this recipe involves a ton of stirring to melt the cheese, but also to encourage the release of starch to ensure you get the stretchiest aligot possible. (The stretch is a very important part of aligot; there are even aligot stretching competitions.)
Besides potatoes and cheese, you’ll need some salted butter and heavy cream, and a few cloves of garlic. It’s important to fully cook the potatoes until they practically fall apart with just a hint of pressure. Undercooked spuds will result in a grainy aligot. (This happened to me the first time I made it. It was still good, but it could have been better!) You’ll also want to make sure not to rinse the spuds after they’re boiled because, again, you want as much starch as possible. The goal is a tight, dense mass of potatoes that can hold almost 100% of its weight and cheese.
There are lots of good aligot recipes, and I made mine by combining this one from Serious Eats and this one from Tasting Table. The choice of cheese is kind of up to you. Pommes aligot is traditionally made with Tomme d’Auvergne, but that cheese is quite difficult to find in the United States. A mixture of Alpine cheeses works well. I went with half Gruyère, a quarter Swiss, and a quarter raclette; Comté and Fontina would also work. (Tasting Table just does half Gruyère and half mozzarella, and that sounds pretty good, too.)
2 pounds peeled and quartered Yukon gold potatoes
3 cloves garlic
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick of salted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 pounds Alpine cheeses, at least half of which is Gruyère, shredded
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. (Taste it to make sure it tastes nice and briny.) Peel the garlic and add it to the water, along with the potatoes. Boil until the potatoes fall apart when pressed on gently with the back of a spoon. Drain the potatoes (and garlic) and run them through a ricer or food mill. Do not try to mash by hand. This is one dish that needs the spuds to be as smooth as possible.
Place the pot over medium-low heat. Add the cream and stir until it’s completely worked in. Add the butter and work that in, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the potatoes tighten and start sticking to themselves in a big ol’ glob. Add the cheese in handfuls, stirring to melt completely before adding more. Once all of the cheese is added, keep stirring until the aligot stretches like mozzarella. Serve immediately in warm bowls.
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