Raclette is three things: the name of a cheese, the name of a Swiss dish involving melted cheese and a type of grill used to melt cheese.
The word raclette comes from the French word racler, meaning "to scrape." When one eats raclette, joyfully scraping gooey melted cheese onto your plate is part of the fun. More often than not, raclette (the type of cheese) is the main ingredient of raclette (the dish). However, other types of Swiss or French cheese that melt well can also be used to make raclette.
Raclette cheese is primarily made in the French provinces of Savoie and Franche-Comte and in Switzerland. In Switzerland, raclette refers not just to one specific cheese but to a group of similar cheeses named after the village where they are made. Two award-winning raclette-style cheeses are also made in the United States, one by Leelanau Cheese Co called Leelanau Raclette and one by Spring Brook Farm in Vermont called Reading.
Both pasteurized and raw milk versions are sold. The texture of raclette is usually semi-firm, supple and springy. It is prized for its great melting quality; it doesn't become stringy or overly greasy. The flavor of raclette cheese ranges from sweet and nutty to pungent and beefy.
Traditionally, a wheel of raclette cheese is cut in half and heated over a fire or under a raclette grill. As the cheese melts inside the rind, it is scraped onto individual plates. Pickled vegetables (cornichons, onions), raw or cooked vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes) and cured meats are served as accompaniments to the melted cheese.
Since wheels of raclette cheese are very large (around 12 pounds and 12 inches or more in diameter) most people buy a smaller wedge of raclette and melt individual slices of the cheese. A raclette grill can be used to do this, or the cheese can be melted under a broiler.
A raclette grill can be used indoors on a tabletop.
Many raclette grills require slicing the cheese beforehand, then the cheese neatly melts in individual trays for serving.
The Boska Raclette Quartro allows you to melt a whole quarter wheel of cheese. As it melts, the cheese is scraped directly off the rind onto serving plates.
More Raclette Recipes
Because raclette melts so well, it can be used in other recipes as well. A few to try: