Aligot is a mashed potato dish made transcendent by the addition of fresh white tome cheese that stretches into spectacular long strings. It's simple and delicious.
Like every self-respecting great dish, aligot has a legend attached to it. It dates back to the 12th century, the heyday of pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. According to some sources, harried pilgrims would knock at the door of the Domerie d'Aubrac asking for "aliquid" (anything to eat). The monks would give them bread and cheese in a single dish. Eventually "aliquid" became "aligot." The tradition was carried on in small restaurants as the recipe became richer and less austere, using fresh tome and even some cream in the mashed potatoes.
Another story traces aligot's origins to the year 590 when 3 bishops met near Aubrac. Each had brought with him some food: the bishop of Auvergne had potatoes, that of Rouergue had cheese, butter and milk, and the prelate of Gévaudan had a new ingredient: garlic. And there was salt from Camargue. The churchmen asked the local innkeeper to create something edible from their provisions. Being no cook, he took the simplest route and combined everything in a large pot. The bishops were served, tasted the dish, and had some more. As they argued over who should take the leftovers home to his own diocese, the dish became stringy, as if it did not want to leave. And so they decided it should be made only right there in Aubrac. And because it was made with "ail," or garlic, they gave it the name "ailligot," which over time became "aligot."
- Cook the peeled potatoes in salted boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain.
- Press the potatoes through a ricer into a large saucepan in which you have melted the butter with the cream over low heat.
- Combine, gradually blending in the hot milk until you have a smooth supple mixture. This first part of the aligot can be prepared in advance.
- Just before serving, gently reheat the potato purée and add, all at once, the fresh tome, cut into thin slices, working the mixture with a wooden spoon until it is stringy. Serve immediately. The garlic can be served separately in a small dish or added into the aligot at the last minute.
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