Swiss Meals I: Raclette, it’s not fondue…
Ever tried the dish called raclette? I hadn’t, before our recent trip to Zurich, but when I heard the following about it, I was excited to get into it:
1. It’s cheesy; 2. It’s potato-y; 3. It’s Swiss. By virtue of this point no.3, I knew the aforementioned ingredient at no. 1 would be super, super delicious (Swiss cheese really is amazing).
From the above, you’re probably thinking, “wow, she must really like cheese and potatoes!”, and you’d be right. Two of my favourite food groups right there, so I felt we couldn’t go wrong with raclette. Even better, we were lucky enough to be shown the authentic way on this most typical of Swiss dishes (after fondue, I guess), by our Swiss friends in their home.
Above you can see the spread of various ingredients prior to cooking (plus delicious side salad and unusual – to us anyway – accompaniments, such as preserved fruits and pickles).
I should mention that while we were in Zurich, there was something of a heatwave – temperatures were well above average for May (which we loved, no complaints here!). But our friends warned us that raclette was a dish eaten typically in colder climes. Never ones to turn down an amazing sounding dinner, that didn’t put us off one bit. Especially not when we saw the delicious, melty cheese…
One of my favourite parts of the whole raclette experience though was the cooking process itself.
Back in the day (or maybe still today?), the Swiss would melt their raclette cheese over an open fire. But in 2012 the electrical goodness of this little raclette cooker was kind of exciting to me (maybe I really do need to get out more?!). I admit, pretty much as soon as I saw it I was scheming a way that I could buy one of my own to take back to the Netherlands with me. I had to kiss this plan goodbye though when we learned that the special type of cheese used for the dish (also called raclette) isn’t sold in the Netherlands, and that other types just wouldn’t make the grade (inferior melting properties). So, I resolved to enjoy this experience as much as possible, knowing that it may well be a really long time before I got to enjoy it again! As you can see above, to cook (if you can call it that!), we placed the pieces of cheese into the individual cheese pans on the lower shelf, and they were gradually melted to a state of perfect cheesy deliciousness. On the top grill level, we cooked our other ingredients: onions, mushrooms, zucchini. Once each batch is ready, you serve it up and get your next round on to cook, and then dig in (and repeat until your cheese-limit is reached). Cooking together this way was super enjoyable and fun. It resulted in a wonderful evening of lots of laughter!
I guess the raclette experience can differ from place to place in Switzerland, from family to family, home to home. I get the feeling it’s the kind of meal that changes slightly depending on the different small additions and touches (ingredients and accompaniments, variations in cheeses, cooking methods), and which probably evolves with a sense of shared history from those that you eat it with. As one of our friends showed us – there’s even entire recipe books dedicated to raclette!
I hope we’ll get to eat raclette again sometime. Even though I knew I couldn’t replicate the fun of raclette cooking and eating back in Holland, I did manage to grab some other Swiss cheese for the return journey home, and that was much enjoyed over the weeks since. It may or may not have been shared with PJD.*
Photos by PJD and CIA in Winterthur, May 2012.
*Clearly I am not that mean! Sharing is part of the fun when it comes to food, right?!