Many of our most memorable travel experiences revolve around food and there are many I’ll never forget from our first skiing holiday in Switzerland a few years back.
One was the black truffle pizza that we had on the slopes of St. Moritz. I don’t know if I would order this decadent dish on an average day in Dubai but it seemed appropriate after a long day of snowboarding and skiing.
And by long day, I mean about one hour before we called it quits and started feasting and wining, necessitating taking the tram downhill instead of drunk snowboarding.
Second was my introduction to a quintessential meal of the Swiss Alps: Raclette. That day, my life was forever changed. I would constantly dream about one day having my very own Raclette grill.
I had never heard of Raclette before that fateful day when our good friend and host of our Swiss Alps adventures, and who Scotch likes to call Mr. Burly Man, suggested we do Raclette for dinner.
When he saw the look of complete ignorance on my face, he instantly rubbed his palms together and at the same time belted out one of those hearty conspiring laughs that basically translates to, “I’m so overly excited to be introducing you to one of the best freaking things on Earth!”
So Mr. Burly Man took us shopping in preparation for the inaugural Raclette experience. Can you tell by our shopping cart that we were two Dubai expats on the loose in cheese, pork and wine country?
By the way, Epoisses cheese is easier to find these days in Dubai but not so back in 2008. When we brought that round wooden container of cheese back to Mr. Burly Man’s home, his mom had us put it on lock-down within not one, but two, plastic containers to contain the smell as it is quite a pungent cheese – or as Scotch would say in Scottish, “foosty!”
And here was my inaugural Raclette experience on a cold winter’s night in Switzerland. I absolutely loved the social aspect of this method of dining – melting individual pans of cheese around a table grill to be poured on top of bacon, salami, ham, pork sausages, pickles and for a non-potato lover, I even enjoyed eating it with potatoes!
I guess this is where I should explain what Raclette is to those who have never heard of it before. The term Raclette can refer to a semi-soft cow’s cheese or the actual Swiss meal of melted Raclette cheese served with traditional accompaniments of boiled baby potatoes, cornichons (small pickles), and pickled onions. It comes from the French word racler, which means “to scrape”.
You can read more about the history here:
In the Swiss tradition raclette cheese is melted over an open fire and melted slowly. As the cheese melts it is scraped off the wheel and served with boiled potatoes, bread, cornishons (pickles) and other pickled vegetables.
Today you can purchase raclette machines that have an arm with a heating element that points down on the cheese and melts it or raclette grills have become very popular.
We prefer the modern day grill over the traditional one (where a chunk of cheese is melted on a stand) because each dinner guest can have their own little pan to customize their Raclette. And customize we do!
In addition to the traditional accompaniments, Mr. Burly Man’s family introduced this meal to us with bacon, sausages, plus other charcuterie, and that’s how we prefer it ’til this day.
Last month, Scotch’s sister and brother-in-law surprised us with this raclette grill from Spring and made my Raclette dream come true.
Our little grill is designed for a cozy dinner party for two (but we stretched it to four!) and I love that we can go bigger by combining additional units.
Along with the grill, they also brought over Raclette cheese from three different producers in Valais canton of Switzerland (Val de Bagnes, Turtmann, and Orsières) – where Raclette originated.
I tasted them all before setting them on the grill and maybe my taste buds aren’t very sophisticated but I couldn’t really tell the difference among them. But they all tasted fabulous all hot and melty in my mouth.
Since the grill came from Switzerland, the plug was Swiss which wasn’t a big issue with adapters but Scotch’s dad was kind enough to change the plug to British so we wouldn’t need any adapters here in Dubai.
The two little pans that came with the grill are designed to be the perfect size to lay on a slice of Raclette which we then placed on the bottom of the grill where the heating coils above the pan melted the cheese within minutes.
On the top of the grill, we crisped up some maple bacon and used the rendered bacon fat to saute sliced button mushrooms – oh yeah, baby!
We served out melted raclette with cornichons, baby potatoes, and a variety of charcuterie like salami, prosciutto, and thinly sliced ham.
As I mentioned earlier, how we like our accompaniments with the raclette is a matter of strong preference in our family. I like to pour the melted raclette over my accessory items like so…
…and then I like to further wrap a piece of charcuterie around it for the perfect bite.
Scotch likes to place all his accessory items onto the raclette pan and then place the cheese slice on top so that when the cheese melts, everything is warmed up together and the cheese and accompaniments become one. And big bonus to taste if the cheese gets nicely browned.
I’d love to hear how you enjoy your Raclette and I can’t wait to have another cozy Raclette party and expand on our collection of grills. I wonder if it comes in my favorite color yellow?