With the Arctic chill upon us, all I want to do is sit around a table of friends and eat melted cheese. Raclette is especially conducive to that purpose, being one of Europe’s meltiest cheeses. It is mild, buttery, with a touch of funk that works perfectly with an acidic and sharp accompaniment, like cornichons. Raclette and cornichons is basically the PB&J of the cheese world. Originating centuries ago in the Swiss and French Alps, this hearty meal of melted cheese over potatoes (the pickled things were added later) kept shepherds full as they led their cows across the mountains.
Raclette today doesn’t look too different, except that now there are machines to perfectly heat the cheese instead of a fireplace in a shepherd’s hut. The biggest of these machines holds a whole half wheel, which is a little over a foot across and about 9 pounds. With the cut side facing up, the heating element arm swings over it to melt the top layer of cheese. Once it is bubbling and oozy, you tilt the wheel and scrape the cheese down onto a plate over boiled potatoes with cornichons or any other pickled vegetable you like on the side. If you want to make yourself drool, watch this video (also below) which shows how Raclette is made. They use a quarter wheel instead of a half, but you’ll get the idea. And then you will immediately crave it. If you can wait until February, we have an fondue and Raclette party at the shop (save the date: Saturday, February 10th, 3-6PM) so you can come and have a taste!
While Raclette is the traditional cheese for this dish, we have cheeses that are inspired by Raclette that are also wonderful. The cheese, Reading, from Spring Brook Farm in Reading, Vermont, would work beautifully with a slightly less funky, more buttery flavor than the classic. Another of my favorites is Ogleshield from Manor Farm in England. This Raclette-inspired cheese has gone through many years of development, getting better and better over time. The wheels we have right now are some of the best I’ve ever tasted – buttery, nutty, with a touch of sweet grass, and so well balanced. The beauty of this dish is that whichever cheese you choose, it’s going to be deliiiiicious.
For the love of cheese and even more love for melty cheese,