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.