Aligot - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Aligot

These extra-cheesy potatoes resemble decadent fondue.

According to their botanic family, potatoes are a vegetable. But calling aligot a vegetable is like calling peanut butter pie a legume. Plant matter takes a backseat in this dish laden with garlic, butter, heavy cream, and cheese.

How much cheese to add is a personal question, but the correct answer is some variation of “a lot.” For each pound of potato, true aligot calls for about a cup of Tomme, a mild, nutty Alpine cheese. But Tomme is also made in Southern France, among the Pyrenees mountains, which is where aligot was born.

Shepherds tending livestock in this rustic region once prepared the wintry comfort food with homegrown potatoes and fresh cheese. French pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago likely filled up on bowls of the hearty, creamy starch on their way to the tomb of Saint James. Today, traditional French restaurants still whip up decadent aligot, often as a side to hearty meats such as grilled sausages and roast pork.

Why bother with a tuber when you could just eat fondue? Because smooth and melty cheese isn’t cut by the presence of potato; it’s enabled. The novice concerned about “breaking” their fondue (causing the cheese to separate into fat, protein, and water as it melts) will soon discover that starch keeps everything bound together. Similarly, overworking the potatoes when whipping them is actually helpful—the gluey starch gives aligot its characteristic stretchiness. The finished product might taste surreal and stretch like elastic, but there’s no magic involved—it’s science. Delicious, cheesy science.

Need to Know

Select French restaurants serve aligot, but it's easy to make at home. If Tomme is unavailable, online recipes suggest suitable substitutions.

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