The French know how to add an elegant touch to everything, and melted French cheese is no exception! Mont d’Or chaud is less well known outside the country than its cheesy Alpine relatives, such as raclette or the traditional fondue savoyarde, but it deserves more attention for its simplicity and sensational taste.
Mont d’Or chaud is an easy winter dish that is perfect for a cozy dinner with friends around the fireplace. In this recipe the delicate flavor of Mont d’Or, a creamy seasonal cow’s cheese, is strengthened with plump cloves of garlic and a generous splash of vin jaune. It is then cooked and served directly in the box in which it was aged.
Mont d’Or, also known as vacherin du Haut-Doubs, has a history dating back to the mid-1700s and is produced in the Jura region of France, in the area of the Mont d’Or on the French-Swiss border. There is also a Swiss version of this cheese called vacherin Mont d’Or. Bound by a band of spruce, which adds flavor during the three weeks of the aging process, Mont d’Or is only available in certain months of the year, from September to April, so it is important to enjoy this cheese while you can!
Also known as une fondue au Mont d’Or or simply une boîte chaude, Mont d’Or chaud is a popular dish during the holiday season. My local cheesemonger recently confided to me that he sells over 1,000 boxes of Mont d’Or over the Christmas period! A crowd-pleaser indeed—after all, who doesn’t love melted cheese? And the French are no exception!
Mont d’Or chaud
Serves 4 as a main dish.
1 medium box of Mont d’Or
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 cup vin jaune (a sweet white wine from the Jura; an alternative could be sherry)
salt and pepper
1 kilogram (about 2¼ pounds) baby potatoes (preferably ratte potatoes, such as la ratte du Touquet)
a selection of charcuterie, such as dried sausage and mountain ham (optional)
1. Preheat oven to a medium temperature (350°F/180°C).
2. Put a large pot of water over high heat and boil the baby potatoes until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside, covered.
3. Cut 3 layers of aluminum foil twice as large as the Mont d’Or box itself. Place the box in the middle and bring the edges of the aluminum foil tightly up and around the sides of the box.
4. Remove the lid and make three or four small holes in the cheese with a knife. Nestle the halved garlic into these holes. Pour the vin jaune over the top of the cheese until covered; don’t worry if it leaks out the bottom of the box (the multiple layers of aluminum foil will help contain it!). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, replace the lid and bring the edges of the aluminum foil over the top to seal.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
6. Prepare a platter with the selection of charcuterie, if serving.
7. Unwrap the foil from the top of the box, open the lid and check that the cheese is fully melted. Return to the oven for a few more minutes if necessary.
8. Serve immediately by placing the box directly on the table, accompanied by the boiled baby potatoes, cured meats and fresh bread. Guests can use spoons to drizzle the melted cheese over their plate of potatoes, but it can also be eaten as a fondue, by dipping chunks of potato or bread directly into the box with a fork.
• It is possible to buy wedges of Mont d’Or from your cheesemonger, but for this recipe it is essential to purchase the Mont d’Or in the round box, as the cheese will be cooked inside the box. Good cheesemongers will have different-size boxes available for different numbers of guests.
• Also, if you have a fireplace, go ahead and place the aluminum-wrapped box in the coals to cook. It may take a little longer to cook, as you can’t gauge the temperature as easily. There’s nothing like it, however, and the smell that fills that house will be irresistible!
La ratte du Touquet
Editor’s note: If you are a foodie heading to Paris, why not download one of our three gourmet walking trips or our package of foodie walks for the iPhone?