dimanche 6 décembre 2009

The Sociable Diner: Raclette

I’m always a fan of sociable dining, and especially in winter, when packing guests elbow-to-elbow around the table generates much-needed body heat (is North America the only place in the world with central heating? Is it??), so I replied with an enthusiastic OUI BIEN SÛR when invited to a raclette dinner last Friday.

For an intimate, convivial atmosphere you can’t beat cooking food directly at the table and sharing the same dish among everyone. Hands are darting in and out of the center, the cheese is passed around every which way (French politess tip #1: always offer the morsel you just cooked to others first, and only if everyone refuses serve yourself), glasses are clinking, bread crumbs flying, conversations entangling.

I experienced the One Pot Love effect already this season in hosting a fondue savoyarde party; this time around it’s one cheese love, or maybe grilled cheesy love: Raclette, the svelte suédoise.

Le raclette is the name of a cheese originating from Switzerland and also made nowadays in the Savoie region of France. The dish la raclette (notice the gender change to differentiate the two) has been around since the middle ages. It’s a simple combination of heated raclette cheese scraped onto a plate of roasted potatoes, an assortment of dried meats, gherkins, and pickled onions. The word “raclette” comes from the French racler, meaning “to scrape.”

In our modern electric era, Raclette is heated on a table top grill using small pans to hold individual slices of cheese. Supermarkets carry packages of pre-sliced raclette cheese and meat assortments, so this is a meal almost free of preparation. The only cooking involved is roasting the potatoes, which leaves the host free to make the rounds of bisous (the French greeting custom of kissing both cheeks) and to serve aperitifs (before dinner drinks).


Raclette cheese, sliced

Whole small potatoes Assortment of dried meats, sliced thinly


Pickled onions or other dishes

White wine, to serve with

1. Scrub the potatoes and roast in a 400F oven until pierced easily, about 40 minutes.

2. Set the table with plates of dried meat, sliced cheese, and pickled vegetables

3. Roast the cheese slice by slice on the table top grill and serve as it is ready, scraping directly on top of the potatoes, meat, and vegetables. Alternately, roast the cheese in the oven and serve at once.

La Raclette

Il y a plusieurs avantages quand on dîne en groupe. On passe du temps avec des amis et la famille, il y a plus de mains pour faire la vaisselle, et le monde, ça réchauffe la salle (il y en a besoin en France où l’on n’a jamais assez de chauffage).

Mais il y a aussi des désavantages : plus d’assiettes à laver après, beaucoup de travail et de temps pour préparer un grand repas, et on a toujours tendance à trop manger.

Voilà la raclette, la solution parfaite ! Le fromage à raclette et la charcuterie se vendent déjà préparés ; la seule chose qu’il faut faire cuire, ceux sont les pommes de terre—les laver, mettre dans un plat, au four, et c’est fini. Puis tout le monde s’assoit autour de la table et fait cuire soi-même les tranches de raclette. Et puis, la cerise sur le gâteau, l’appareil à raclette réchauffe la salle—pas besoin de mes moufles à cette table-là ! On mangera encore trop, mais manger beaucoup de fromage, ça va plutôt bien à mon avis.

La Raclette

1kg de fromage à raclette de Savoie ou de Suisse,
1 kg de pommes de terre nouvelles cuites,
500 g de charcuteries incluant jambon de Parme, viande de grisons, rosette,...
Cornichons et petits oignons blancs

Mettez tout sur la table autour de l'appareil à raclette et laissez faire vos invités selon leur humeur !

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