Usually when I tell people about the annual family raclette party I host every year around the holidays, I get a bewildered smile and nod. I've noticed that most people here in the States are in the dark about raclette. Simply unacceptable, friends.
If you're unfamiliar, raclette is a strong and pungent semi-hard cow's milk cheese from Switzerland. Similar to fondue, it's a popular winter social event in the alpine areas of Europe. You melt slices of raclette on individual trays inside a special raclette grill - drizzling the cheese over an assortment of potatoes, pickles, meats and veggies. You can get as inventive as you want with your ingredients. Everything pairs well with cheese, right? We go all out with ours, vegetarian style.
Other ingredients we've tried and loved: pears, balsamic mushrooms, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, brussels sprouts, zucchini, roasted garlic, red pepper sauce and fresh herbs. Some people like to include bread. But I prefer my raclette parties without - otherwise it's too similar to fondue. Feel free to go simple and traditional. I'd personally be happy with just raclette, boiled potatoes and pickled anything.
Don't be afraid of the stink! When melted, the strong raclette aroma settles down and you'll be able to appreciate it's salty/sweet/nutty flavor and creamy texture.
Sometimes raclette can be hard to find in stores. If it's in season, we get ours pre-sliced from Trader Joes. And depending on the size of your party, raclette can get pricey. So we usually go halvsies with gruyére. Any alpine cheese that melts well will work.
The party grill. Put this at the top of your appliance wish list! It comes with 8 individual cooking trays to heat your slice of cheese. And the top can be used for grilling your ingredients if they haven't been pre-cooked. Before the cheese melts, I personally like to add chives and gobs of fresh ground black pepper to seal the deal.
Now the fun part. Pour your melted raclette over the goodies on your plate and savor every bite! The trays are non-stick, so the cheese usually slides right off. Sometimes - after a glass or two of wine and invigorating conversation - you forget about your cheese bubbling away and it overcooks. That's why the grill comes with individual tools that scrape all the cheese off your tray - brilliant.
Tell me friends, are you a raclette connoisseur? Or is this your first introduction? With Valentine's Day just around the corner, why not host a romantic raclette party for two? Nothing says love more than cheese!