For all you cheese lovers out there, imagine dinner consisting of mass quantities of melted cheese poured over boiled potatoes served with a variety of deli meats. Maybe some pickles on the side, eggs or even vegetables to round out the meal usually served with wine.
The Raclette cheese is originally from Switzerland and made from cows milk formed into giant rounds. The creamy white coloured cheese has of medium hard consistency and a mild flavour. Farmers take the cheese while working the herds in the Swiss and French mountainous regions, where over a fire they melt the cheese and once soft, scrape it on to a piece of bread or potato and eat it with dried or cured meats.
Today the Raclette Grill has changed the tradition by bringing the meal indoors to every house in France. The tabletop electric grille has little pans to place the cheese slices in and you slide them inside the appliance where the heating element above melts the cheese. This inner level is surmounted by a hot plate, where you can warm your deli meats, fry an egg, roast vegetables or make crepes, depending on the shape and style of your unit. You can buy a small version of the machine for two people or larger sizes for up to twelve, in most appliance stores in France.
In most super markets throughout France you can buy pre-sliced Raclette cheese that fits perfectly into your Raclette grilling pan. You can also purchase prepackaged variety packs of your favourite meats to go with your Raclette dinner.
The atmosphere around the meal is very relaxed. Equally important to the hands on experience of cooking your food around a table, while chatting for hours, is wine consumption, believed to help digest the meal.
Our hosts Anne and Pierre served a specialty cheese in addition to the plain Raclette variety which had mustard seeds inside. We ate cured hams from Northeast France, Rosette sausage that reminded me of Hungarian winter salami and round bacon, all tasting excellent with the potato/cheese/wine combination.
I love how most families in France serve the children first. They ate ham, bread and cheese and loved being allowed to play with their food. After, the three little crappers ran upstairs to play some more before dessert. I adore these kids.
Lastly, our host served an apple filled ever-so-light phyllo pastry from our favourite bakery Au Palais Des Saveurs, with a milky sauce she made from melting a French candy called Caramar. Anne explained that it was a treat from when she was a child. Not too big on dessert, it is hard not to succumb to the temptations of the culinary palette in France. My cup overfloweth and my pants are getting tight! I live in France.
We sampled two different red wines with our Raclette dinner. The first from Mouline Gimie a local winemaker a few blocks away. His Chardonnay sampled prior is smooth with a buttery flavour, one of the best in the region. The red was a mid-high priced bottle around 8€ that had many layers of flavour and a bold after taste. It was perfection. The second from Chateau Montauriol Rigaud just outside the Languedoc in the Corbières region, was 5.50€ from the cooperative and was a much lighter fruity wine perfect when paired with an apéritif or dessert.