Raclette is a hearty dish, meant to be enjoyed after a day on the Alps slopes. Even without the skiing, it’s a fun meal to share with friends and requires very little actual cooking. That makes it ideal for the busy hostess, so I love hosting raclette dinner parties in the winter.
If you don’t already know raclette, let me introduce you to one of Switzerland’s signature dish.
Raclette is four things really:
- A pungent washed rind cows milk cheese.
- The dish you make with that cheese.
- The grill you use to melt the raclette (cheese) for the raclette (dish).
- The dinner party where people get together to eat the raclette (dish) made by melting raclette (cheese) on the raclette (grill).
Are you still following me? lol
It’s actually a very simple dish with humble origins. Like its melted cheese cousin fondue, raclette came about as a way to finish dried old cheese and already opened wine. In fondue, the cheese is melted in a pot (fondue comes from the French word fondre which means to melt) and eaten with bread. In Raclette, slices of cheese are melted in a little pan under a table side grill then scraped (raclette gets its name from the French word for scrape: racler) over warm potatoes and cold cut meats. In the United States, raclette isn’t so popular. It’s a lot easier to find the cheese and pot for fondue than the grill for raclette. I got my raclette grill off our Williams and Sonoma wedding registry though you can find more affordable options on Amazon (this 4 person grill is pretty convenient for your every day raclette needs). As for the cheese, you can occasionally find some at Righteous Cheese, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Raclette is traditionally served with a simple tossed salad, boiled potatoes, cornichons, cured meats and dry white wine. For starch adverse guests, you can substitute the potatoes with artichoke hearts. Raclette is a communal dish and all the host or hostess really needs to do ahead of time is boil the potatoes and prepare the salad. The cold cuts (getting a variety gives your guests more options) and slices of cheese should be arranged on serving plates too. After that, each dinner party guest just melts his or her own slices of cheese using the small coupelles of the raclette grill then scrapes the runny raclette over a boiled potato topped with prosciutto (my fave!) or turkey meat.
Scrape the melted cheese from the grilled and brown surface of the cheese that’s been exposed to heat and eat this melting bit of cheese with a bite of the potatoes.
For pairing, dry white wine is typically what you would serve with Raclette, like an Alsatian pinot gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. At the recommendation of the folks at Modern Liquor, I recently tried a light Austrian red with my Raclette and it worked out really well. Dry sparkling wine works really well too.
A version of this post appeared in Borderstan back in February 2013.