This post was written on a recent Retreat to Sarnac to visit Rayen and Joan. I went to make Raclette, one of the trio of ´Apres ski´dishes that I love and that involves copious amounts of delicious, salty, gooey, lovely melted cheese.
Raclette is a semi hard cheese, that is especially good when melted. The name of the dish Raclette comes from the French verb Racler (to scrape off). The first mention of this dish was in medieval times and was traditionally cited as peasants food, where cow herders left a whole cheese by the fire and scraped off the melted layer onto bread. What lucky peasants….there´s no better sounding meal to me than a pile of melted cheese on bread!
Every year Joan´s brother Zac works over the summer months, taking the cows out to pasture at very high altitude in the Swiss Alps. Let´s stand and salute Zac, the result of this process allows us to all buy and enjoy Raclette cheese.
See Zac´s blog for images of the cows and beautiful Swiss countryside. He gets up at 5am to milk the cows, walk the cows to new pasture to graze all day. In the evenings they come back and milk the cows again, then return back to the barn at 7pm. This sounds like a pretty intense regime, 100 days in a row (with no days off) from June till September. There is a cheese maker on site, making a fresh batch of cheese every day. The cheeses have to be turned, painted with salt water to give them flavour, and have any moulds removed. Raclette is a young cheese, only aged for only 3-6 months, it can´t be kept to for too long otherwise it passes its best.
Traditionally the whole cheese was heated, and the melted top layer scraped onto each person plate, containing potatoes, cornichons and cured meats. Being a pescetarian we went for the veggie option and poured the melted cheese onto winter root veg grown here or purchased that day from organic producers in the market at a nearby town Mirepox.
There are no rules about what you scrape the cheese onto, so be inventive and experiment with different foods! We used…
1 head broccoli, in florets
10 carrots (different colours), sliced
1 large parsnip, sliced
1 beetroot, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
and of course Raclette!! The more the merrier!
Preheat the oven to 180º. Prepare and chop the vegetables to be roughly the same size and lay out in a baking tray. Season with a little salt and pepper, and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Don´t add too much oil, the cheese is very oily when melted so you don´t want to over do it.
Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven when the veg is cooked but still has some bite to it.
While the vegetables are roasting, cut the Raclette into slices and heat the Raclette machine.
We tried melting the Raclette with different toppings, oregano, olive tapenade, shallots and paprika. The tapenade and oregano were my favourites.
We threw a couple of potatoes on to boil as well, to honour the tradition (and to try to satisfy Joan´s insatiable appetite)! Serve the potatoes (there was a family debate over if they should be sliced or crushed), cornichons and roast veg onto a plate, and pour over the cheese, once it´s melted. Enjoy!