The Cowgirl Creamery Cookbook is a must for any cheese-lover's kitchen. Packed with stories, recipes and plenty of other reasons to gorge yourself on fine cheese, the cowgirls' masterful new book is a great reason to neglect that brick of boring cheddar and open yourself up to something a little more exciting. There may be no greater dish celebrating cheese than Swiss raclette, and no better time to make it than right now.
Traditional fare in the Raclette area of the Alps, this may be the simplest and most time-honored method of cooking cheese.
Raclette comes from the French word racler, which means “to scrape,” and that’s what you do: toast thick cheese slices and, when the cheese starts to bubble and brown, scrape off that good, melted, browned top layer onto boiled potatoes or crispy toast. Raclette isn’t just a matter of melting the cheese; browning the top layer gives this dish its distinct and satisfying flavor. An indoor raclette grill, which is made to sit in the center of your dining table, or a barbeclette to use on an outdoor grill does this nicely, but if you don’t own either tool, use a small skillet and brown the cheese right under your oven’s broiler, while keeping a close watch (don’t walk away while the raclette is in the oven or over the fire).
Crisp, acidic homemade pickles cut the buttery richness of the melted cheese. These pickles are quick and easy. Just heat the pickling solution; pour it over slices of squash, sliced onions, or halved baby carrots; and let the mixture sit for an hour. We like to make extra pickled vegetables; they keep in the refrigerator for weeks and are great in sandwiches. If you don’t have time to pickle vegetables, serve raclette with cornichons.
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds; or 1 red onion, peeled and sliced; or 2 handfuls baby carrots, halved
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup red wine or champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice or red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or new red potatoes
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 6-8 ounces Raclette de Franche Comté or Gruyère or Emmenthaler
For the pickles:
- Put the vegetables to be pickled in a large heatproof bowl.
- Combine the water, vinegar, sea salt, sugar and pickling spice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the pickling solution is boiling, toss in the cloves and then pour the mixture over the vegetables. Let it sit for 1 hour.
- Pour into a glass container with all the liquid, cover and refrigerate. The pickled vegetables will keep for up to 1 month in the fridge.
For the potatoes:
- Start a fire in your outdoor grill (unless you have a tabletop electric raclette grill or you plan to broil the cheese in your oven).
- While the vegetables are chilling in the refrigerator, put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
- When the water boils, add the kosher salt, and decrease the heat to keep the water at a gentle simmer.
- Cook just until a potato is tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, and set them aside while you prepare the cheese.
For the cheese:
- Sizes of raclette grills can vary, so slice the cheese to fit your raclette. If heating the cheese on an outdoor fire, make sure it has burned down to mostly gray coals with just a little glow of red.
- Spoon warm boiled potatoes and chilled pickled vegetables onto each plate. Scrape the melted cheese from the grilled and brown surface of the cheese that’s been exposed to heat and eat this melting bit of cheese with a bite of the potatoes.
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