02 January 2019

Wintertime foods

Do you recognize this contraption? It's a modern appliance used for making a traditional Swiss wintertime meal that in olden days was made in front of the fireplace. It was the meal we had on New Year's Eve, the day before cooking and dining upon our New Year's Day black-eyed peas.

Here's what you cook in it: cheese. Well, you don't so much cook it as just melt it. It's a kind of fondue. The little non-stick tray slides in under a heating element and there's a griddle on top. There are four trays. You can cook your own meal at the table.

You can cook things on the griddle to eat with the melted cheese. Both the meal and the cheese are called raclette. We cooked, or at least heated up, some blanched Brussels sprouts and some raw, sliced mushrooms to have with ours.

So what's the big picture? The main part of a raclette meal is charcuterie — salt-cured or smoked pork. We had some jambon de Paris (slices of boiled ham), slices of rosette (a salami from Lyon), some filet mignon de porc (pepper-cured pork tenderloin), some filet de dinde (roasted, sliced turkey breast), and two kinds of cornichons (pickles).

This is not exactly diet food. It's holiday food, or cold-winter-evening food. In France, the supermarkets sell sliced raclette cheese cut to just the right size for the little metal trays that you slide under the heating element. Then you scrape the melted cheese out onto your plate and enjoy eating it with meats and vegetables. Actually, the verb racler means "to scrape."

Oh, and don't forget the steamed potatoes, served hot. You can also heat up the sliced meats on the griddle on top of the appareil à raclette if you want. That way, everything's hot.

Good bread goes well with melted cheese too. That's the basis for what we call a Swiss fondue, and which is France is called a fondue savoyarde (la Savoie is an old province up in the Alps). Why not toast a slice of bread on the griddle while the raclette cheese is melting?

Here's one more shot of the platter of meats, sprouts, and pickles. We'll be having this meal again today because, as usual, we had about twice as much food as we could eat in one sitting. With food like this, we really do need to take a long walk with the dog every day.


  1. Thank you very much for explaing the raclette apparatus... seen them in shops and at vide-greniers, thought that was how they worked but, apart from the pictures on the outside, just knew they were a "melty cheese machine"....
    Nowhere have I seen illustrations such as these.... it all makes sense, now.
    I had also seen old illustrations of a cheese mounted on its side, next to an open range with someone scraping downwards onto a slice of bread. Can't duplicate that on the table centre!!

    To me, raclette cheese has a very important function... it is my "go to" cheese for homemade pizzas... it is the perfect melty cheese for the topping... and seems to be always available.
    And tastes much nicer than rubbery mozarella!

  2. Back in the early 1970s I had good French friends who had lived in Besançon (Franche-Comté). They introduced me to good raclettes and fondues, not to mention sausages from the East. I've made raclette in the oven before. Just put some of the cheese in a few ramekins, set them in the oven to melt the cheese, and then get up from the table a bring a couple out. Go back and get more as desired.

  3. Tim, meant to say: a few years ago SuperU had a package deal we took advantage of. An electric fondue pot and set, and this electric raclette apparatus — the two for 25 euros. Since we don't use either one more than 2 or 3 times a year, I expect them to last forever.

  4. Thanks to a cheesemonger in the family we have a tuyau for traditional raclette--a half-round of cheese spiked on an apparatus with a heating element posed above it. Feeds a crowd. I wrote about it here: https://francetaste.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/scraping-by-with-french-cheese/

  5. It is our meal of choice after we return home from the 11th November event with our friends. You just have to boil the potatoes and open the bottles!

  6. Oh, my goodness, this looks tasty! I had never made the connection between racler and raclette! I teach my students, racler les bords , because it comes up in recipes, so now I'll introduce this, and your blog post. The one time that I had this meal in France, was at a dinner party that my au pair family had, and they used a different kind of device for melting... no griddle, and you scraped the melting cheese off of a big half-wheel of cheese... more like this, but not quite.

  7. I was just enjoying your post about raclette and thinking that we had not had such a meal in our family for quite a while (I blogged about one such dinner here: https://thickethouse.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/good-news-and-dark-days/) when one of my daughters called to talk and said they are planning to have raclette for my birthday dinner later this month. Very exciting! Both my daughters have raclette sets.

  8. What an interesting gadget -- high-tech fondue. Sort of.
    Now I'm hungry.

  9. Our raclette set looks a lot like yours. I need to get it out soon.

    1. I think we'll have raclette again today. We have cheese and everything we need left over. Yesterday I made enchiladas using black-eyed peas, rice, meat, and cheese, with a spicy sauce. Happy New Year, Evelyn.

    2. Happy New Year, Ken! I have a feeling 2019 will be better than 2018. Your enchiladas sound delicious.


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