20 November 2017

Raclette for lunch

Raclette means "scraper" or "squeegee" — from the French verb racler meaning "to scrape," including "to scrape off" or "scrape out." Said that way, it doesn't sound like a very appetizing idea for lunch, does it?

Above is an appareil à raclette. Un appareil is an apparatus or appliance. This one is basically an electric heating element with little non-stick pans that slide under it and a griddle over the top. What do you scrape? Well, you put a slice of cheese in each little pan, set it under the hot element, and wait for it to melt. Then you scrape the melted cheese out onto your plate.

In fact, a raclette is a lunch or dinner of melted cheese served with meats and vegetables, especially steamed potatoes. It's a do-it-yourself kind of meal. It's self-service. Each diner or convive (dinner guest) melts her or his own cheese and serves his or her own meats and potatoes. Thus, in France it's seen as a repas convivial — a convivial meal, fun, friendly, and informal. No real ceremony is involved. The cheese is also called raclette, and it melts into a soft creamy mass.

Fromage à raclette is pretty good, with the right charcuterie (cold cuts) and warm cooked potatoes. For our recent raclette meals, with ours we've had the Alpine jambon cru called speck, saucisson à l'ail (cooked garlic sausage), the salami called rosette, and of course cornichons (pickles), both the classic little French vinegary ones known as gherkins, as well as the new-comers to France, cornichons aigres-doux (sort of like dill pickles). And good bread, of course.

When people used to cook in fireplaces rather than on modern appliances, they would put a big wheel of cheese on a special stand close to the fire and wait for the cheese to start melting. Then they would scrape the melted cheese off the cut side of the cheese wheel onto plates and take them to the table, where meats, potatoes, and pickles were waiting (along with hungry convives). That's the legend, anyway. Images here.


  1. I like when you do these posts seasoned with French words, pun intended. Vocabulaire ;-). Your meal looks delicious and hearty.

  2. This is our meal of choice after the Vin d'honneur and 11th of the 11th ceremony in the village. There is always 'room' for another couple of last minute invitees. BTW I like the way your equipment strips down for cleaning!

  3. A few years ago we had Raclette in a restaurant in Annecy that pretty much served just Raclette and Fondue. A heating machine that was like a large version of yours was brought to the table with half a large wheel of Raclette, and we would scrape the cheese as it started to melt. On the table were all the other things you had; bread, potatoes, smoked meat, and gherkins. Very good.


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