Raclette – A Swiss Dish best served with cured pork slices
So I’ve crossed the pond for a quick holiday in Europe which has so far resulted in an overdose of meats and cheeses. I flew into Switzerland to meet up with a friend from Toronto and we crossed the border into France to spend a day in the quaint town of Annecy.
We happened to arrive in time for the Friday market, and after loading up on local soft cheeses and 6 types of salamis (the guy was flirting with me
and gave me 1 free after selling me on the 5 for 15 Euro deal), we headed back to our hotel for a picnic lunch of local treats. We asked the guy at our hotel in where he would recommend for dinner and he asked if we liked cheese.
I thought our table full of fromage made that answer obvious, but we said yes and he recommended L’Etage Bar Restaurant.
Simone and I adopted twin sisters from Vancouver and headed off in search of a cheese dinner. When we arrived we were motioned through a pub and up some stairs to a second floor filled with people eating fondue and Raclette.
Simone was very excited, as she had yet to try Raclette while living in Switzerland. Raclette is both a type of cheese (semi-firm made from unpasteurized cow’s milk) and a Swiss dish based on heating the cheese and scraping off the melted part. We all agreed – Raclette for the table.
At $30 per person, we had signed up for the Raclette Complete – with cheese, potatoes, cured meats, gherkins and pickled onions. (A strange combination – but it sounded pretty good to this Ukrainian girl).
A side table was brought in, and our table was extended to hold a metal contraption with what looks like a heat lamp. Half of an enormous cheese wheel was clamped below the heater, and we were given a quick demonstration of ‘to heat the cheese put it here, then when you want, swing it over, lift and scrape.’
We quickly learned this was a social activity and that eating should take place over a long period of time. Since we were in no hurry we had Champaign cocktails and became the entertainment for our servers and the many locals at tables around us.
So as we waited for our heat lamp to start melting our half wheel of cheese, we passed around the potatoes, selection of cured pork slices and cheeses and waited for the magic to happen. It only took a few minutes before I (as the official cheese scraper) was in charge of sliding the melted cheese onto a plate which we passed around to smother our potatoes in.
The cheese was smooth like fondue, and when combined with a mouthful of spicy sopresseta and baby potatoes it was delightful. Since the cheese can only melt so fast we took turns eating, occasionally grabbing a random gherkin or pickled onion to pass the time.
While the traditional machine from the restaurant looked a little heavy to bring back in my suitcase, I did do some searching, and it turns out that T-Fal and Hamilton Beach sell Raclette grills back home in Alberta at places like The Bay or Canadian Tire. Can’t wait to try this when I get home!