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  • Food & Fun

    EVERYTHING TO KNOW ABOUT RACLETTE

    By Annabel Ross 05 September 2019
    Image – Culture cheese mag

     So cheesey so chic: Everything you need to know about raclette

     

    There are few foods that deliver the same reliable, intense pleasure as raclette. The melted cheese dish is pretty much guaranteed to make whatever it’s served with taste a whole lot better and in spite of the warm weather, it’s always a hit at SFSC.

     

    Unlike fondue, which combines melted cheese with white wine and seasoning, raclette is nothing but fromage. The semi-hard cow’s milk cheese is typically sold in a wheel before being melted and scraped onto food. (The name comes from the French word for scrape, “racler”.) Raclette has been eaten in Switzerland, where it originated, and France for centuries; it was reportedly mentioned in medieval texts dating back to the late 13th century. Back then, peasants in the Swiss Alps would make raclette in a charmingly rustic fashion, placing the cheese next to a campfire and scraping it onto a hunk of bread once the raclette had softened.

     

    These days, unless you’re sticking to the open fire method, raclette is a little tricker to make. In France and Switzerland you can buy special electric grills fitted with pans in which to melt slices of the cheese. Or, you can save yourself the washing up and head to a restaurant; in recent years raclette is popping up on menus all around the world.

     

    Three years ago, the much-hyped Raclette opened in New York City, where the dish is served with the same sense of theatre you’ll find in a teppanyaki restaurant. You choose a plate of accompaniments, typically roast potatoes and other roast vegetables, and servers come to your table armed with a heated half wheel of cheese from which they scrape steaming piles of gooey goodness onto your plate.

     

    The trend has made its way to our shores too; there are now a handful of venues in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne offering raclette nights or making raclette a permanent fixture on the menu. In places like France and Switzerland, raclette has never gone out of style; the food is an important part of the culinary culture. In June this year, a British man was denied Swiss citizenship for being unable to name the region where raclette originated (the correct answer is Valais, in the Swiss Alps).

     

    In May, a group of pranksters who go by the name Smart Joker of Paris got on the Metro in tuxedos, set up a makeshift table, complete with tablecloth, and tucked into a raclette dinner, melting the cheese with small candles. There was wine too, of course, most likely the Savoy wine that hails from the foothills of the French Alps, though pinot gris and riesling also pair well with raclette, as does sauvignon blanc and pinot noir – something to keep in mind when dining with our festival cheese vendors and tasting our French wines at SFSC.

     

    The Metro scene also captured another important element of the dish — it’s designed to be shared. The grill and the cheese are the central elements around which diners gather; it’s a simple, fuss-free meal that allows you to eat as little or as much as you choose.

     

    We do warn you though, raclette is dangerously moreish. Cheese contains casomorphins, which attach to opiate receptors in the brain in the same way that heroin and morphine do, causing a calming effect. Health food raclette is not, but when it comes to seeking out the simple pleasures in life, you only live once. And besides, kale just doesn’t provide the same kind of gooey thrill.

     

    [ENDS]