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Aligot is a rich potato and cheese dish, somewhat like fondue in texture and taste, which is usually served alongside sausages or another type of meat. It is associated with the Aubrac region of south-central France, and is believed to have been created by local monks. Aligot is prepared by cooking boiled, mashed potatoes with cheese, crème fraiche, butter, and seasonings. While adaptations of this dish call for various cheeses, aligot purists argue that only the family of French cheeses known as tomme is acceptable.
With its warm flavor and rich, creamy texture, aligot is considered by many to be a “comfort food.” As the cheese it contains lends it a supple, ribbon-like quality, the dish bears some similarity to fondue. Unlike fondue, however, it is usually served as a side dish rather than a main course. In France, it is often joined by local pork sausages or by another type of meat, such as beef.
The history of aligot is usually traced back to the Aubrac region of central France. It is widely believed that the dish was first conceived by monks from this region, who sought to create a meal using inexpensive local ingredients. The dish gained popularity when these monks served it to pilgrims who stayed at their monastery during pilgrimages. Following their pilgrimages, these individuals introduced the dish to their home regions.
Preparing aligot is a fairly straightforward process. First, peeled potatoes are boiled and mashed. The mashed potatoes are then combined with crème fraiche, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan which has been placed on the stove over low heat. Finally, grated or cubed cheese is added, and the mixture is whipped until the cheese has melted and the ingredients have attained a uniform, stretchy consistency.
Many adaptations of the traditional aligot recipe allow cooks to use cheeses such as mozzarella or cheddar. Purists argue, however, that these adaptations cannot be considered true aligot. In order to prepare this dish correctly, they argue, only tomme cheese can be used. This cheese is associated with the French Alps, although some artisanal cheese makers in other regions and countries produce their own versions. While there are many varieties of tomme, most melt well, making them ideal for use in a creamy dish.