A short time ago I purchased a Raclette Party Grill , for no other reason than it was on special and looked interesting. Actually to tell the truth I thought I was buying a regular portable grill.
So once I had unwrapped the item and considered the instructions I popped it in a special place where I put those things that maybe one day I will use.
Well just recently that day arrived. I was having friends over for dinner and thought I would try this new gadget out on them.
For the uninitiated, Raclette is both a semi-firm, salted cheese made from cows milk. A Raclette is also a dual- level grill that allows you to serve ‘raclette’ in the traditional swiss fashion, whereby you top small boiled potatoes with cheese and serve with gherkins, pickled onions, dried meats, sliced peppers, tomato, onion, mushrooms and dusted with paprika and fresh-ground black pepper.
After boiling the potatoes I placed them on the table in a couple of dishes (at each end of the table) to keep them warm so the everyone could just help themselves. The condiments were also served in dishes so that each guest could take the food that they liked. I served a variety of cheeses again to ensure most tastes were catered for. If you serve the condiments between two people it means that your guest don’t have to keep passing dishes around or reaching across the table.
The modern day electric raclette is useful for more than just grilling cheese, the top level is suitable for grilling proscuitto, bacon, mushrooms etc or it can be used to keep hors d’oeuvres warm, while you are melting cheese and other toppings underneath.
Each guest has their own raclette (or little tray) in which they melt their choice of cheese and they can also make up their own combinations of food.
The term raclette derives from the French racler, meaning “to scrape” and raclette is indigenous to parts of Switzerland, Wallonia and France.
Raclette is generally eaten with a nice cup of tea or other warm beverage, but when we are having a party we like to have a white wine such as Ferdant (a type of white wine made from Chasselas grapes), Riesling, Savoie wine or Pinot Gris. However to be completely honest we simply drink whatever tipple we have available. There is a tale that suggests that drinking water along with your raclette will interfere with the digestion of the cheese, however there is no scientific evidence to suggest this is so.
Apparently raclette was mentioned in medieval writings as a particularly nutritious meal consumed by peasants in mountainous Switzerland. It was also referred to as Bratchäs, or “roasted cheese” in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It is said that Swiss cow herders used to take the cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from the pastures up in the mountains. While they were sitting around the campfire in the evenings they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it was soft they would scrape the cheese onto some bread.
However, the modern way of serving raclette is by using an electric table-top grill with small ‘pans’ to heat slices of cheese in. It made for a very relaxing meal and a fun night. My friends simply kept eating until they had all had their fill of cheese topped potatoes and we moved onto dessert. Which is another story.
There seem to be few really good recipe books available for the Racelette grill. One of our readers has recommended the “Racelette Recipe Book” The Insiders Guide to the Secret World of Raclette Dining’ which appears to be excellent value in both price and content.