Aligot. Just hearing the name gets my mouth watering and starts me thinking of cooler Fall days when heavier comfort foods come back into season, after a Summer of eating more lightly. I am in love with l’aligot and often order it in restaurants, but we also make it at home, from time to time.
An age-old traditional dish from the Aubrac area of the Aveyron, which is nestled into the northwestern crook of the Languedoc, aligot was served to multitudes of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela (St.-Jacques-de-Compostelle in French), as far back as the Middle Ages. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that is not only sustaining on a cool Fall or Winter’s day, but is absolutely delicious and a real treat.
Aligot is made from Tomme de Laguiole (tome frâiche), which has a lovely nutty flavor, or Tomme d’Auvergne cheese (although Cantal cheese can also used) and potatoes, with butter, heavy crème fraîche and crushed garlic added. It’s kind of like a perfect marriage of rich mashed potatoes and cheese fondue – and totally irresistible!
It is always served with grilled saucisses de Toulouse (pork sausages which are also used in traditional cassoulet) as well as the occasional grilled pork chop or spicy sausage. It’s delicious with any red wine, but of course, those from the Auvergne are best. A long time ago, I learned a phrase from Patricia Wells – “What grows together, goes together.” I have always found that this applies to wines with foods from any region.
To make l’aligot, stir the boiled, riced potatoes together with the chopped/grated cheese and other ingredients. You must stir vigorously and continually by hand – using a wooden paddle to incorporate air – over a wood fire, until it is completely mixed together, and begins to develop an elastic-y texture. It will have an absolutely smooth and even shiny look to it. At this point, the cheese becomes stringy, and hangs off the wooden spoon, like a ribbon.
Since Tomme de Laguiole cheese can only be made from the summer milk of Aubrac cows, this is a seasonal dish, available starting in late Summer. To celebrate, there are aligot festivals in various towns throughout the Aveyron, as well as the Northern regions of the Languedoc (the Tarn & the Lozère).
My apologies to those of you who don’t understand French, but this video is fun to watch, in any case.
If you ever get a chance to try aligot, then I wish you a hearty bon appétit!