I Take My Swiss Cheese Well-Oozed

What’s going on here?
switzerland food
Oh you silly Raclette, sitting there with your cured-beef friend, trying to pretend you're not about to be devoured.
What a dumbo.
We’re having cheese….FOR DINNER!?

We had pork tenderloin in puff pastry for lunch and now this? This is outrageous. I am outraged in the best way.

But let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?
Today’s headliner is a semi-soft, raw cow’s milk cheese that dates back to 16th century Switzerland. The story goes that as cow herders moved to and fro with the herd, they would set up camp for the night and snuggle down beside the fire with a hunk of cheese that they’d been lugging around all day. Setting the cheese up so that the "pate" (not the rind) faced the fire, they’d let the flames reduce the exposed surface to a gooey, fragrant mess. Scraping this melted layer off, it would be eaten with bread or perhaps allowed fall into their mouths like big, fat cheese raindrops. And thus Swiss Raclette was born. The name actually comes from the Swiss verb racler, which means “to scrape.” Fancy that.

Back in my days as a cheesemonger, I had heard rumors that there existed a device which one could keep at home that would produce the desired ooziness using an electric heating element, skipping the whole fire thing. Just goes to show that Switzerland really is ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Perhaps some other “inventions” show it better, but for me, this is it. But being quite far away from Switzerland and even farther away from a decent wage, I left myself to merely dream about Swiss-style Raclette.
cured beef
Maybe you just "happen" to have a small meat slicer on-hand for your perfectly thin slices of Bündnerfleisch/Viande de Grisons/Bresaola
switzerland food
Optional: special potato-stabbing tool

Yet it appears that I have found myself in Switzerland, under the roof of Martine & Patrice Bijon, and dreams be damned, it looks like I am getting my melted Raclette. Suffice it to say that Martine knows how to throw a traditional meal together. I am almost too overwhelmed to write about it. I start typing and my head starts lolling and suddenly the keyboard is covered in drool and…nevermind.

melted raclette
This is what Heaven looks like
Traditionally served with cornichons (mild baby pickles), boiled or roasted potatoes, and pickled onions, we had all of those things and more with our Raclette (as if the Bijons would do it any other way). What is this “more,” you ask? Bündnerfleisch, Viande de Grisons, Bresaola…call it what you will, but allow me to say that it is heavenly. Taken from the upper thigh or shoulder, this beef cut is removed of fat (which makes it lean!) and sinew, mildly spiced, pressed and tied, and air-cured for 3-6 weeks. It’s not so hard to make at home, if you’re interested.  After making its debut, it should be sliced as thinly as possible and savored quietly and slowly, maybe with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Or, if you’re lucky, you can have it with melted Raclette.

You know what? I can’t stop youeat it with everything you think it would go with. Put it on a sandwich, cube it into soup, make a blanket out of it. You might be obsessed.

But back to the cheese. Cut a wedge of Raclette as big as about two pieces of pie, set it up on your handy cheese-holding rack thing that makes it easy to spin the cheese around so that both sides can be exposed to the heat, get out your special Raclette knife, and be prepared. Or, just make a fire; I don’t know why I'd never tried that before. Melted cheese imbued with a smoky, rustic flair? Yes, please.

Just know that once the melting begins, you’re in Raclette’s world.

I’ll mention that a little dab of quality whole grain mustard and a glass of dry white wine (ideally from Switzerland) complement this meal quite nicely. 
swiss cheese
this is getting ridiculous
And finally, make sure it’s quality Raclette. Look for the A.O.C. designation (meaning it meets strict standards on authenticity before carrying the title of “Raclette,” e.g. cows feed on pasture in the summer and meadow hay in the winter…good things like that). Don’t worry that the rind is stinky, the pate is much more mild, and the rind on the exposed edges crisps up beautifully under the heatthe perfect addition of signed tartness.

I suppose that traditionally one is supposed to put the cheese atop the potato and eat the other accouterments on the side, but I hollowed my potato out a little, spread on some mustard, threw on some slices of cured beef, a couple cornichons and pickled onions, and then let the cheese fill my little potato-boat-creation. The Swiss have had it wrong all along.

Oh, and guess what we had as an appetizer? More cheese!
mozzarella shapes
It’s like the Swiss flag—get it!?
Swiss National Day had just passed, so stores were brilliantly supplying these little mozzarella crosses. Um...this is where you become a cheese scientist and quickly develop mozzarella stars for 4th of July Celebrations. #getrichfast.

I know what you're thinking. what kind of freak eats this much cheese in one sitting? 

The best kind. 

Thank you, Switzerland.


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