Raclette is a wonderfully simple dish that uses a cheese by the same name
Raclette has two meanings. It is a dish that is served in the field and it is also known as a cheese that is made in Switzerland and France. The French "racler" means "to scrape," and that is how it is served. It has been compared to gruyere.
First, a charcoal fire is prepared and kept hot until ashes have burned down. Gusty winds should be avoided as the ashes may end up on the cheese. A half-wheel of raclette is placed on a flat stone to protect the rind from the heat. The best raclette cheese can still become too soft, but not as quickly as a Fontina, which could also become extremely runny. As a layer melts, it will turn shiny. This top layer is scraped off onto a plate with a knife. It is served immediately and the process is repeated for the next guest.
Raclette is a simple dish by tradition and is served only with a type of pickle (cornichon), dark bread, and boiled white potatoes.
There are many other delicious ways to use raclette and other melting cheeses. They are ideal for impromptu gatherings or small parties.
You can also use other types of cheese for these "melted" meals, including a piquant gruyere or a fontina (if watched carefully). To produce the perfect melted cheese dish, you simply cook a few of the bottom ingredients, then layer with a meat and a slice of melting cheese. They are then broiled.
If you don't own a raclette grill, you can always use individual cast iron skillets. You can also start with a frying pan, add the cheese for broiling, then place on individual serving plates.
Here are a few ideas:
Tomatoes. Saute bits of bacon and chopped onions along with your favorite seasonings in oil or butter. Layer sliced tomatoes and a melted cheese; then broil.
Vegetables. You can used chopped onions, sliced zucchini, and bell peppers. Saute, add salt and pepper to taste, add cheese and broil.
Pineapple and Canadian Bacon. Fry drained pineapple in melted butter. Cover with Canadian bacon rounds and top with cheese and broil.
You can purchase raclette sets for relaxing service right at the table. The units come in several different sizes for parties of two, four, or more. Small containment trays melt the cheese while a top tray keeps other foods warm until serving time. Larger models have full-sized cooking trays for complete individual servings such as those listed above. It's a perfect way to enjoy the traditional raclette indoors.
Raclette cradle grills are even more exciting to use, but pricier by comparison to the flat grills. The cradle holds a perfect half-moon or half-square of cheese, which is then melted under a quartz heating element. As each layer melts they can easily be transferred to individual plates. It's also small enough to be unobtrusive at the dining table for the classic style of serving. Smaller sizes are available for quarter-moons.
A raclette knife
is dual-edged; one side will trim the wheel or block while the other
is specially designed to scrape off a perfect layer of melted cheese.
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