Equipment for Fondue

Raclette or Fondue?

If you’re an old hand at the ins and outs of a fondue party – and you’ve exhausted its every possibility this side of pairing up single friends based on fondue fork handle color – never fear. Raclette parties offer the interactivity of a fondue party with a fresh take on melted cheese.

Trudeau Rock n Grill Raclette

The Basics
While not as common in the U.S. as fondue, raclette is not new. It is, instead, a traditional, rustic meal that originated in the Swiss Alps. Modern raclette grills are set up a little like fondue pots, though they’re really a pair of shelves: a grill top and a heating space below. Small pans, sized to hold a serving of raclette, slide under the grill top, and foods that accompany the cheese (usually potatoes, sliced meats and small pickles, or cornichons) can be cooked or warmed on top.

Raclette grills do allow for a variety of cheesy creations thanks to their cooking space. Feel free to mix up your raclette party with an unexpected theme; tour international palettes, for example, with Italian mozzarella-laced appetizers, French-inspired crepes, and all-American apple crumble. Simply find recipes that require easy prepping, then let guests assemble their raclette (whatever kind it may be) in the machine’s individual pans.

Making a Meal
Don’t feel compelled to eat off the raclette grill only; fancify your raclette affair with a starting dinner salad and a closing dessert, if you wish, to allow everyone to savor the anticipation and relaxation surrounding the cook-your-own dinner. Round out the meal with a good wine pairing; traditional raclettes are complemented nicely by dry white or rose wines or a cool, light beer. Traditionalists also love a spot of tea with raclette as the drink aids digestion.

Raclette: An Overview

You know how trends go – as supermodel and Project Runway host Heidi Klum says, one day they’re in, the next day they’re out. Food trends are no different; take tapas and blackened chicken, for example, two faded taste bud trends of the ’90s – they’ve given way to the era of local, organic foods and healthier whole grains in the new millennium.

But of course, you have to make room for the trends that cycle back. As 2008 saw a resurgence of ’70s lame and bellbottoms among in-demand organic cotton on runways, kitchens saw a hot ’70s food trend return: fondue is back.

Sure, you might say, but what’s so cool about “retro” cheese in a pot? We say plenty! Fondue, in its simplest traditional form, is melted Swiss cheese, spiked with white wine and enlivened with seasonings. Cubed bread and bite-sized vegetables are dipped in the cheesy mix from the skewering end of a fondue fork – and that’s where the fun begins. In the spirit of what’s really an unfussy, rustic food, fondue eaters can use the time eating to focus on who they’re eating with, making every meal something to experience, not just to eat.

Fondue in a pot isn’t the only way to go. For a slightly different twist – perhaps just what’s needed for fondue experts or enthusiasts to make this food trend feel ultra-fresh – try raclette, a similar type of melted cheese with its own signature uses (and the same community vibe).

Swissmar Classic 8-Person Raclette Grill

Raclette – so named because of the cheese most commonly used to make it – originated in the Swiss Alps. Historically, a large half-round of raclette cheese would be heated and, as it melted, scraped from the wheel onto a diner’s plate. Modern raclette grills make this dish a bit less cumbersome to prep. Essentially small grills with a hotplate above, raclette grills have serving-size pans that can be placed under the machine’s grill feature. The cheese melts in the pans while the upper grill can be used to cook or heat raclette’s savory accompaniments, generally small potatoes, sliced meats and little pickles. When the cheese is melted, it’s scraped off the pans with a traditional wooden paddle, topping potatoes and, we think, every dinner party you’ve had yet.

Raclette Recipes

Raclette with potato
Trudeau Reversible 8-Person Raclette Party Grill
Once you have the perfect raclette grill, you’ll likely be hungry for creative raclette recipes. Here are several to get you started.

Traditional Raclette

  • 8 small to medium potatoes
  • 24 oz Raclette cheese
  • 1 jar cornichons
  • 4 small onions or shallots
  • 24 slices salami or ham
  • Fresh pepper

Brush potatoes under running water to clean; boil on stovetop on high heat until cooked (about 18 minutes). While potatoes cook, remove rind from Raclette; slice cheese into 1-inch-thick pieces. Place cheese on serving rack, cover, and chill until required. Arrange cornichons, ham, and onions on a platter; chill until required. When ready to serve, place potatoes in a metal bowl atop the raclette grill to stay warm. Place cheese slices in the grill’s melting pans and slide under grill to melt (2 minutes for creamy cheese, 3 minutes for crispy cheese). Place potato on plate while cheese melts. Scrape melted cheese from pan onto potato and season with pepper. Serve with cornichon, ham, and onion tray. Makes 4 servings.

Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella

  • 1 small basket cherry tomatoes
  • 3.5 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 3 bacon slices
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed, chopped
  • 1 cup pre-made croutons
Halve tomatoes and place in bowl. Slice mozzarella and sprinkle cut sides of cheese with basil. Place on serving plate. Finely chop bacon and place in small bowl. Place croutons in another bowl. In a raclette pan, place a few tomato halves and croutons; top with a slice or two of mozzarella and bacon pieces. Heat under grill until cheese is melted and bacon is crispy. Makes 6 servings.

Fruit Custard

  • 2 ladyfingers
  • 3.5 oz vanilla custard or pudding
  • 1 cup mixed berries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tsp superfine sugar
Crumble half a ladyfinger into a raclette pan, top with a few berries and some custard and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp superfine sugar. Place under grill until sugar caramelizes. Makes 4 servings.