Swiss Raclette, Slightly Americanized

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Several weeks ago, Travis answered an ad on Anibis for an 8 person raclette grill that cost 40 chf. It seemed like a pretty good deal. When he got to the seller’s apartment, the gentleman apologized and said he’d just realized that day that they were missing one of the wooden spoons, so he offered it to Trav for 20 chf.  Cha ching!  With all of our trips to Emmaus, we’re bound to find a replacement spoon eventually.  Since then, the grill’s been sitting in our cupboard, begging for us to give it a spin.

Raclette grill in Fribourg, Switzerland
We’ll definitely get our use out of our 20 chf raclette grill while we’re in Switzerland.

After spotting a large block of discount raclette cheese on sale at the grocery store, we splurged and bought it, along with fresh bread, gherkins, potatoes, etc.  Basically, anything that sounded tasty with yummy melty cheese drizzled all over it landed in our grocery basket.

When all of our “sides” were lined out on the dinner table, we realized how much we’d deviated from the traditional Swiss raclette. Our gherkins turned out to really just be miniature cucumbers because they were fresh and not pickled.  Fail.  We didn’t get the tiny onions that are apparently traditional.  Fail.  We did grill spicy red peppers.  Fail.  They were so spicy I passed them all off to Travis.

We also grilled potatoes, but they were the wrong kind and we baked them rather than steaming them.  Plus, we grilled the veggies alongside giant steaks, threw in some broccoli for good measure, and replaced the traditional white wine with a new orange juice/rum/Limoncino concoction served in our fanciest Idaho Mason jars.  And with that, I’ve no doubt that Swiss the world over turned in their graves when we fired up the grill.

Raclette cheese melts in our grill in Switzelrand
While items cook on the hot stone, slabs of cheese melt underneath.

Despite our many mutations, it was rather good.  In fact, we liked it more for its mutations, mostly because it’s hard to go wrong with this method of melting individual slices of cheese under the grill right at the table (brilliant!), and because broccoli, apparently, is scrumptious with any kind of cheese melted on it.  How is broccoli not a traditional raclette item?  Do Swiss kids really love their veggies so much that their parents don’t have to drench broccoli in cheese?!  Such a strange and beautiful culture, this is.

A few days after our maiden raclette voyage at home, some of Trav’s lab mates invited us to dinner at the Cafe de l’Ange, a restaurant in Basse-Ville, the historic Old Town of Fribourg.  Someone called ahead for our party of 8.  However, none of us knew we were supposed to pre-order the raclette.  With some smooth talking , his lab mates convinced the restaurant staff we were in no hurry and they obliged with several orders – sans the grill.  Instead, they delivered individual plates with a small dollop of melted cheese for each person with continuous “refills.” The potatoes, gherkins, and sides were served in large communal containers.

Cafe de l'Ange at night in Fribourg, Switzerland
The Cafe de l’Ange with its outdoor terrace is lit up at night for lovely views of the Sarine River.

While it was good, we were disappointed that they left out the most unique thing about raclette – melting your own cheese at the table so it’s hot and fresh off the grill!  I had a most enjoyable evening getting to know Trav’s lab mates, though, and despite the hefty price tag, it was well worth it just to be able to meet new friends and socialize.  I was only half joking when I told one of the gals that our dinner plans that night were the only reason I had to get dressed all week.

Raclette dinner at Cafe de l’Ange in Old Town Fribourg

Obviously not tired of raclette, we accepted a friend’s invitation for dinner at their place last night.  Sharing lively conversation in a mixture of French, English, and Polish, we downed a truly surprisingly good bottle of Swiss white wine a friend recommended for us, a Johannisberg from the Valais.  We stuffed ourselves full of melt-in-your-mouth baby potatoes and raclette that was far superior to our “industrialized cheese,” as one of our hosts referred to it. Though their raclette also had a distinctively sharp, raw cheese smell, the texture of theirs was far more creamy, it actually tasted good before melting, and it melted with less grease.

So what did I take away from ingesting almost a kilo of cheese in 3 meals in 9 days?

  1. Don’t eat out.  Friends make better raclette.
  2. Don’t cheap out on the cheese.  It’s all about the cheese.
  3. More broccoli!
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