So it’s time for another Bring it Home post, and I’m taking you back to the kitchen for today… or should I say… la salle à manger (the kitchen or the dining room).
Raclette is something that I first encountered in Switzerland (which shares the Alps with France, along the eastern border) but which is also readily found in the French Alps as well. It is primarily a cheese and potato dish, but the modern version has gotten more creative, as you’ll see in a bit.
Remember first, that many cheeses were originally made in large rounds… like thick discs or wheels. A common way of eating it in the mountains, on cold winter nights, was to heat up the cut edge and scrape the melted cheese over boiled potatoes, giving a hot and rich dish to warm the insides. The “raclette” was essentially, the tool used to scrape the melted cheese off the top of the round; eventually it lent its name to the dish and even to the cheese used.
It would be a lot of work to (a) get a round of cheese with which to have a raclette these days (not to mention very expensive) and (b) find a machine that would melt the top of the round. Modern versions of appliances do exist but are not readily found in North America.
Enter the modern raclette appliance. They are quite commonly found (as indicated by the fact that you can even find them in Atlantic Canada!). There are numerous brands available but they all pretty much work on the same principle:
- Have some small new potatoes cooked and set aside in a bowl. They can be boiled or broiled, but boiled is the most common. Also, it’s up to you whether you want to peel the potatoes or not.
- Slices of cheese are placed in teflon-coated trays (supplied with the appliance) which slide under an element.
- The element is also covered, on the top, with a teflon-coated grill upon which to cook vegetables, crudités or sliced meats.
- Once the items are cooked to satisfaction you pull out your tray of bubbly-melted cheese and scrape it (using a supplied “raclette” – or scraper) over your potatoes.
Besides the great taste and hearty meal that a raclette provides, there are at least four other benefits to having a raclette for supper. Because the raclette machine sits in the center of the table:
- …each guest cooks their own supper, meaning that everyone serves themselves the exact portion size and number of servings that they desire.
- …the host or hostess spend the vast majority of their time at the table with their guests as opposed to running back and forth to the kitchen to re-serve helpings of this or that.
- …the meal tends to happen at a very leisurely pace (given that small food items are cooking on the grill and the cheese is melting beneath) so you won’t get the “I ate too much, too fast” syndrome.
- …because of the leisurely pace, a great deal of conversation and interaction tends to happen in between bites or while waiting for things to cook.
French – Fellowship
I suppose you could say that in one way, the French have this whole fellowship thing down to a “T”. They like to eat and they like to eat long! The idea of spending a prolonged amount of time at the table, discussing and interacting with one another is much more common in Europe than it is in North America (generally speaking).
So if you’re looking to Bring it Home a little bit… try picking up a raclette machine, or borrow one from a friend. Then… send the invite out to a few people that you truly love spending time with. Boil some potatoes and prepare your cheese, sliced meats and vegetables and voilà… you are in for a Wonderful evening!
(Enjoy your meal)