L’aligot. The name fairly trips off the tongue. It’s a pleasure to utter, but this in no way compares with the unadulterated pleasure that comes with tucking into a generous portion of this gooey goodness.
This specialty of the southern Auvergne is the pinnacle of potato purées. While mashed potato is arguably one of the greatest comfort foods, the French, of course, take it one step further in the richness stakes. And given the bitterness of their winters, it’s no wonder. Creamy, silky smooth puréed potato – already laden with ample butter and softened with a little milk – is beaten over heat while, little by little, a generous quantity of cheese is added. But not just any cheese.
Key to this dish is the inclusion of Cantal, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese famed in the region and beyond. The other cheese often traditionally used is tomme. Common to them both is a distinctive, slightly nutty flavour. The cheese melts and stretches, the potato becomes shiny and glossy and the result is a ridiculously more-ish, almost fondue-like pot of molten heaven.
The dish was originally cooked by the region’s shepherds, and often served on its own. Nowadays, it’s likely to be served alongside chunky Toulouse sausages, although it’s easy to see why this hearty dish requires little more than a loaf of crusty bread to make it into a meal.
What could be more comforting than a bowl of creamy mashed potato? This French version, made with cheese.