Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raclette or Fondue -- Le Quel Préférez-Vous ?

According to late great gastronome, Robert Courtine, la raclette is a dish that « le gourmet préfère de loin aux fondues » — a dish that a gourmet prefers by far compared to fondues, better than the typical fondue, which is cheese melted in white wine and often served only with bread.

The possibilities with Raclette are infinite, yet just as simple to prepare than fondue-- perhaps even more simple!

Making cheese fondue is not as easy as it should be! Getting the Emmental and Gruyere cheeses and wine to meld together into a creamy symphony is not as simple as it sounds... the temperature and the proportions of the cheese and alcohol have an obstinate disposition-- if not calculated correctly, simply will not cooperate... not to mention the amount of cheese needed to be bought and grated to create a concoction that will be devoured in a half hour!

Raclette, on the other hand, is low-maintenance-- no stirring, no grating, no worries about burning, no cutting bread for dipping. With Raclette, you just slice the cheese, set out your boiled potatoes and anything else you want to adorn with your potatoes and voila, magic... a perfect meal awaits a mountainous appetite! And instead of being consumed as quickly as an appetizer, Raclette can be savored for as long as your pants waistline will allow!

Raclette ou fromage fondue, lequel préférez-vous ? Pour moi... I'll take both, thank you very much, but if I have to make it myself... I'd choose Raclette every time.

To be fair, Courtine, is referring to the sapidity between the two... this will be the topic of my next post!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Preparing Raclette is Easy as Pie

Eating Raclette is as easy as boiling potatoes! These are the main ingredients but any can be easily modified to suit your personal tastes & budget:
  • Raclette cheese - (or any semi-soft cheese will do) Try: Emmental, Edam, Gouda or Irish Cheddar. Plan for about 4 oz per person. Note: Raclette cheese is mostly imported, and as such, on the pricier end of cheese.
  • New Potatoes - (the little ones) but really, any potato will do. Try: colorful varieties if available.
  • Dried or Cured Meats, charcuterie - Try: air-dried beef, prosciutto or parma ham from your deli counter but even sandwich ham will do.
  • Pickles, cornichons - any pickled or fresh vegetable will do. Try: pickled artichoke hearts, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes or fresh purple onions, bell peppers, or tomatoes for colors.
First, boil or bake the potatoes in their skins and place them on a serving plate, cutting the larger ones in half. Arrange thinly sliced meats on another plate. Slice pickles and any other veggies you desire and place in separate dishes that can be passed around. Cutting off the rind, slice Raclette thinly (Personally, I like the rind but it's not so great for melting.)

With a microwave:
Each person can arrange onto their own small* microwave safe plates whatever combination variety they want, placing the most important ingredient, the Raclette cheese, on top. Microwave until just melted. (*any size is fine but the idea is to nibble and nosh leisurely around the table and to enjoy the food and company, refilling your plates as desired.)

With an oven:
Same idea, but with small oven safe dishes. Place them all on a baking tray and grill until melted. Keep the oven warm for another round!

Not necessary, but rounding out the meal is also easily solved. Just add a hearty brown bread, a crusty bread, or any bread you have on hand with a simple packaged salad as side dishes.

Beverages well suited to a Raclette meal are white wine, a dark ale, beer or hot tea. These are said to aid in digestion of the decadent, high fat content meal... but who's thinking about calories at this time of year!

Advanced Raclette Dining
For the full Swiss experience, the Raclette Grill turns the meal into an occasion with lasting memories. The Swiss will lounge around the dinner table for a few hours, slowly enjoying this luxurious yet casual meal. Make sure there's a free flow of wine, beer and hot water for tea which will guarantee a glorious experience! Raclette grills have two levels: the top is for grilling your vegetables and meat, the bottom for melting the decadent, creamy cheese on top of your individualized creation-combination, or, solely for melting the cheese to pour atop the creation on your plate!

This video shows you just how easy Racletting is!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soft... Stinky... Swiss... So Good.... Vacherin Mont d'Or

Here's an excerpt from a wonderful article that explains how to eat the soft cheese, Vacherin Mont d'Or (link below).

The thing about this soft, runny and often distinctly stinky cheese, the zone of production of which straddles the Swiss-French border, is that it makes the most glorious meal when put into a hot oven until it is thoroughly heated through and is even more molten than at room temperature. You then tear up lots of crusty bread and dunk until you have removed every last scrap, right down to the bare birch wood that forms the cheese’s wrapper. Actually, the cheese comes in a little box made of pine, while the cheese itself is contained with a circle of birch. All in all, quite woody stuff.

Strictly speaking, you’re supposed to punch holes in the cheese and drizzle with white wine. The trouble is, if the cheese is ripe, the holes close up as soon as they’re made and the wine seeps out of the wooden container. Some people like to sprinkle on a finely chopped clove of garlic (something I’ve yet to do) but I prefer a lot of coarsely crushed black peppercorns and a splash of wine just for luck. The Swiss, being a terribly organised people, put some foil around the box to keep everything inside, which is a good idea. Don’t forget to put the lid back on before putting it in the oven. (Our Vacherin Mont d’Or came from Iago in Cork’s English Market, but you can get it from all serious cheesemongers; people argue about the French versus the Swiss version but this is way beyond me; the bread was Declan Ryan’s Arbutus sourdough).

One small Vacherin, a loaf of good bread and a simple green salad makes one of the best meals you can have. And it’s not exactly cooking. It’s a seasonal treat, because this is, essentially, a Winter cheese. Next time, I think I’ll try it with thyme.

Read about wine pairings and other musings in the full article here

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Swiss Love Their Stinky Cheese

Pronounced [rah-KLEHT] - The term raclette refers both to the famous cheese from Switzerland as well as the dish. The word raclette is derived from the French word racler which means to scrape.

This warm cheese dish originated in the Valais canton of Switzerland where farmers and herdsman would make a meal of cheese melted by campfire or hearth, potatoes and pickles. Historians conjecture that at some point the cheese got too close to the fire and the melted cheese dish was born. The cheese and the dish have been documented back as far as the year 1291 and at that time was called Bratchäs.There has been much evolution of the dish since those early days. Today besides the requisite potatoes and pickles any number of foods are eaten with the cheese including fish, poultry, vegetables and sometimes even wild game.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

L'oeufs Brouillle a la Raclette

Another luscious way to eat Raclette cheese
over scrambled or poached eggs... oohh... that would make a special brunch!

La raclette d' �ufs brouilles au Migneron de Charlevoix éta... on Twitpic
The creamy saltiness of the Raclette cheese perfectly compliments
the light and delicate eggs.
Use room temperature cheese and slice thinly, microwave briefly to melt.