When visiting the French Alps, as I did a few weeks ago (le sigh) one hears the term “Savoie” being bandied about like so many stale baguettes. But what does it actually mean? Located in the heart of the French Alps, the region of Savoie is divided into the départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, remnants of a kingdom that ruled this part of Europe for eight centuries, until the mid-1800s. Now home to swish ski resorts and spas with Mont-Blanc towering over all, rustic French mountain cooking, known as Savoie, thrives in the region – even at the 5-star resort hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants — owing to an outdoorsy lifestyle that calls for hearty fuel.
Megeve, a mountainside town that’s all cobblestone and church spires, was built around a 14th century medieval village. The place oozes high-end charm but is also based on agriculture. In fact, the horse-drawn caleches trotting tourists around under wooly blankets belong to the area dairy farmers.
The pristine local ingredients are a key element to Savoie cooking, from homespun cheeses to wild mushrooms, mountain berries, and fresh fish from local lakes. Hearty soups and stews are also plentiful, and desserts are gloriously buttery and packed with fruit (apple tart is a favourite). But the single (and best) Savoie dish is Fondue Sovoyarde. Here’s my version of this decadently cheesy and delicious alpine recipe. Serve it with a crisp green salad with Dijon vinaigrette for a the perfect post-ski meal.
Amy’s Alpine Cheese Fondue
1 1/2 cups Chardonnay
3/4 lb Gruyere cheese, shredded
3/4 lb Emmenthal cheese, shredded
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp kirsch or brandy
pinch of nutmeg and paprika
1 semi-stale French baguette, cut into thick slices then quartered
To a medium saucepan over medium heat, pour in the wine and gradually add grated cheese – stirring constantly until all cheese is melted. Add cornstarch mixed with kirsch or brandy. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and glossy and all is right with the world. Add nutmeg and paprika. Do not let it boil.
Serve prepped bread cubes in a basket. Pour cheese sauce into fondue pot and light the candle/sterno underneath to keep fondue warm. Using fondue forks, skewer bread and dip into bubbly fondue. Feel free to double-dip.