Have you ever had fondue? Raclette is a similarly interactive and originally Swiss meal involving lots of cheese. We had a raclette party with three other couples Saturday night, and it was amazingly decadent. The word raclette comes from the the French verb, “racler,” meaning “to scrape.” Apparently, cow herders in Switzerland used to take wheels of cheese with them during the day and then melt the cheese over the campfire for their evening meal. They’d scrape off bits of melted cheese over their bread and enjoy them together.
Raclette has come a long way since then. I own a raclette machine, a tabletop electric grill under which you place small trays, just the size for melting slices of raclette cheese, which is semi-firm and made from cow’s milk. You pour the rich melted cheese over the tops of the meat and vegetables cooked on the grill.
We grilled marinated flank steak, marinated shrimp, squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and red and green bell peppers. The grilled zucchini was a surprising hit, and I think everyone loved the addition of shrimp to the mix. Personally, I thought the steak and mushrooms were delightful.
Our friend Shea boiled some potatoes, a traditional raclette accompaniment over which you lovingly pour more melted cheese, and also made a magnificent salad involving bacon, avocado, strawberries, and red bell pepper. We had fresh bread as well, and Shawn, who brought the cheese from the cheese shop where he works, picked out a nice red wine to complement the meal.
I first enjoyed raclette at a dinner party with my host family in Paris, and I just loved the experience of spending hours preparing your own food at the table and chatting about who-knows-what until late into the night. While the meal, of course, was out-of-this world fabulous, a medley of flavors that melded together perfectly, the true pleasure of the meal was time spent lingering around the table in conversation with friends.