Made from cow’s milk, Raclette cheese is similar in appearance, texture and flavor to the better-known Gruyere. This cheese, made on both sides of the Swiss Alps (Switzerland and France), is usually molded into about 3 kilo wheels or squares. After aging, it has small holes and a creamy, light-golden color.
To my taste, Raclette is pretty tame, but its slightly nutty taste is haunting and absolutely delicious.
What’s unique about this cheese is that its claim to fame is written all over its face.
That is, if you melt it and scrape it, because the word Raclette comes from the French “racler,” which means “to scrape.”
Now, there are many machines and devices that have been created just to do this very thing. Most are used to serve the dish called Raclette in restaurants.
To see the Raclette grills you can purchase for your home, click here and here.
The basic idea is you don’t heat the entire wheel or chunk of Raclette cheese, just the face. Then, you scrape the gooey, melted cheese with a knife or special paddle onto a service plate.
See how it’s done here.
The trick (if there is one) is just heating the surface and not the whole piece, which can get messy because this cheese is 50% fat. I knew you weren’t going to like that part.
So what goes with Raclette?
The classic pairings or garnishments with this melted cheese are small, new potatoes; pickles; pickled onions; dried meats; and sausages of the more Artisanal charcuterie variety. You arrange your garnishments on your service plate and scrape the melted cheese next to or on top of them.
Another delicious way to enjoy Raclette cheese is over toasted slices of baguette, perhaps with thin slices of ripe tomato and fresh basil. In that way, it’s pretty much the best pizza in town.
Like Swiss fondue, Raclette can be a social event with everyone participating in the food pairings, the heating and the scraping while no doubt discussing how they wish they’d known about this delicious cheese years ago.
The absolute easiest way to make Raclette is to slice off a panel while it is at room temperature, place it under the broiler and melt it.
But that’s neither traditional nor sexy.
The preferred (and lowest tech) method to prepare Raclette (whether it’s a wheel or square) is to build a fire, pour yourself a nice glass of Alsatian wine (white is generally preferred), cut the Raclette in half and tilt the exposed face toward the fire, positioned just close enough that it will melt by the time your glass is half empty.
If you’d like to try Raclette, look no further than Nino’s. We have two outstanding Raclette cheeses, one Swiss and the other French, so we have both sides of the Alps covered.
In addition, of the many award-winning Raclette-style cheeses made in the United States, one just happens to be made right here in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula by Leelanau Cheese. It’s one we hope to have at Nino’s soon.
Raclette cheese, fresh-baked Artisan bread and a glass of wine… This is starting to sound like a great theme for my next get-together.