Have you ever been to a raclette party? A fun cheese-centered meal (similar to fondue), raclette is the perfect way to spend a leisurely winter evening with friends and family. Originating over 700 years ago* in the Swiss Alps, raclette is the name of both the meal and the cheese. Traditionally the cheese is a semi-hard Swiss cow’s cheese called “raclette” (named for the French verb, to scrape) however if you have trouble finding true raclette cheese Emmentaler or Jarlsberg cheeses can be used instead. Originally, sheepherders in the Swiss Alps would sit alongside a campfire with a hunk of raclette cheese and small potatoes wrapped and nestled among the coals. Once the cheese was warm they would scrape the cheese onto the potatoes and enjoy a warm lunch in the field.
The campfire has given way to a more modern (and party friendly!) piece of cookware, known as the raclette grill. Popularized in the 1970′s these little grills are basically an electric broiler implement set above a flat base. Individual paddles support melting pieces of cheese and a wide assortment of tasty accouterments. My mom inherited a raclette grill from my Danish adopted grandmother and we have been putting it to good use now that the hot summer weather has disappeared.
Served in the dim light of a late fall evening, our raclette party included a veritable smorgasboard of finger food, ready to be enrobed by melting cheese. A large pot of boiled fingerling potatoes is almost as essential as the cheese when creating a raclette meal.
I eased my way back into the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge after a very long summer break with a loaf of Swedish Rye bread. It took two attempts to produce an edible loaf. Somehow this summer I managed to kill my wild yeast starter and had to embark on the adventure of making a new starter from scratch. After the second loaf the yeast finally decided to behave properly and multiply as expected but in the first two loaves weak yeast created a very heavy bread. Yet thinly sliced, dense pieces of rye were a perfect accompaniment for raclette.
Slices of hard boiled eggs, baby corn, peppadew peppers, pickled onions, tiny gherkins, sliced apples, tender artichoke hearts, and fresh tomatoes rounded out our raclette toppings. The beauty of a raclette meal is that everyone can customize their dinner- mixing and matching flavors and textures at whim.
A thin slice of cheese fits in the base of your paddle, and then you top it off with as many items as you can fit underneath the broiler. Once everything is warmed and the cheese is melted, the contents of the paddle are scraped onto a waiting potato. Paired with a crisp glass of Alsatian wine this is the type of party that inspires laughter, long conversations, and a belly full of warmth. The best part of a raclette party is that everything can be prepared hours ahead of time, leaving you with nothing more to do than to plug in the grill, warm the potatoes, and enjoy an evening with friends.
*Source: The History of Raclette
Raclette Party (Printable Recipe)
This type of dinner is made for substitution and inspiration. The only required ingredients are the cheese and potatoes, beyond that the sky is the limit!
1 1/2 lbs Raclette Cheese (sliced into thin squares, to fit in the bottom of the raclette paddles)
4 lbs fingerling potatoes, cooked until tender
Hard boiled eggs, sliced
Swedish rye bread
Apples, thinly sliced
Artichoke hearts marinated in oil
Tomatoes, thinly sliced
Heat up the potatoes and plug in the raclette grill. Place all items in small bowls or on plates around the raclette grill. Fill individual paddles with cheese and whatever other toppings are desired. Place the paddle underneath the broiler implement until the cheese is melted. Scrape contents of the paddle onto a fingerling potato sliced in half and enjoy!