In our experience, a traditional Swiss raclette dinner isn't as well-known around the U.S. as cheese fondue, but it's every bit as delicious and in some ways even easier to prepare. It's definitely one of our favorite kinds of tabletop cooking!
A traditional raclette portion of cheese, potatoes, and a pickle. Photo by kochtopf
A raclette dinner is usually based on Swiss raclette cheese, but you can substitute any cheese that melts well, such as Gruyere, Emmentaler, Jarlsberg, Fontina, or fresh Asiago (not aged). (Fontina is my favorite!)
In the US, you can find raclette cheese in gourmet grocery stores and cheese shops as well as online. Check out The Tabletop Food Shop for some online options.
The meal is prepared on a raclette grill. You'll need your cheese of choice, and it's conventionally served with boiled potatoes and sweet gherkins. You’ll also want to cook some meat and vegetables on the grill surface to round it out. (You can also skip the meat if you want to make it a vegetarian meal.) We like to grill some prosciutto, chicken, shrimp, squash, peppers, and onions. We also have crusty French baguettes and, of course, wine.
My sister-in-law grilling some veggies at her birthday party. We use chopsticks for turning and serving.
To get started, everyone at the table participates in cooking the meat and vegetables on the grill. Then you each melt a thin slice of cheese in your raclette tray. When it's ready, you pour the melted cheese over potatoes, meat, and vegetables on your plates. Eat a sweet pickle or two between each portion: the vinegar will cut through the fat of the cheese and cleanse your palate.
As you’ll see, you can’t cook much all at once in your little tray, so it might take a group of adults a couple of hours to feel full. But that’s the point! This is the kind of meal where you get comfortable, get a glass of wine, and just leisurely eat, drink, and talk until it’s time for bed. It's ideal for an intimate dinner party, a reunion between old friends, or a DIY pizza party.
The melted cheese in a raclette tray. Photo by acme
I will give you some raclette recipes and menus, but keep in mind that you can make a raclette dinner however you like. Your friends and family will love to experiment with you!
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.