A classic French Aligot isn’t so much a side dish as it is a work of art. Humble potatoes and cheese are beaten together with crème fraîche until they form silky, smooth ribbons of puréed potato.
The Aligot a deliciously hearty recipe and it’s tempting to eat it all by itself in the dead of winter for its sheer comfort value or accompany it with a rich steak for a luxurious meal. Once you do, it will be hard to go back to regular mashed potatoes.
Traditionally, Cantal, a semi-firm cow's milk cheese from the region of the same name of south-central France, is used in this recipe. Since Cantal has a mellow nutty flavor, if it isn't available to you, cheddar cheese can be substituted.
- 2 pounds mashing potatoes* peeled and cut into quarters
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick) butter
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche (or substitute equal parts sour cream and heavy cream)
- 1 clove garlic, lightly crushed but kept intact
- 3 cups grated Cantal cheese (or substitute good-quality sharp cheddar)
- Place the potato quarters into a pan of cold, lightly salted water. Boil for 20 minutes, until they are tender. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don't start to break up and become mealy. Once cooked, drain them in a colander.
- Mash the drained potatoes with a masher. Add the salt, white pepper, and butter and then vigorously mix for 2 to 3 minutes until the potatoes fluff up a bit. Set them aside in the pan for a moment.
- In a medium -sized saucepan over medium heat, bring the crème fraîche and garlic to just steaming. Do not boil or the creme fraîche may break.
- Remove the garlic and pour the hot crème fraîche into the mashed potatoes and transfer the pan of potatoes to the stovetop over low heat.
- Using a sturdy wooden spoon, beat the crème fraîche into the potatoes. By now, the potatoes will start to turn glossy.
- Raise the heat to medium and beat in the cheese, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue beating the mixture over the heat until it forms a smooth, velvety texture, about 10 minutes. Do not skimp on this process. It is the sturdy beating that makes aligot so deliciously velvety.
- Pour onto warm plates and serve immediately.
*Important: Ensure the potatoes you are using are specifically for mashing, not for fries or salads. If they are not the floury type, when whipping the potatoes will turn waxy and greasy rather than fluffy and light.
How to Keep Aligot if Not Serving Immediately
Aligot does not keep very well. However, if you must, it can be held for a short time by placing greaseproof paper like parchment on the surface of the potatoes, making sure it is in direct contact with the aligot. This method will help prevent a skin forming on the potatoes which would make the aligot unpleasantly lumpy if you stir it in.
This technique is suitable for all milk- and cream-based dishes which are prone to skin-forming.