What is raclette? How do you make it and serve it?
What is raclette?
What exactly is raclette? Well, it is the name of a hard yellow Swiss cheese and it is also the name of traditional Swiss dish which is composed mainly of this specific cheese. "Raclette" is a derivative of the french verb "racler" which means "to scrape". And this is indeed what you do when you have a raclette meal. A wheel of of Raclette is secured onto a small stand in the middle of the table or on aside cart, and an arm with a heating element pivots over the cheese. The heat softens and melts the cheese which is scraped onto plates using a special raclette. Raclette is normally served with small boiled potatoes, cornichons (small pickled cucumbers), pickled onions and a selection of cooked/smoked pork meat such as salami, dried sausage, ham etc. It is a delicious winter meal, and very companionable, fun and entertaining.
Photo credit: madhouse family reviews.
How to make Raclette at home
Entertain your friends and family with a Raclette party
Traditional Raclette grills like the one shown in the picture are hard to find, cumbersome and unfortunately seldom used even in Switzerland nowadays, except in some traditional chalet restaurants in the Savoy region. Commercially sold raclette grills are more complex and fanciful, and easier to prepare a complete raclette meal with, in the sense that most of them feature two parts, one consisting of small trays to grill the cheese in, as well as a hot plate where you can cook meat, sausages, vegetables and whatever else you would like to accompany your raclette with. Some even feature a meat fondue pot in the middle, where you can either prepare a fondue Bourguignonne (cubes of meat dipped and cooked in hot oil) or a fondue Chinoise (cubes of meat dipped and cooked in hot broth), or even keep the small boiled potatoes that are traditionally served with Raclette hot, while eating.
Raclette meals are fun and easy to prepare and great for entertaining friends and family. The idea is that everybody sits around the table with the raclette grill in the middle and cooks his/or her own meal, choosing whatever ingredients he/she wishes from the platters set out by the hostess. Raclette meals are easy going and comfortable and induce close contact and conversation among the guests, as they wait for their cheese to melt and their meat or vegetables to cook. Raclette is one of my favorite Swiss recipes. It is ideal for winter weekends, as the raclette maker itself provides an additional source of heat to the room, contributing to a cozy convivial atmosphere.
If you decide to buy a raclette set, it is a good idea to choose a large one, preferably for 8 rather than 6 or 4 people, as well as one strong enough for the hot plate to actually cook the food rather than just keep it warm. I would personally recommend this excellent raclette set found on Amazon.
Photo credit: Amazon
It is one of the most expensive options but great value for money. I have been using it for years, it is large enough for eight people, cooks very fast and is very easy to clean. I also like the variable heat control option, which is missing on many other similar products. It is nice to have because at the beginning of the meal when everybody is hungry you can turn it up, so it cooks faster, then later, when your guests are beginning to fill up and would rather linger around the table talking, you can turn the heat down for slower cooking.
Set of 4 raclette tongs for cheese, meat or vegetables
Swissmar is a guarrantee on its own. 8 person raclette set with grill
A wonderful cooking book full of mouth watering raclette recipes and serving suggestions
How do you serve Raclette?
- Keep things simple. Keep in mind that a raclette meal should be both easy to prepare, fun to eat and easy to clean-up. Do not overdo it with side dishes.
- Set the table up with all the ingredients pre-cut and sliced in platters. Place the raclette grill in the middle and turn it on to preheat while your guests take their seats at the table.
- Advice your guests to take a slice of cheese, place it into one of the individial pans and under the grill to melt. In the meantime take a hot potato from the serving dish and cut it into small pieces with your knife. Once the cheese is ready and melted, slide it off the pan, onto the potato. You may grind some black pepper over it and accompany it with grilled vegetables or meat, which you cook on the top grill of the raclette maker.
- Accompany your raclette meal with chilled dry white whine and top it up with a light fruity slightly acid desert, such as sorbet. Try to avoid rich creamy deserts and chocolate, since the cheese which makes up most of the meal is quite fat and heavy.
Raclette serving ideas
- The best type of cheese to use for raclette, is obviously....raclette. However, you may serve more than one kind of cheese. Other good options are Gruyere, Vacherin, Fontina, English Cheddar or any other kind of hard yellow cheese that melts well.
- Small boiled potatoes (with their skin) is a must side dish for traditional raclette. Other vegetables you may serve and which you can grill on the top of the raclette maker, include mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, baby corn etc.
- You should include a platter with an assortment of pork and beef meat, dried or smoked with your raclette meal. Sausages you can grill on the raclette grill, various types of dried beef slices, salami, peperoni, various types of ham, are all good choices.
- Don't forget to accompany your raclette meal with a large green salad
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