Have you ever eaten something and you thought: “I could eat nothing but this for the rest of my life!”?
Maybe I am just weird, but this actually happens to me a lot and can occur with any food, at any time, pretty much anywhere. Whether it’s homemade corn tortillas at my favorite Mexican restaurant, perfectly ripe cherries at an open-air market in Madrid, or a chocolate croissant right out of the oven, there have been many moments of ecstatic resignation where I was certain that I was eating the love of my life. Again…I get a little excited about food.
Understatement of the day.
One food that brings on this sentiment every time it crosses my lips is melted Raclette cheese. I can’t even find the best words to describe this unique cheese with you; pungent, nutty, sharp, powerful, sweet is as close as I can get.
My family and I whip out the Raclette cheese when we make one of our favorite Swiss meals…well…Raclette. This traditional meal is named after the semi-firm cow’s milk cheese that takes center stage in this feast. Traditionally, a large round of Raclette cheese is gently warmed and melted in front of a fire and then scraped (raclette comes from the French word racler, which means “to scrap”) onto a plate and served with small boiled potatoes, pickled vegetables, and cured meats. It’s hard to go wrong with melted cheese, right?
Unfortunately I don’t live in a little cottage in the Alps with a roaring fire place, but I do have a Raclette maker. Most raclette makers have an upper griddle to cook meats and vegetables with a lower level with small dishes to melt the Raclette.
My family cooks a mixture of thinly sliced pork chops, mushrooms, zucchini, and onion (marinated in teriyaki sauce of all things) on the griddle and melt Swiss and raclette cheese below until hot and bubbly.
How to eat all this goodness? Smash boiled red skinned potatoes with the back of your fork on your plate, heap a healthy serving of the pork and vegetable mixture on top, and then smoother with as much gooey Raclette as you can get your hands on. Between bites exploding with the commanding flavors of the cheese, nibble on briney cornichons and sweet pineapple. Drink some crisp white wine. Give in to the cheesy love.
Simple ingredients, yes, but try this once and you will see it is one sensual experience and if you are like me, you might just think, “I could eat only this for the rest of my life!”
What foods make you feel this way?
Check out this wonderful account, by David Lebovitz, of his Raclette encounter on a recent trip to Switzerland.
First let’s start with…
A Traditional Recipe (in case you have a cottage in the Alps)
From A Taste of Switzerland by Sue Style
Light a good fire. Buy yourself a half wheel of real Raclette cheese (after you light the fire?), preferably from the Valais, between three and five months old. Scrap off the rind, top and bottom, so that the cheese can melt more easily. Prepare boiled potatoes in their skins and have ready a supply of gherkins or conichons, pickled onions, and black pepper. When the fire has died to a mass of glowing embers, procure yourself a large stone (oh I love this recipe!) and put in before the fire. Set the half cheese on top, its cut surface exposed to the heat. Nearby have a supply of plates. As the cheese melts, scrape it off on to a plate and serve at once. Continue in this way until everyone is full (oh yeah baby).
For us American folk…
Raclette (The Phillips’ Version)
Note: Depending on how many people you plan to feed, you may adjust how much meat, veggies, potatoes, cheese etc. you need. The good thing about a simple recipe is that you can be creative and adjust as you need!
As I mentioned above, my family marinades the meat and veggies in teriyaki. I am not sure where this came from, but surprisingly it works nicely with the meat and pairs well with the cheese. This is also probably why pineapple appears at the table as well.
If you can’t find Raclette (which can be found in specialty cheese department, but is popping up in more and more normal grocery stores), use a high-quality Swiss cheese.
4 thin pork chops, sliced into very thin strips
1 onion sliced thing
2 small zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
8 button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
10 red skinned boiling potatoes, halved
a few large wedges of Raclette cheese (again, base this on how many people you are feeding, you will eat more than you think)
cornichons, pickled onion, other pickled vegetables
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
Combine pork, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, and teriyaki sauce in a medium bowl. Let mixture marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.
Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with room temperature water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender. Drain and put potatoes into a serving bowl.
Heat Raclette maker (if you do not have a Raclette maker you can saute vegetable mixture on stove-top and melt cheese on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350° until spreadable). Evenly distribute meat and vegetable mixture over hot griddle and cook until meat and veggies are golden and cooked through.
Slice Raclette and place 2 or 3 slices in each Raclette dish. Melt until very bubbly and just beginning to brown.
Serve melted cheese with boiled potatoes, meat and vegetables, pineapple, and cornichons.