If you love cheese dishes and the fun social atmosphere of letting guests do their own cooking at the table, similar to cheese fondue, you’ll love
“Huh? What is
Even after she explained what the meal was, I still had no idea what she was talking about which surprised her. She just assumed everyone knew about
In my own defence, this all happened back in 2011, the same year we relocated to France, so there were still a lot of unknowns regarding French food and culture back then.
I learned pretty quickly that this cheesy melted meal is extremely popular in France, where it’s just as normal to own a tabletop electric
Long story short, I fell in love with French
After living in France for over a decade, I’ve enjoyed countless French
But what is
By the end of this article, you know everything you need to know to have your own
Read on to learn more.
Everyone’s heard of Fondue, but
First of all, people in France and French-speaking parts of Switzerland refer to this melted cheese dish simply as “R
So for the purpose of this article, I’ll be using the term French
Raclette is two things at once: a meal and a type of cheese
Initially, people melted half wheels of
The French word “raclette” (to scrape), refers to how the
Raclette is from the French verb “racler”, which is borrowed from “rasclar” in Occitan, another Romance language spoken in parts of Spain, Italy and rural parts of southern France.
Raclette cheese used to be called “roasted cheese” in Swiss German
The name for
Originally, this peasant alpine cheese and meal was known as Bratchäs, which means “roasted cheese” in Swiss German. For several hundred years, Bratchäs remained isolated in the alps and was not widely known outside of the Alpine region until the early 1900s.
It was during the 1900s that people began roasting cheese at home in front of the fireplace and referred to the meal as “râcla” in the French Swiss dialect.
Eventually, the French term “raclette” gained popularity in the early 1900s, thanks to a poet named Oscar Perollaz and his wife, who wrote a song called “La râclette” and performed it at the inauguration of the Valais exposition in 1909. The term probably existed prior to his poem, it’s just that his poem made it more mainstream.
The song was a direct reference to the way the cheese is eaten, by scraping melted cheese. Here’s the poem.
La râclette (poem)
Blonde râclette ( Blond
En gouttelettes (Droplets)
Sur nos assiettes (On our plates)
Solide atour ; (Solid around)
Mets vénérable, (Tasty dish)
Au nom aimable, (what a lovely name)
Toute la table (The whole table)
Attend son tour (Waits it’s turn)
“La Râclette ” song by Marguerite and Oscar Perrollaz
The critical ingredient in a
It’s a very meltable semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk that originated in the mountainous Alpine region of Switzerland and France.
However, Swiss and French
In terms of taste, Swiss and French
Swiss raclette cheese:
In France, the best cheese for
raclettecheese is super meltable, they are great in cheese recipes including a grilled cheese sandwich.
The best way to determine which type of
A lot of people in France and Switzerland buy their
raclettecheese at local grocery stores where it usually comes pre sliced in small packages in different flavours; smoked, nature, and pepper for example.
You can also find artisan quality
What are the origins of
Raclette? Is it from Switzerland or France?
If you ask a Swiss person where
So which is it? Is
Raclette from France or Switzerland?
While it’s generally accepted that
Like French fries (chips to you Brits), which both France and Belgium claim they invented, the origins of
The history of
So it’s likely that the dish, as we know it today, developed over time and was influenced by both Swiss and French cultures.
Raclette is a little different than Swiss Raclette.
Although very similar, there are some glaring differences between French
Swiss people generally eat their
Raclette much more simply than in France.
A traditional Swiss
- Cooked potato: usually boiled
- Something pickled, such as cornichons or pearl onions (pickled onion)
- A sprinkle of pepper.
- Maybe some cherry tomatoes or onions to put on the cheese before melting.
Raclette involves much more charcuterie meat than Swiss Raclette:
Almost anything goes in a French
In addition to potatoes,
In addition to cold cuts and charcuterie meat, and depending on the person, French
- Baguettes are also a popular side dish
Another key difference is that People in France are more open to using different kinds of cheese, which is a big no-no in Switzerland. A Swiss person would also find all the additional accompaniments strange, and a French person would find it odd that Swiss
Because French people are more open to eating different accompaniments than the average Swiss person, you can get more creative with ingredients.
Although most Swiss people eat their
Raclettemore simply than they do in France, I should mention that a select few Swiss people will include a little speck or Grison (a dried meat); but nowhere near the quantity of meat you would find served in France.
- SPECK: this is a type of cured meat that originates from the Tyrol region of Italy. It’s similar to prosciutto and looks a lot like bacon, but it’s made from pork leg instead of belly.
- GRISON MEAT: Also known as Bündnerfleisch, is a type of lean, air-dried beef from the Grisons region of Switzerland.
It’s popular in many other European countries too.
Raclette is not only popular in Switzerland and France but also in neighbouring countries that have Alpine regions, such as Italy, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein, especially during the cold winter months.
Each country puts its own spin on the
For instance, German
My Dutch friends like to put a variety of different cheeses out, including a
Raclette was eaten very differently in the 1200s
We know that heating
Historians believe peasants, shepherds and cattlemen in the mountainous Alpine regions carried cheese with them as they moved their cattle through the mountain pastures, a practice called transhumance. Moving cattle could take days or weeks, so bringing food that was nutritious, filling, relatively cheap, and that wouldn’t spoil was crucial.
In the evening, after the sunset, the herders would set up a campfire and place their cheese on a rock or piece of wood near the fire, scraping the heated part of the cheese facing the fire onto a piece of bread with a knife as it melted.
Potatoes didn’t arrive in Europe until the 1600s, so potatoes as part of the
And electricity and electric
Raclette = Raclettecheese: it’s always masculine and uses the article “LE.”
Raclette = Raclettemeal: It’s always feminine and uses the article “LA.”
- Appareils à
raclette: This is what you call the raclette grill in French. The racletteheating appliance is used to heat and melt the cheese during the raclettemeal.
- Pelle à
Racletteaka Poêlon: Racletteshovel, aka mini skillet, where you place cheese, which you then slide under the grill of the Raclette.
- Spatule à
Raclette = Raclette spatula for scraping the cheese off the mini raclette skillet pan once the cheese is melted.Usually made of wood, but some are made of plastic.
- Racleur: Usually, the person in traditional
racletterestaurants who scrapes the melted cheese off the half wheel of raclettecheese for you.
A squeegee is also called une
racletteà vitre (window scraper)
Raclette Grilling: How do you eat, prepare and serve
Most importantly, to eat French
Most people use an electric
Raclette grills come in all shapes and sizes, from round ones and square ones to multi-level
These multi-functional French
There are even tea-light-powered
I wrote a whole article about the different types of
raclette grills used in restaurants
When you eat
Then, once the side of the wheel of cheese facing the heating element is soft and melty, a person called a “racleur” scrapes the melted cheese over your boiled potato on your plate for you.
In French, this
You can buy these for home use, but that would involve getting a huge wheel of
They are also hard to store due to their awkward configuration and larger clunky size.
Most people who enjoy
How to setup and serve a
raclette meal: The basics
If you’re interested in throwing a
- Place the
raclette machinewhere everyone can access it, like in the centre of the table or on a countertop.
- Plug in the grill and let it warm up for about 10 or 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat.
- Each person will need their own mini
racletteskillet or small pan. This is where you place the cheese, which you put under the griddle to let the cheese melt.
- Prepare all the accompaniments and pre-cut if necessary, such as sliced mushrooms and pre-boiling potatoes with the skin on. Then place everything on the table.
- Don’t forget to put out slices of cheese for guests to melt.
When it’s time to eat, everyone grabs a slice of cheese and puts it on their mini skillet under the griddle. Once the cheese has melted, pour it over the cooked food and enjoy.
You’ll know the cheese is ready when it starts to bubble. Then, scrape the cheese off the mini
One of the most gratifying aspects of using a tabletop
While the cheese is melting, you can also place other things to grill on the griddle, like mushrooms, zucchini, thin slices of chicken fish or whatever you want.
You might be interested in reading: 17 Famous French stinky cheeses adored in France, feared by others
The pros and cons of serving French
Raclette for a family meal or dinner party
There are a lot of benefits to serving a French
- Raclette is an interactive, fun, hands-on social experience. Everyone gathers around the table, grabbing ingredients to cook on the
raclettemachine and scraping melted cheese onto their plates. Racletteis an easy meal to prepare since you only have to precook the potatoes and prep other bite-sized ingredients which you place on the table. The guests do the rest.
- You don’t need a
racletterecipe. All you need is cheese, pre-boiled potatoes, baguettes, and a raclettemachine, and you’re good to go.
- Everything can be prepared and laid out on the table in advance.
- You can get creative with ingredients and even use leftovers or ingredients on hand, like that half a zucchini lingering in the fridge.
- You can feed a large group of people without spending hours in the kitchen.
- You can invite your vegetarian friends and even your vegan friends over. Just include sliced veggies on the table for vegans, and maybe even vegan cheeses; My son’s French girlfriend is a vegan, and this is what we do.
- Depending on the model, you can also cook
crepeson some models that have a reversible griddle specifically for making crepesor pancakes. But you could cook eggs too.
Serving a French
- You need special equipment: If you don’t have a
raclettegrill, it makes eating raclettepretty hard.
- Raclette grills can get pricey, but there are inexpensive ones too.
- Unless you use a tea-light-powered
raclettegrill, you need to plug in the electric raclettemachine somewhere.
- Since the grill is usually placed in the middle of the table, the chord of electric grills can get in the way, and you may need an extension cord.
- This cheesy dish may be too rich and heavy for some people’s taste.
- Cleaning up the
raclettemachine is sometimes a hassle because of the melted cheese left behind on the mini pans. But it’s still easier than cleaning a fondue pot.
- The grills can be hard to store if you’re short on space.
Raclette vs Fondue:
Here’s a table outlining some key differences between
||Need a fondue pot|
|Cheese used||Raclette cheese: but can use other meltable semi hard cheese.|| Typically a combination of
|Preparation||Everyone melts their own cheese on a
the melted cheese onto their plate served with accompaniments.
|The cheese recipe is melted and kept warm in a pot,
on a stove or portable burner, then served with bread
or other dippers.
|Ingredients||Typically served with boiled potatoes, charcuterie meats,
pickled cornichons, onion, and sometimes vegetable and bread.
|Typically served with bread or vegetables for dipping
into the melted cheese.
|Serving style||Guests assemble their plates by adding melted cheese and
accompaniments as they please.
|Guests typically dip food into a communal pot of melted cheese|
Wrapping up: what is
While a French
This isn’t the first time the French have made something their own, either. They’ve done it with other foods, like the crescent moon-shaped Kipfel or Kipferl, a breakfast staple in Austria, which the French transformed into the flaky, buttery bread we now call a croissant.
It just goes to show you that even traditional dishes can be transformed and improved upon, resulting in unique culinary dishes.
You should read this: 44 Fascinating French Croissant Facts For Curious Foodies & Francophiles.