How to make raclette, a traditional Swiss dish, at home with a raclette grill.
Cheese has featured quite a bit on my blog lately, and for good reason – we are coming into winter here in Switzerland! As soon as the nights start to become a bit chilly, the Swiss can be seen tucking into a bubbling pot of Cheese Fondue or sharing a raclette dinner with friends.
The word raclette is both the name of a type of Swiss cheese and the name of the dish itself.
Raclette cheese is traditionally made from cow’s milk, although you can also find some varieties made from sheep’s milk. It is a semi-hard cheese which is thickly sliced (less than 1 cm) and used for melting and grilling; it is not intended to be eaten raw and it doesn’t taste great raw anyway! The mild varieties have a characteristic pungency, so it is definitely a dish for cheese-lovers only.
These days, supermarkets and cheesemongers stock a wide selection of raclette cheese, from the classic mild variety, to those flavoured with peppercorns, chillies, or garlic. My favourite are the smoked raclette cheese and the blue cheese.
At home, a raclette meal is served using a table-top grill, like one pictured in these photos. The cheese is melted in small pans called coupelles, which are placed under the heating element. The grill plate is used to cook meat and vegetables, although we have eaten with friends who don’t use the grill plate at all.
And this is partly the reason why I love raclette so much – you can customise the meal to your liking and serve the melted raclette cheese with whatever you like. Haven eaten raclette in the homes of many Swiss friends, I have taken a few ideas here and there to make the dish my own.
My favourite version, however, is the one which my Vietnamese family created when they first moved to Switzerland in the 1960s. A Vietnamese dish often reserved for special occasions is grilled beef cooked at the table, similar to a Korean barbecue, called Bò Nướng Vỉ. The beef is typically marinated in lemongrass and other common Vietnamese flavourings, and served with vermicelli noodles and lots of fresh herbs and salad. My family like to combine this traditional Vietnamese dish with raclette – both dishes use the same table-top grill after all! It’s an unusual combination, especially eating cheese and potatoes with lemongrass beef. But for me, it’s the best of both worlds!
I haven’t eaten my family’s version of raclette in years, but what I do like to do is grill lots of vegetables. Cheese and potatoes on its own can be quite heavy and filling, and I think the addition of grilled vegetables make it more of a complete meal. These days, we also like to cook sausages for the children, and sometimes I will buy a nice piece of beef fillet if we have guests joining us.
Raclette is a really fun meal to share with friends and family, and what I love is that it is a stress-free dinner! There is no cooking in advance – except to boil some potatoes – and the preparation is limited to chopping up a few vegetables and plating up the cheese.
And don’t think you need to eat raclette with a lot of people; I have always wanted a mini raclette grill for two – they just look so cute!
How do you like to serve raclette at home?
How to Make Raclette
- 150-200g (5-7 oz) raclette cheese, per person, sliced into 8mm slices
- new potatoes, boiled
- rashers of bacon
- beef fillet, sliced thickly
- chipolata sausages, or other small pork sausages
- courgette (zucchini), sliced thickly
- red capscium (bell peppers), sliced thickly
- cornichons or pickled gherkins
- pickled baby corn
- barbecue sauce and/or ketchup for the sausages and meat
- Turn the raclette grill on to medium-high heat.
- If you are using bacon, place the bacon rashers onto the grill plate and cook until your liking.
- Use the bacon fat to cook the other ingredients.
- If you are not using bacon, simply brush the grill plate with some oil.
- Place some meat and vegetables on the hot grill plate.
- While the meat and vegetables are cooking on the grill plate, place a slice of raclette cheese into the coupelles or small trays, and place them under the heating element.
- The melted raclette cheese is usually served over the warm potatoes on your plate, which you should slice just before adding the cheese. But it is also common to place the melted cheese over the cooked vegetables. Some people even put slices of potatoes into the coupelles so that the cheese melts directly on top. Do as you please!
- Be careful to not overcook the meat on the grill plate.
- It is entirely up to you what meat and vegetables you wish to serve with raclette.
- You could even make the meal vegetarian by grilling only vegetables, or even not using the grill plate and simply making a salad to go alongside.
- I like to add half a teaspoon of brined green peppercorns to plain raclette cheese before grilling it. This gives the cheese a spicy kick and saves me from having to buy too many different types of raclette cheese.
- Any leftover raclette cheese is wonderful for toasting on bread with ham under the grill. Yum!
- You can buy special prongs to hold the hot potatoes so you can peel them easily at the table. However, I prefer to use new potatoes and to eat them with the skin on.
- Depending on what is in season, I also like to make the following to cook on the grill plate:
- asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or thinly sliced bacon
- mushrooms stuffed with cream cheese (I like Cantadou)
- thick slices of fresh pineapple
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If you have used this recipe, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos by tagging @eatlittlebird on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and using #eatlittlebird
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