Winter and raclette go hand in hand, and if you’ve never had this deliciously cheesy dish, you’re missing out. La raclette is a staple at many ski chalets and alpine lodges. In fact, if you’ve visited the Alps, chances are good that you’ve enjoyed some raclette. But you don’t need to go to the Swiss or French Alps to have raclette or even to a restaurant at all. You can make raclette recipes in the comfort of your own home in the U.S. with a few easy-to-buy items. But first, what is raclette and how do you make it? Let’s talk about it.
What is raclette?
Raclette is a dish of melted cheese, usually served with potatoes, meat, and other vegetables. It’s traditionally a Swiss dish and is also popular in France as well as other parts of Europe. In recent times, raclette parties have become super popular outside of Europe too.
Raclette was originally eaten by shepherds who lived in the mountains and needed something to keep them warm during the long winter nights while they were tending their sheep. To make it easier to eat without having to interrupt what they were doing, the shepherds cut slices of bread on top of their cheese and then just held it under a fire until the bread got crispy enough for them to bite into.
Nowadays people don’t necessarily have to be shepherds or go outside at all to enjoy raclette in all its glory. Raclette has become more sophisticated since those early days and there are now electric grills that make it super simple and safer than melting the cheese over an open fireplace. It’s also become so much more than just cheese and bread.
If you find yourself in the Alps, do yourself a favor and eat at a traditional raclette restaurant for the full experience. It’s not something you’re soon to forget. You know how the saying goes, when in Rome and all…
Where does raclette come from?
Raclette comes from the Alps in Switzerland and France. It’s a traditional dish that is often eaten during the summer months as well, when alpine temperatures allow for outdoor dining. It’s also served in wintertime to warm up after a long day of skiing or snowboarding. Outside of the Alps, people generally think of raclette as a winter dish since it’s quite heavy and filling.
What is Frech raclette? Raclette is essentially fondue—a melted cheese that’s eaten with bread, vegetables and meat (or other types of food). But you don’t dip into a big pot of it with a skewer like you do with fondue. If you have a raclette party and use a raclette grill, the cheese is melted in individual dishes or paddles. It can also be scraped off a big wedge and you’ll see it done like this at restaurants.
Raclette is a pretty rich and plentiful dish, so be sure to come with your appetite.
There are many variations on the traditional raclette recipe, so you can absolutely make it your own. Try using a different type of cheese other than the typical raclette cheese, skip the meat and make it vegetarian, or anything else your heart desires.
Fun fact: What does raclette mean? Well, the word raclette comes from the French verb racler, which means “to scrape.” This makes sense because you’ll see huge wedges of traditional raclette cheese that get scraped onto people’s plates in restaurants and at les marchés de noël. Raclette is all about scraping off and savoring that gooey cheese!
In the original version of this recipe, people would heat rocks over a fire until they were glowing red-hot and melt the cheese over the rocks (or fireplace). They’d then scrape off some of the melted cheese onto bread. While this can still be done today and you’ll see it made this way at restaurants, it’s much easier to use electric grills or ovens at home and buy raclette cheese that comes pre-sliced.
To me, raclette is a dining experience — not just a regular dinner — and great for a leisurely social evening among friends and family. Everyone gathers around the table and takes part in customizing their meal, instead of following strict recipes for raclette. A raclette party is convivial and fun and makes for a perfect New Year’s Eve meal.
How do you make raclette?
It’s pretty simple and as long as you have time to grocery shop and chop your vegetables ahead of time, you can’t mess up raclette. Chef-level cooking skills are not required, making raclette a foolproof meal that everyone loves!
Basically, all you do is melt the raclette cheese and then scrape it off with a spatula over the vegetables, meat, and whatever else you’re eating. Easy-peasy!
Because it’s served in individual portions, raclette makes for great party food. Everyone can eat at once without having to wait their turn, since each individual portion gets heated up on the grill at the same time and you can go at your own pace.
To have a raclette party at home, you need only a few items for your raclette recipe:
–A raclette grill
–Potatoes, sliced vegetables, and a selection of meats to serve alongside your melty goodness
–Some excellent wine to accompany your meal
The raclette grill
The easiest way to make raclette these days is to get a raclette grill that will accommodate 6 to 8 people. A raclette grill is a large, flat grill pan that heats up over a gas flame or electric element. It is placed in the center of the table and positioned so that everyone can access their melting cheese. The heat from the grill melts the cheese onto potatoes, vegetables and other foods.
Many raclette cheese grills have that top grill area so you can cook your vegetables and meat and keep them warm on the other half of the grill. Some are multipurpose and even flip over to a flat griddle so you can use it for pancakes and crepes another day when you’re not making raclette. They also come with individual dishes and spatulas so you can scrape the cheese out of your dish when it’s time.
The best part about using a raclette grill is that everyone gets to customize their own raclette right there at the table depending on their preferences. If you don’t eat meat, you can focus on just the veggies and if you don’t care for certain things, you can make your raclette with one of the other options. Specific raclette recipes aren’t needed.
Some raclette grills also double as fondue sets or Korean barbecues, making them even more worthwhile. If you like fondue, I’d personally recommend a 2-in-1 fondue/raclette grill like in one of my options below, but the choice is yours.
How is raclette served?
The most common way to serve French raclette is with boiled potatoes, pickles, meat, and other veggies. You can also serve it with onions, boiled eggs, and whatever other toppings you love.
If you’re feeling extra fancy or want to impress some friends with your cooking skills, try serving it with ham, sausage, or mushrooms. I can’t stress enough just how customizable raclette is. You can learn how to make raclette any way you’d like and that’s part of the fun.
What is the best cheese for raclette?
OK, let’s talk about the best raclette cheeses. Raclette is made with, you guessed it, raclette cheese. It’s a firm Alpine cheese made from cow’s milk and generally has a pungent smell with a creamy consistency. It can be a light cream color or even more of a golden yellow depending on the variety.
In terms of flavor, raclette cheese varies widely depending on how ripe it is. It can be slightly fruity or quite strong. You can get French raclette cheese or the Swiss version. A popular French raclette cheese option is from the Jura region, which borders Switzerland.
If raclette cheese isn’t readily available or you don’t care for it, other options do the trick as well. Try the Gruyère, Emmental, Jarlsberg, Gouda, or even Brie.
Cheese for raclette is widely available in regular French grocery stores so you don’t have to look far and wide. If you’re looking for where to buy raclette cheese in the U.S., it’s become more and more popular over the years and I’ve seen it at places like Sprout’s, Whole Foods, and others.
If you want to be a purist and only real raclette cheese will do, definitely seek out some raclette cheese for your raclette party. My pick is this sliced raclette cheese with truffles from myPanier, your one-stop shop for French groceries. You can even buy it frozen and it’s just as good. Be sure to use promo code OUIINFRANCEMP for orders over $49.
What do you eat with raclette cheese?
Raclette cheese is only half the fun. You need all kinds of veggies and meat as well. Scrape that delicious cheese over whatever thinly sliced vegetables and charcuterie you like best.
Here are some popular French raclette vegetable options:
-Potatoes (usually steamed)
The sky is the limit!
What type of meat do you serve with raclette?
The type of meat you serve with Swiss raclette depends on the region of Switzerland. In France, they typically serve a wide variety of charcuterie meats like ham, saucisson, salami and other cured meat, la viande séchée.
In addition to these traditional raclette favorites, they also enjoy more modern options such as bacon or sausage (often served as a sausage link). Choose what you like best. You really can’t go wrong.
What do you drink with raclette?
Wine, of course! What is a raclette party without wine?
If you’re wondering what to drink with raaclette, light, dry white wines are the way to go. Wine and raclette go hand in hand, so be ready to indulge.
Some people drink red wine with cheese, but white wines seems to complement the flavors of the raclette meal better. A dry Riesling, Chenin, or even Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris are great wines for raclette.
At the end of the day, it’s your meal, so drink whatever you like best.
I hope you’re excited to try out this standout winter dish! The best way to get started is by purchasing a raclette grill and then coming up with your own French raclette recipe with all your favorite vegetables.
Enjoy your raclette party and let me know how it was! Are you a fan of French raclette?
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