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Crapaudine - a Burgundian gratin of potatoes & cheese

Who doesn't love a cheese-y gratin? In this one back-fat gives it crunch. It's a favourite with hungry harvesters coming back from the vineyards after a hard morning bent over the vines, secateurs in hand. In fact it's a winner any time, served with a green salad, or alongside a simple roast chicken.


1.5 kg (3 lb) firm-fleshed potatoes (belle de Fontenay type for preference)

500 g (1 lb) salted pork back-fat 500 g (1 lb) grated Gruyère salt freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F, 220°C.

Slice the back-fat thinly and use to line a heavy casserole, taking care to cover the bottom and sides completely and reserving some pieces for the top.

Wash, peel, wipe and slice the potatoes, about 0.5 to 1 cm (1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in) thick.

Line the bottom of the casserole with the potatoes and sprinkle with Gruyère.

Season with salt and pepper.

Continue with these two layers, taking care to arrange the slices neatly.

Lay the reserved strips of fat on top and start the cooking on the top of the stove - it needs to get really hot.

As soon as the fat at the bottom of the casserole starts to crackle, transfer it to the preheated oven. Continue cooking until the top is golden-brown, then cover the casserole, reduce the heat to about gas mark 2, 300°F, 150°C and cooking gently for 2 to 3 hours, lowering the temperature if cooking too fast. It is important to spoon off the fat, which is copious, half-way through the cooking.

The Crapaudine can easily be made in large quantities for a party. The amount of fat and cheese used should each be a third of the quantity of the potatoes.

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