Thursday, December 28, 2006

December Cooking With Washington Wines

On Christmas Eve we had raclette. What is a raclette, you ask?

Raclette is a staple of wintertime in Switzerland. It is a cheese dish related to fondue, and perhaps the earliest form. The most famous and best Raclette cheese is made in the alpine villages in the Swiss Alps. A cow's milk cheese that is similar to Gruyere in texture (semi firm and with small holes) and the same mellow and nutty flavor with excellent melting qualities. I have found that most Swiss-styles of cheese works fine if you cannot locate the Raclette cheese. The cheese is brought to the table and melted in one of the raclette grill trays (or can be melted under a broiler) for making the dish. The melted gooey goodness is served with boiled potatoes and side dishes of tiny cocktail onions, dilled pickles, and gherkins. Diners scrape the melting portion of the cheese onto a bit of mashed potato, and add a spicy relish to each bite. The name raclette comes from the word racler -- means to scrape.

If you have the raclette grill (mine is a T-Fal from France -- note the little trays of melting cheese underneath) then the upper portion can be used as the "community grill." I served mushrooms, bell pepper chunks, zucchini slices, cherry tomatoes, an assortment of sausages (Italian and smoked Brats) and wooden skewers to prepare shish-ka-bobs. Along with Swiss-style cheeses, boiled baby red potatoes, gherkins, mustard, paprika, and sliced baguettes for toasting crostinis.

I wasn't sure how this new dining element would be received Christmas Eve amongst family and friends, but everyone got right into it and had fun designing their meal. I will definintely do it again and maybe even include the fondue pot for the real feeling of Swiss après-ski dining. In fact, it would be great to use for an informal New Year's Eve party. With the variety of meats and vegetables I made life easy for food-wine pairing and provided several wines (all Washington wines) for my guests to choose from (besides Tom & Jerry hot toddies).

Happy 2007 and may your new year be full of wine, cheese and chocolate!

4 comments:

Kath said...

Ha, I just posted a comment on your previous entry, asking you to try raclette and there you go! What a coincidence! But, I don't mash the potatoes, they are sliced in quarters and then the cheese goes on top.

Oh, your description sounds just sooo divine, I'll have it again soon! NYE?

Melinda said...

This sounds great! Every so often, I do fondue, but I've never tried raclette.

Any particular pairing suggestions for a simple Gruyere-based fondue?

Happy New Year!

Catie said...

Hi Melinda!
For Gruyere fondue, you could definitely pair most white wines. I would even get a bit bold and try a red like Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Cheers!

enobytes said...

Pinot Noir and Raclette – Who Hoo! Sounds like a match made in heaven. I bet a Carneros Pinot would pair nicely.