November 23, 2004

Aligot.jpgAligot (pronounced "ah-lee-go") is a dish from the Auvergne region of France. Specifically, it's from the Aveyron...and if you want to get more specific it's from the area around the town of Laguiole ("lah-yole"), which produces a cheese of the same name. Why do you care? Because this is the origin of the best thing to happen to mashed potatoes since some clever clod decided to slap a pad of butter on it. According to the site, you can make aligot with potatoes and mozzarella. No, no, no, no. (As soon as I find my Epicurious password I'm going to set the record straight in their comments...sheesh!)

Actually, it's a pretty simple recipe and like all simple recipes relies on using the best ingredients. Oh yes, and the right ones...none of this Italian cheese sliding into the process. To make it you need potatoes, a little butter, a little creme fraiche or cream, garlic and one of the following cheeses: tomme d'Auvergne, tomme de Laguiole or tomme fraiche. You'll notice a pattern there, no doubt. You need some tomme cheese.

And when you mix these elements together you get a dish that is similar to mashed potatoes but creamier, tastier and just plain delicious. The cheese is a bit nutty flavoured, the clove of raw garlic gives it a little bit of bite (but not too much!) and the overall effect is something that is at once warming, filling and full of flavour.

As you can see in the photo that I pinched from another site, it becomes gooey like a good cheese fondue. It cools quickly so you don't have to treat it like spaghetti when eating it, but in the production you should be able to pull up your spoon and see strings of cheesy mashed potatoes. So it's not only a great-tasting dish, but it's FUN to make!

Okay, it's a bit of a pain to clean up afterwards, but no dish is perfect, right?

Serves four generously

800 grams of potatoes (about a dozen medium)
600 grams of tomme cheese (tomme d'Auvergne is my favourite but somewhat difficult to find)
1 clove of garlic
50 grams butter
a heaping tablespoon of creme fraiche or 2 Tbs cream
salt to taste

Boil your potatoes in salted water until tender. While they are cooking, cut the cheese in small sticks or cubes. Drain the potatoes and either mash them or - even better - put them through a potato ricer. Return the potatoes to the pan you used to boil them and put them over a very low flame. Stir in the butter, pressed garlic clove and cream. Gradually add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon as you go. According to the more traditional recipes I've seen, you are supposed to make figure eights in the pot, but your pot might not be big enough for this to be effective. (I've heard the same thing said about stirring a fondue and take it with the same grain of salt!) Stir it. Draw the spoon up every once in a while to admire the long strings you are making.

Once you have incorporated all the cheese, taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.

A few things to note: it is essential to keep the flame under the potatoes as low as possible while adding the cheese so that it will not separate. This did not happen to me, but I read this advice in several of the recipes I consulted and it sounds intelligent. You need some heat to keep the potatoes warm enough to melt the cheese, but you should not be "cooking" anything at this point.

I would also play with adding an extra clove of garlic next time. I am always leary of overdoing the garlic when it is raw, but the potatoes are bland enough that you have some room for play here.

If you are passing through Paris and would like to try this specialty in a restaurant, I can recommend a place just off the Champs-Elysees that serves Auvergnat dishes including a lovely aligot:

Maison de l'Aubrac
37 rue Marbeuf
75008 Paris
metro Franklin D. Roosevelt or Georges V
Phone 01 43 59 05 14

Traditionally, an aligot is served with some nice meaty sausages, but as the beef from the Aubrac region is deservedly reknowned you could also order it with a nice juicy steak. Bon ap'!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at November 23, 2004 4:54 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Good lord that looks decadent. I've never tried aligot, but I will now. Probably on a night when my wife is away...

Posted by barrett on November 23, 2004 at 8:52 AM

6 grams of cheese? Is that a misprint? I'm guessing 600 is more in line.

Posted by barrett on November 23, 2004 at 9:08 AM

Oops, yes that was a typo Barrett: I have corrected it and 600 is correct. In fact some of the recipes call for equal amounts of cheese and potatoes, so I was being moderate in this one!

I'm afraid I should avoid posting first thing in the morning as Clothilde also pointed out that I had mis-spelled the name of the town Laguiole (now corrected). Double oops!

Posted by Meg in Paris on November 23, 2004 at 9:53 AM

Five of my favorite things in one dish. Potatoes, cheese, crème fraîche, garlic and butter. Yum!

Posted by Seattle Bon Vivant on November 23, 2004 at 11:38 AM



Posted by Fae on November 23, 2004 at 12:06 PM

I am wondering if there is a Northwest cheese which might come close to one of the tommes. Perhaps, since I live in Seattle, the Seattle Bon Vivant can suggest a local cheese? If not, I will begin the research process. Also, we have here so many varieties of potato. My 2 faves are Yukon Gold, and good old North Dakota Red, but will a good baker work just as well? Cheers.

Posted by Notable Exception on November 23, 2004 at 4:17 PM

So, out of curiosity, what exactly is tomme cheese? I always thought that a tomme was just a wheel of cheese, rather than a particular style.

Posted by Sweth on November 23, 2004 at 10:58 PM

Notable - for the cheese if you can find a nice Cantal, that would also work. Otherwise, if Seattle Bon Vivant doesn't have any ideas, you might try the link to the Cheese Diaries on our "Other Chefs" section. Actually, any medium-hard nutty cheese that melts well would work. I don't actually mean to set myself up as a snob on this dish in my comment about; it's just that as a professional site I would have thought they could be a little more accurate, perhaps saying that this is "inspired" by the French dish Aligot? Also, they included horseradish in the recipe, which is just weird. Anyway, have fun and experiment and let me know what you find out - this is obviously a topic that interests more than just me!

For the potatoes, the classic recipe would use any one that is good in a mash or puree but a baking potato might give it more flavour and an interesting texture!

Posted by Meg in Paris on November 24, 2004 at 12:04 PM

Sweth - you are exposing the weak points in my post! I have now done a little more research in my Guide des Fromages de France and on the web and can be a little clearer:

Tomme is a fairly common name for a hard cheese, usually sold in a large round or a large cylinder.

The most common tomme comes from the Savoie region and is made from cow's milk, but it is also produced in Auvergne and made from sheep or goat milk (though the latter two are pretty rare).

What the cheeses all seem to have in common is the shape, the fact that they melt particularly well, the consistency (medium-hard) and the mild, nutty (sometimes mushroom-like) flavour.

And for a true aligot, the main thing is to get one from the Auvergne region or a similar Auvergnat cheese. Laguiole, for example is sometime simply called Laguiole and sometimes Tomme de Laguiole.

Lastly, I may have sounded like a cheese-nazi in the post, when at the end of the day almost any mixture of a good cheese with potatoes, cream and a clove of garlic can be really nice! As Seattle Bon Vivant so correctly pointed out...!

Thanks to everyone for responding to this post! It makes my day to see people interested in it!

Posted by Meg in Paris on November 24, 2004 at 12:12 PM

So you pinched that photo? I thought at first that you had finished the tiling! Well, we'll give it another go on the next visit.

Posted by Big Brother on November 25, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Caution ! if tomme indeed is the usual name of several hard cheeses in France, it may also designate the first steps of the process from curd to mature Cantal cheese, and should be named tome. The genuine recipe of aligot uses this tome from the Aubrac plateau, that is within the specific area of Laguiole cheese. Interesting historic roots can be found about this : Middle Age pilgrims to Santiago-de-Compostela, monks of Aubrac hamlet giving shelter and aligot etc. (please, excuse my awful Frenglish !...)

Posted by PLO on April 8, 2005 at 5:51 PM

PLO, thanks for the additional information. Since writing this post, I have acquired a copy of the Larousse Gastronomique, which has more information:

"Tomme or Tome
The generic name of gtwo large families of cheeses: one made from goat's or ewe's milk, especially in SE France and the Dauphiné and sometimes in Savoy; the other rom cows' milk, pressed and uncooked, typical of Savoy and Switzerland. Tomme is also the name given to Cantal and Laguiole at the first stage of their preparation, when they are still fresh."

From the Aligot entry, we are told that it is made with Cantal cheese, but that fresh Tomme may be used instead, the best being Tomme de Planèze. I'll have to find that one...

I love my Larousse Gastro!

Posted by Meg in Paris on April 11, 2005 at 9:11 AM

I've actually had the aligot at the Maison de l' mouth waters everytime I think about it! My friends and I were in Paris last year and ended up going back there twice just for the aligot. They have a recipe on their site, but the translation is hard to get through. I bought some Laguiole today and will be trying the recipe.

Posted by Adrienne Choy on June 1, 2005 at 1:40 PM

just back from Montpellier in France and ate l'aligot for the first time. great meal at Cellier de Lozerre - well worth a detour to visit - aligot served by twisting with two forks, then spinning down onto plate from about three feet (one metre). more impressive than a flambe

going to try to make it tonight!

Posted by michael van straten on June 10, 2005 at 11:12 AM

Another place (in Paris) for excellent aligot (and the auvergnais sausages that go along so well) is the Ambassade d'Auvergne at 22 rue de Grenier-St.Lazare. The web site follows, prices are reasonable, and the place is very friendly.

Posted by Duncan S on October 14, 2005 at 2:02 PM

Having bought Aligot from a Fete d'Aligot in South West France " yrs ago and waited for a whole hour in a "queue" ( only the English know the rules of queueing!!) we sat at a table in the street and consumed the delicious contents. mmmm... I know find that I can buy TOME in Waitrose in Okehampton Devon G.B We live in Dunsford Devon by the way.
I shall try out your recipe and compare it with the taste that I remember

Posted by Christine Marsden on January 19, 2006 at 4:02 AM

I think tomme can be quite a misleading term, as Larousse points out. All french recipes for Aligot I have seen or heard specify tomme fraiche, which is a moist, soft, creamy, elastic cheese and therefore imbues the aligot with that essential stringiness that it absolutely has to have! I have tried with harder tommes and I don't think it works as well for the texture.

Of course, tomme fraiche is pretty nigh impossible to get hold of anywhere outside of the Auvergne and the Aubrac specicifically. I think this is the reason for the mozzarella substitute.

Posted by Ziryab on April 21, 2007 at 10:28 AM

I would also put in another recommendation for the ambasade d'auvergne. I was introduced to that by my father and as it turned out in the following years I would live within 2 blocks of it. I'm actually running this as my special for the rainy weekend we're having, but I'm going to try doing a blend of raclette, tomme, and cantal and see how it goes.

Posted by Alex Harney on October 28, 2008 at 2:01 PM

just come back from working at Club Gascon, and Aligot is amazing! The cheese comes over from Rungis market, and is fraiche

Posted by Dan on February 10, 2009 at 4:59 AM

My sister served me this last year. Delicious. She used a tablespoon of creamed horseradish to give the potatoes a little zest. Not traditional but definitely worked.

Posted by Luke on January 16, 2010 at 3:35 AM

Had it in a Brooklyn restaurant (The Grocery) with Emmenthaler cheese; it was delicious!

Posted by Robin on January 25, 2010 at 11:29 AM

Just returned from a trip to Paris. We had this wonderful dish at La Petite Perigourdine at 39, rue des Ecoles. We had eaten it four years ago, and were hoping our memories weren't exaggerated. They weren't. We introduced our friends to it, and we can't wait to try it ourselfes. I was wondering if Emmenthaler cheese would work.....I can get that easily.

Posted by Carolyn Waterman on March 29, 2010 at 11:54 AM

any good Deli in the UK can order Cantal for you. It is also available on line at many sites along with Raclette

Posted by john on January 9, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Meg, you da' bomb. Just got back from Paris a couple days ago where I encountered my first taste of aligot. Had it at a restaurant on George V, just down the street from your recommendation. Was touted as mashed potatoes with tomme, and it was amazing. Ate it with steak and would have traded in the steak for more aligot. My husband and I licked the bowl clean!

Posted by Sarah on June 9, 2011 at 12:53 AM
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