Thursday, February 08, 2007
I suppose that most people are familiar with the famous French knife company, Laguiole (that's pronounced: Lieeeyole) I have a friend, Marion, who a few years ago was stopped boarding a plane in Toulouse because she had forgotten to take her Laguiole out of her pocket. The official looked at ther and said, "What's this, a knife?" and she smiled charmingly and said "Oh, that's my Laguiole!". There was a bit of a chuckle and she proceeded on board. Those were more innocent days.
But there is another product from the Laguiole region and it is an excellent cheese, called also a Laguiole.
The Laguioles are in huge forms when they are made. 40cm in diameter and 40 cm high and weigh as much as 48 kilos. They are a light yellow cheese with a sweet sharpness thatt defelops as it ages like a cheddar. The first mention of the cheese by its name was in a text from 1560, but the tradition of making cheeses in the manner of a Laguiole date back in the region to the fourth century. Laguiole is in the Cantal and there are a few other cheeses that are related to it. The Cantal, Salers, Pave de Correze all are cheeses that are at there prime at different times of the year.
They were given the AOC rating in 1961 and officially, a Laguiole must be made from milk from the Aubrac race of cows which feed in the hilly meadows of the Cantal from mixed vegetation. They eat a lot of grass, but the herbs that grow in the region are very important to the flavor. Every real Laguiole form is stamped with the image of a Taureau.
Traditionally, the cheese is made in the winters with the milk collected which is curdles and put into the big forms. They are aged in stone huts called burons in the basalt hill sides that the cow herders/cheese makers live in. The cheeses are pressed everyday to get all the moisture out. Traditionally, the cheese maker would kneel on the cheese and the lore is if you find a knee hair in the surface of the cheese, you know you have a traditionally made Laguiole! The traditional hearty potato dishes of the Auvergne are made with Lagiuole and the related cheeses, such as an Aligot...which is a thick elastic puree of cheese and potatoes. It's a great cheese for melting, wonderful on the cheese plate and it marries well with a hearty red wine.
I suppose you are wondering, how do I make l'aligot? That's what these fellows are doing in the picture.
It's a pretty simple recipe, you don't have to use Laguiole, a Cantal or Salers or Pave Correziene are perfectly fine.
Here's proportions for 6 persons:
Take 8 big potatoes and boil them skinned.
Mince 4 cloves of garlic
Puree the potatoes, while they are still hot, add the garlic and 300 grams of grated Laguiole, 1 small glass of water,
salt and pepper, a little nutmeg, 60 grams of butter, and a little cream. Here we would use thick creme fraiche...maybe 4 soupspoons and a little milk if it needs thinning. Mix this all together in a nice pot on the low heat preferably with a wooden spoon until you have obtained an elastic substance which forms long strands when you pull it from the pan...this is the classic aligot and I guarantee it is just the thing you need after being out in the cold weather!
Bon apetit, bien sur!