Photo by Hillary Ehlen
The idea of raclette and fondue tend to go hand in hand for most. For some, it stirs up retro and sometimes nostalgic thoughts. It may also remind us of a dining experience that is very interactive and social. A dining experience that revolves around raclette does require a bit of a time investment but maybe we’re all in need of that nowadays.
Like many famous food traditions from around the world, raclette is a peasant food concept from long ago. When European alpine cattle herder stopped for the evening, they would place their cow’s milk cheese (raclette) next to the campfire. As the surface of the cheese melted and caramelized, they would scrape the melted portion onto bread for consumption. The more contemporary version, of course, includes air dried or cured meats, potatoes, cornichons and other various accouterment.
The word “raclette” will refer to both the cheese, the machine and the process of serving it. There are a few different methods for racletting. You may choose to purchase a commercial style cheese melting machine. This will melt and caramelize the surface of the cheese so that you may scrape the melted portion onto a plate and serve immediately with meats, vegetables and crusty bread. You may also choose to purchase a tabletop griddle style machine that allows you to melt individual cheese portions on top of the same accompanying items. Or you could simply turn your home oven to broil and quickly melt the cheese on a baking pan before transferring to individual plates.
Raclette is traditionally prepared for holiday celebrations, but I’d say go ahead and put out the raclette machine any day of the year. Racletting is great for small or large social gatherings or for simply trying to engage your family in an interactive culinary experience. Raclette is the perfect food experience for kids who are typically unwilling to participate in the cooking experience.
Eric Watson is the owner of Mezzaluna, Rustica Eatery & Tavern and Mosaic Foods in Fargo. He is also the co-founder and past president of the Fargo brand of the American Culinary Federation.
- Raclette cheese — can be purchased online for approx. $10-14 per pound
- Potatoes — any petite variety, pre-cooked
- Cocktail onions
- Cornichon and/or gherkins
- Air dried or cured meats: prosciutto, salami, capicolla, etc.
- Various fruits: apples, grapes, etc.
- Crusty bread — a simple baguette is best, something with a neutral flavor
- Various vegetables may be used as well
- Cut cheese wheel in half and place flat cut surface directly under the preheated broiler. Once the surface has melted and is slightly caramelized and bubbling, scrape the cheese with the back of a knife onto a plate and serve immediately. The cheese will cool and harden quickly so don’t hesitate to enjoy.
- Serve raclette with a dry white or lighter bodied red wine of your choice.