As I write this, my body is slowly recovering from the abuse I just put it through this evening. Don’t worry – I didn’t run a marathon or do anything crazy like that, but I did eat way more than I should have in the form of a traditional and delicious French-Swiss Alps meal that’s perfect for those cold Bay Area evenings…
Not that it’s cold in San Francisco Bay Area at the moment. It’s quite the opposite, actually. We have an Indian summer, so our warm weather season is just starting. Anyway, that’s not completely relevant if you want to eat as I did this evening. This hearty meal you enjoy with friends around a little grill is actually perfect any time of the year.
Raclette (which comes from the verb racler, to scrape) is a kind of cheese, but when the indefinite article is used (so, une raclette), it refers to the meal which is an entire social experience in and of itself. Melt the cheese and serve it over boiled potatoes, meats, vegetables, and fruits – and if you’re like I am, eat way too much of it and regret it later.
The popular dish dates back to the Middle Ages in the Valais region when cow herders would march into the mountains and, in the evenings, melt the cheese by their campfires and scrape the melted top off with bread. This tradition, sans the cows, has remained popular, and most French and Swiss families have their own raclette grill they pop out from time to time. Put it in the middle of the table, turn it on, and you have the start of a wonderful party. Pre-cut your meats and vegetables and have them in little dishes around the raclette grill within easy reach. A little wine and a light salad wouldn’t hurt, either.
You can customize a raclette to your liking, but there are some staples that I’ve included below:
– du fromage (cheese – roughly 7-9 oz per person). You can find Raclette cheese in most stores with a wide variety of cheeses. Substitute for Raclette cheese: Gruyere, Emmental, Fontina or Appenzeller. Where to buy Raclette cheese? At good cheese shop, Whole Foods Market, Lunardi’s or @amazon.com : Raclette Cheese
– 12 pommes de terre (potatoes)
– des viandes séchées (le jambon blanc, le saucisson, la mortadelle, le jambon cru…) (dried meats: Parisian ham, sausage, mortadella sausage, cured ham…)
– des fruits de mer (les crevettes, les coquilles Saint-Jacques…) (seafood: shrimp, scallops…)
– des légumes (les champignons, les courgettes, les poivrons, les asperges, les brocolis…) (vegetables: mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, asparagus, broccoli…)
– 1 bocal de cornichons et 1 bocal de petits oignons (1 jar of gherkins and 1 of pearl onions)
And you need to get some white wine from Savoie to go with that :