Do you like to entertain simply? Do you like it when there are ingredients that guests can bring? Do you like to try different flavors to see which one works best? Then you must try raclette!

We have our wonderful friends, Markus and Verena, friends in Switzerland, to thank for introducing us to this wonderful dish. Raclette is a cheese dish, somewhat similar to fondue, but for us, fondue get’s boring after a few bites while serving raclette allows for so many choices in flavors. Raclette is perfect for a group of 8, allowing for slow mingling over warm tasty food.

For this dish, you must start with raclette cheese which you can find as a Swiss or a French cheese. Stolen from the Seriously Good Food Blog – Raclette is a pungent Swiss cheese somewhat reminiscent of Gruyere. It’s typically softer and a bit more oily than Gruyere. The French also make a Raclette, but in my experience it’s milder than the Swiss variety and not as good. It’s worth noting that the primary difference between the Swiss and French versions is which side of the valley the cows grew up on as the region where it was developed predates both countries. Well said, and I agree (although I love both French and Swiss raclette)! We also learned that raclette was a dish the sheep herders made. The block of raclette cheese would set next to the fire, and the end would slowly melt. As it melted, they would take the warm melted end and put it over potatoes or meat.

First, you must start with a raclette machine. Best to ask your friends if any of them have one, or you may want to purchase one. Ours is like having a griddle on top with open electrical elements below allowing you to broil the cheese. It comes with 8 very small non-stick pans (like spatulas) for the cheese.

Secondly, you need good cheese. And just to let you to know, this is, no doubt, the most expensive part of the meal. We purchase ours from Mary Dedrick on Main Street. We call ahead and order center cuts of the cheese wheel so they are consistent in thickness. You can work with raclette cut as a wedge, but we find it does not melt as evenly.

Next, boil potatoes – lots of potatoes. We used Yukon gold potatoes and chopped them into large bite-size pieces, but if you can get small creamer potatoes, they work best as you can serve them whole.

Now, when we were in Geneva, Hanna ordered raclette – and for 27 euro’s, this is what she got – boiled potatoes and a slice of melted raclette. It was quite tasty, but when we were in Zurich with Markus and Verena, there were lots of accoutrements. You would place the boiled potatoes on your plate, then while your cheese was melting, you would grill up sausage or a meat of your choice, add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, pickled asparagus or olives…you get the picture! Ask your guests to bring an assortment of items. Our dinner had sun-dried tomatoes, olives, pickled asparagus, marinated artichokes, sardines, chicken apple sausage, little smokies, spam (yes, spam), sauteed mushrooms, radishes, red/yellow peppers, pickled onions, bacon, cornichon, and capers. The pickled items really add some zip to the flavors. Favorite combinations were artichoke hearst and sun-dried tomatoes, pickled onions and bacon, and pickled asparagus, all of course with potatoes and cheese. Another item that I read about, but didn’t serve was salami, and I think that, or other sliced meats would be a good addition.

Oh, and the wine pairing. Paul can never bring home just one wine, so we tried 3! We had the 2010 Hillside Gewurztraminer, the 2010 Signature Dry Riesling, and the 2008 Signature Cabernet Franc. Both the Gewurztraminer and Dry Riesling were perfect, the acidity balancing out the richness of the cheese and the smokiness of the meats. The Cabernet Franc tasted like chocolate – why, we are not really sure, but it was interesting and enjoyable.

So, on the next rainy night, get out the raclette machine and throw a party! Happy eating!

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