There is no doubt I am a cheese lover. There are at least 4 kinds of cheese in our house at all times and I try to incorporate cheese into recipes whenever possible. A personal motto – everything is better with cheese. So it’s fitting I would dedicate an entire blog entry to a fantastic meal whose main feature is cheese.
What is this delicious meal of cheese? It’s called Raclette. And I’m hoping to spread this Swiss tradition because…cheese makes people happy.
I was first introduced to Raclette through my oldest childhood friend Colette. She’s half Swiss, from her father’s side. He grew up in the Emmental region of Switzerland, where they raise cows for the milk used to produce cheese. See, we were destined to meet!
Raclette is a kind of Swiss cheese (there is also a French version, but I’m partial to the Swiss kind); not what’s traditionally thought of as “Swiss cheese,” there are no holes in these blocks of goodness. It has a mild flavor and melts perfectly. Which is why it’s so suited for serving this way.
So let’s get to the gooey details (“I still don’t know what this amazing dish is yet!” you say). Here’s what you’ll need:
1) A raclette maker. There are many companies that sell them, like Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, or there is an entire online portal dedicated to all things raclette, Raclette Corner. It involves a broiler, non-stick dishes with handles and scrapers.
2) A block of raclette. Many gourmet cheese shops will have either the Swiss or French version, but you can also order it online at iGourmet.
3) A variety of sides including boiled red skin potatoes, cornichons, pearl onions, raw bacon and tomatoes. I’ve had raclette with raw onion and sliced deli meats as well, but my preference is my first list of accompaniments.
4) A crisp, dry white wine like Sancerre, Chenin Blanc or the traditional pairing of Fendant (Chasselas in France). It’s not only an incredible pairing, it helps in the digestion of the large amount of cheese that is soon to warm your belly.
5) Hungry, cheese loving friends. This is group dining at its best.
Once the broiler is sufficiently heated, place a slice of raclette on your individual tray. Layer on a slice of tomato and bacon if you choose. Then slide your tray under the broiler and let the magic happen. In 2-4 minutes, you’ll have a magnificent melty mix that you can scrape onto the potatoes and cornichons.
I had the pleasure of joining some of friends at a Maria’s Mont Blanc, a French restaurant in New York City the other day, where we enjoyed SWISS raclette (see, even the French know the Swiss cheese is better!) As the weather turns cooler, this is the perfect meal. It’s simple to prepare and without the mess of other cheese-based dishes, like fondue.
Let me know if you have tried this dish or do in the future. I’d love to see pictures. Send them my way (blog at vineatsi.com) so I can share them on Facebook!