People who get excited about scraping sheets of melted Raclette cheese over boiled potatoes, cornichons, pickled onions, and prosciutto are not wrong.
It’s very right to love the ritual of making Raclette.
That ritual, and the cold-weather warmth that it conjures, are only part of my reasoning for naming the third 2018 holiday cheese none other than Raclette.
But there are plenty of other things we can do with our beloved melting cheese—to which I have previously written a seasonal ode—and if we’re not doing those things to Raclette, we’re just not living yet.
To make this point, I’ll reiterate that Raclette is not only the name of the cheese, but also the name of a meal based upon the verb that gave the cheese its name—racler (French: to scrape). Just because the cheese is so good at getting hot and bubbling and being scraped onto potatoes doesn’t mean that’s its only application.
In honor of the all-American feast of gluttony and thanks-giving that marks the end of November, I invite everyone to add a little more melted goodness into their lives. The power of hot cheese is something we can all be thankful for.
I know y’all are going to be baking some casseroles this winter. Whether you’re using up leftover turkey, ham, prime rib or Field Roast, or are preparing for a deluge of hungry relatives, there are simple ways to infuse everyone and everything at the table with melted Raclette—and casseroles are best among them.
You can either cut thin slices of the cheese to completely cover your dish—and make sure you broil it just a little at the end to get the cheese into its bubbling element—or you can shred the cheese and sprinkle it in between layers of casserole and all over the top to finish the thing off.
- Grilled cheese.
This should be a no-brainer for those of us who have already fallen in love with Raclette, but here we are. Those shingled slices of Raclette that would be the perfect size for a table-top Raclette grill are also perfect for stuffing between two slices of bread, perhaps with slivers of cornichon, a smear of bacon jam or onion confit, and a layer of thinly sliced meat—cured or roasted.
You can cook your sammy on the stovetop as usual, in the buttered or oiled pan of your choice, or you can pop the faces of the sandwich into a hot oven before and after adding cheese to them. This will get the cheese going and make the bread a bit crisper.
- Stuffed gourds.
In Tia Keenan’s new book, “Melt, Stretch & Sizzle: The Art of Cooking Cheese,” you will find a recipe for “Baked Pumpkin Fondue.”[i] Not only is the accompanying photo glorious (as are any records online of Tia serving one), but the concept is both elegant and delicious.
In fact, it’s very close to the whole “stuffed pumpkin/squash” idea that was my holiday main course throughout the five years I spent as a vegetarian. You cut a hole in the top of your gourd, around the stem, hollow it out to remove the seeds and stringy parts, then stuff it with whatever and bake it.
I used to stuff sugar pie pumpkins with wild rice, chopped vegetables, and cheese. Tia’s recipe allows you to just stuff your pumpkin cheese and herbs, then dip in your veggies, bread, or what have you. It doesn’t have to be a dish only for vegetarians, but it sure can be.
Whether you don’t have a Fondue pot or you want to do something more fun with your winter squash bounty, stuffing a gourd with anything plus a healthy helping of Raclette is the way to go.
- Cheese boards.
Lest you think Raclette can only be enjoyed melted, I challenge you to get yourself a wedge of the good stuff and plunk it onto your next cheese platter.
The Raclette we sell in my shop is a French Raclette, from Génépi. It’s got a pretty pinkish, bumpy rind, and a firm, mostly-eyeless paste that is straw-colored. It smells a little bit funky, a little bit cave-y and musty, and a little bit nutty. The flavor is beefy and smooth, with a finish of cacao nibs. Unlike the pre-shingled Raclettes you can get from most grocery stores, this Raclette is a cheese you can absolutely savor at room temperature and don’t have to melt to enjoy.
- Cheesy Bread.
The ol’ pizza place staple—garlic bread covered with melted cheese—is something you can recreate at home, with even more flavor than the original. Just prep your bread with your garlic and butter, heat it up in the oven in foil until the bread is warm and the butter has melted, then uncover it, shred Raclette all over the top of it, and broil that bad boy until the cheese is bubbling and dark. Let it cool before you burn your tongue.
Yes, this dish traditionally requires Cantal or Tomme d’Auvergne; but no, you can’t always get those cheeses. So why not just sub in Raclette, the king of all melters, and call it a day?
The concept is pretty simple: basically, you make mashed potatoes, puree them, add your butter and cream and shredded cheese. Stir it until the cheese has melted, then add even more shredded cheese and continue stirring until the mixture is gooey and stretchy. You don’t need anything else; you’ve just made cheesy mashed potatoes on steroids.
And now, the all-important question: How are you going to serve your Raclette this week?
[i] Keenan, Tia. “Baked Pumpkin Fondue.” Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle. Rizzoli: New York, 2018. 50-51.