Raclette is a firm, pungent cheese from Switzerland that is the center of a popular winter social event in the Alpine parts of Europe. The cheese is made of cow's milk and is salty, and can come in variations made with wine, pepper, and herbs.
The word "raclette" comes from the French word "to scrape." Raclette makes up a simple meal that was enjoyed by shepherds in the fields. They would boil up some potatoes, and heat a stone and melt a bit of the raclette cheese on the hot stone. Once melted, the cheese was scraped off and served on top of the potatoes. Raclette has a long history and has been mentioned in medieval writings.
Nowadays, raclette is cooked in special raclette pans instead of on hot rocks. There are two types of raclette cooking tools. One is the device below:
The raclette wedge is attached to a swingarm and brought to the heat source. Once the cheese is soft, it is scraped onto potatoes.
This type of raclette pan is more common and easier to use. Slices of raclette are placed into the small nonstick pans, called coupelles, which are placed underneath the broiler on the raclette pan. Raclette pans can have 8 to 12 coupelles, making them an ideal appliance for hosting a party as each guest can cook their own cheese to their liking. Meats and vegetables can be grilled on the griddle on top.
The melted cheese is served over boiled potatoes, and sliced cold meats, charcuteries, cornichon pickles, and pickled onions are traditionally served on the side. A dry white wine is best to accompany this dish. This is a very simple and humble meal, and very filling.
Want to have a raclette party this winter? You can get the basics online!
8-Person Raclette pan at Cutlery & More for $89.95 - a steal!
Cornichons at iGourmet - $4.99
Raclette cheese for $11.99/lb at iGourmet
Meats & Charcuteries category page at iGourmet
Please note: raclette cheese is a little "stinky" on first smell. Don't be put off; the taste is very different from the smell. Give it a chance, Bon appetit!