That February flash of Alpine weather in Dallas brought upon a desire to consume the regional fare. The first dish that came to mind was raclette with all the traditional fixings. Raclette, when capitalized, is the name of a semi-firm, slightly pungent cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland. Otherwise, raclette is a traditional dish of its melted former self piled on a plate and enjoyed with various accoutrements.
Although raclette is a Swiss dish by origin, my first experience with it was in the French town of Annecy. Five very frozen friends quaffed carafes of white Vin de Savoie and hovered closely over a messy dish covered in piles of rich gooey cheese. Petite bowls of cornichons, pearled onions, boiled potatoes, the best bowl of olives, and a delightfully airy French baguette dotted the table. It was perfection bathed in simplicity, and one of the best meals during my three-week trip throughout the region.
When the snow finally fell I ventured out to visit my local cheese monger. I perused the case and discovered that not only did he have what I was looking for, but he also offered an exceptionally well-made Texas rendition. That evening, I walked away with a sizable chunk of St David’s Raclette from nearby Granbury, Texas. Eagle Mountain Farmhouse’s Raclette is made with raw cows milk and it’s beautifully creamy, salty, slightly nutty, and has a demure level of pungency that was pleasantly essential.
Preparing the dish is exceptionally simple, which makes it a great option for feeding groups of friends. In ski lodges and chateaus all across Switzerland, a halved wheel of cheese is placed near a fire and intermittently scraped once it melts. If you have a few hundred dollars to spare, you can acquire a professional-grade grill for home use. I rely on my broiler to perform the task. Depending on the size of the wheel, I place my rack near the bottom third of the oven, and leave about 2 to 3 inches of room from the heating element. I watch it carefully and remove it promptly once it begins to sizzle. Then I take a rectangular spatula and scrape the contents onto a warmed plate. I usually repeat this process just until everyone around me is full and satisfied.
I like to serve raclette with roasted potatoes, pickles, olives, blanched vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, and a loaf of crusty bread. My favorite beverage pairings are crisp and clean white wines, like an Alsatian Pinot Blanc or a Neuchâtel blend, made primarily from the Swiss Chasselas grape. If beer is more your style, you really can’t go wrong with a refreshing, light-bodied beer. Tradition dictates that water is never recommended, as it’s believed to harden the cheese in your stomach and hinder digestion.
A little bit of cheese and a lot of wine shared with friends always makes life a little bit brighter, whether it’s in the presence or absence of a roaring fire.