Back in the ‘70’s the question du jour was “Do you fondue?” If your answer to this simple question was not affirmative I’m told you would be virtually cast away to Gilligan’s Island to live out your days far, far away from Studio 54, Jean Michel Basquiat and all things polyester. I’m hoping to start a new, globally-sweeping trend now that we’re nearing the bend of 2010 (hard to believe, isn’t it!) by busting out my raclette set and throwing a thoroughly modern type of shindig. Maybe the catchy slogan will be “Got raclette?” A thinly veiled attempt to make “Got milk” actually sound appealing. Yeah, maybe not. I’m starting to think that universal food trends only come about when you can think of a really good slogan to advertise them, and alas, raclette isn’t exactly the easiest word to throw into a play on words. Well, let’s move on from my semantic quandary and get down to the meat of the evening (I am such a dork).
If anyone is wondering what I’m going on about and wouldn’t know raclette from Adam, let me explain. Raclette is a Swiss/French cheese and is also the name of the tabletop heated griddle/cooker used to melt said cheese. You can officially call it a raclette party when you add various bits to the mix such as cornichons, boiled potatoes (I boil my potatoes in bacon grease for the added health benefit-ha ha) and an assortment of meats that you fry up on the griddle as you’re melting your cheese under the heating element.
Our dear Italian friends Luca and Cristiana were coming to dinner with their new baby Noah so I was really excited to bust out the duck prosciutto I finished curing a few days ago. I sliced it into paper-thin wafers, lined it up on the raclette platter and set about to adding more funky elements to the meal including the requisite cornichons and bacon-boiled potatoes. Since my potatoes didn’t quite soak in the last of the bacon grease, I also slathered some gorgeous little baby carrots in the remaining fat and set them out to keep the pickles and prosciutto company. I had been slow braising Italian sausage all day in a can of Fat Tire along with some onions, and just when the braise was getting good and syrupy I removed the sausages and sliced them into mini-wheels to improve my spread along with some hearty bread.
If you are thinking that raclette is the healthiest sort of dinner party you could ever hope to have, you are right- all that rich, buttery umami oozing flavor into every bite- nevermind the cheese- and you’re in health heaven. I hope you were able to ascertain that was written in my sarcastic font, but really, it’s just simple, hearty slow food perfect for a crisp autumn day. That’s why the powers that be invented LA Fitness, so don’t come crying to me if your equator expands!
Luca and Cristiana brought over a bottle of prosecco to commence the festivities and we got right to work firing up our dinner. There is something about inviting guests to dine then making them do the work of cooking for themselves as they eat that is quite satisfying for everyone involved. We quickly polished off the prosecco and moved on to a Barbaresco which went very nicely with the robust flavors of the duck prosciutto. I found that heating my prosciutto ever so slightly then serving it on a baguette round with raclette oozing off the edges turned out to be the perfect flavor combination. The prosciutto curled a bit near the fatty edges and pretty much melted on my tongue- all in all a charcuterie success. There must have been a magician amongst the four of us adults, as somehow three bottles of wine were suddenly gone before we’d managed to think about dessert; a new baby will often bring out the raging inner wine-drinker in just about anyone. There is no recipe to accompany this post- get creative and have fun if you decide to host a raclette fete of your own (did I just solve my catchy slogan dilemma?). Be sure, however, to use high-quality, artisanal and organic when possible ingredients, because the flavors are all so simple and unique that you want each element to pop.