What is raclette?
First of all, I need to clarify what a raclette is before moving on to the explanation of a raclette party. I have to mention that the word Raclette has 2 different meanings. Raclette is the name of the type of a Swiss cheese and the name of the whole dish.
It is traditionally made from cow’s milk. However, you can also find a variation that uses sheep’s milk to make it. It is a semi-hard cheese and you have to melt it or grill it since consuming it raw does not optimize its flavor experience. You, also, need to know that this cheese is specifically marketed to be used in the raclette dish.
A raclette dish is a dish that involves taking a big piece of raclette cheese and melting the outside of it near the fire. Then, you would scrape the melted cheese onto some slices of bread or boiled potatoes, and you would serve it alongside a warm beverage.
A little bit of History
The first signs of dishes of melted cheese like raclette appeared in texts from Swiss convents (a community of priests) as early as 1291. Agricultural workers first tried a dish with melted cheese in the mountainous Alpine regions of Switzerland and south-eastern France. In Switzerland, raclette is typically served with potatoes, pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, black tea, other warm beverages, or wine. A popular French option is to serve it with white wine. Traditionally, black tea is the most frequent drink alongside this dish, since a warm beverage supposedly improves digestion.
Preparation of a raclette party
Equipment for a raclette party- Raclette grill
In order to throw a proper raclette party or dinner, you will need to have the raclette grill. There are many options for a raclette grill to choose from depending on the size, the price, and even the material of the grill (.e.g. stone, metal). A basic raclette machine will have a place to melt the cheese and a place to toast bread, vegetables, and any other servings. You don’t have to start with an expensive one, since they will do the same job if you take care of and clean the machine properly.
At home, a raclette meal is served using a tabletop grill, like the one pictured in these photos. The cheese is melted in small pans called coupelles, which are placed under the heating element. You use the grill plate to cook meat and vegetables, although it is not necessary to use one since a normal pan can melt and fry everything just as well.
The ingredients of the raclette party dish
You should be able to find raclette at any grocery store. If your local store doesn’t have, a store specified for cheeses will do the job. As an alternative for raclette, you could use mozzarella or feta cheese, since they are mild and melt easily. Some other good ideas would be, brie, gorgonzola, and even cheddar.
Bread and potatoes are essential for a good raclette party. The bread is traditionally a French baguette but any other bread you like would, also, be good. Besides these two basic side servings for the dish, you could also add anything else you want. For example, I suggest that you add some meat to the dish. Some small sausages or bacon would be one of the best options. Also, prosciutto and any meat of the salami family would be some really tasty options. Don’t forget that you could experiment with some spicy traditional meat of your location, too.
A dish that includes the cheese, bread, and potatoes is already fulfilling enough, let alone the meat. For this reason, consider adding some vegetables such as raw peppers, zucchini, mushrooms. I will mention once again that the good thing about this dish is that you can be creative. Some good ideas would, also, be sprouts and any kind of pickles you like.
Don’t forget that when we are talking about a raclette party dinner we consider a table from 5 to as many guests as you can handle. For this reason, you need to serve the most fitting beverage for the night. For a raclette party, warm beverage suits best the occasion. The Swiss suggest that drinking a cold beverage would make it more difficult to digest the cheese. As a result, white wine is the best choice for raclette. Red wine is also an option but I believe white wine suits best because it has a strong flavor that does not pair ideally with the raclette dish. Another non-alcoholic option would be some orange juice or (black) tea.
During the raclette party/ recipe
A raclette party is meant to advance slowly. The most important thing is to enjoy an evening/night with your friends or your family. You should enjoy tour time together, so you should start the night with drinks and snacks of your preferences and on top of that, the fanciness of the raclette will make the night even more fun and interesting. Right below you will be able to find a recipe and instructions to make your raclette party. For some other ideas about raclette parties and recipes, you can click here.
150–200g (5-7 oz) raclette cheese, per person, sliced into 8mm slices
new potatoes, boiled (about 4 to 6 per person)
rashers of bacon
beef fillet, sliced thickly
small pork sausages
zucchini, sliced thickly
bell peppers, sliced thickly
pickled baby corn barbecue sauce or ketchup (or any sauce of your preference) for the sausages and meat
If necessary, cut the raclette cheese to fit the coupelles or small trays under the raclette grill.
Turn the raclette grill on 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, you should improvise! Be careful to not overcook the meat on the grill plate.
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