As I said yesterday, I had three pieces of cheese I wanted to find a good use for before they got too ripe, along with a package of smoked bacon lardons and a bag of nice firm-fleshed potatoes. Not to mention a good appetite. So I made a potatoes au gratin dish that fit those ingredients and appealed to me.
I based my gratin on the recipe for Truffade auvergnate (meaning from the Auvergne region of France). I didn't have the un-aged Cantal cheese (called tomme fraîche) used in a classic truffade, but I did have a block of Mozzarella, a triangle of Munster, and a left-over piece of heart-shaped Neufchâtel (a Normandy cheese). All three fit the bill — soft, creamy, and not too strong-tasting once rinds were removed.
Usually, a truffade — it's called that because French and Italian people thought potatoes resembled little white truffles (truffes) when they first saw them two or three centuries ago — is cooked in a covered pan on top of the stove. I decided to cook mine in the oven, but to sauté the sliced potatoes first in a frying pan, in batches, and then layer them in an oven-proof dish with cooked lardons fumés. After I cooked it, I found this recipe that pretty much describes what I had done, right down to the proportions and amounts.
I cut up the cheese into little cubes — the cheeses were too soft to grate — and just spread them over the top of the layers of partially cooked potatoes and cooked lardons. Then I put a domed lid on the pan and set it in a hot oven until all the cheese had melted and the potatoes were very tender.
For a truffade, the point is not to brown the cheese. It should be melted and creamy. But the potatoes and bacon are slightly browned so that you get that good caramelized flavor. This would be a great breakfast or brunch dish served with eggs. Try not to eat too much.