Let’s talk about the raclette, retro step-sibling to the fondue pot

Posted by

Vintage Raclette

Last month, our friends the hot architects brought their vintage raclette over to have dinner. (Yes, the same hot architects whose wedding I crashed last summer. They’ve become friends, and in fact we’re hiring them to help us with our condo remodel). So, have you ever seen one of these things before? I had not. It’s basically this portable double-decker hot plate, with these special little dishes you use to melt a shit load of cheese over veggies and/or meat. You then scrape the hot, oozing, deliciously cheese-greasy mess onto bread (or I guess just straight into your mouth).

Of course, I immediately started dreaming of sweet raclette dishes — marshmallows and Nutella, oozing over strawberries and bananas? Toasted raisin bread, with brandy-sweetened butter sauce? Someone hold my keys: I’m goin’ in…

Aesthetically, this thing looked straight out of a key party. The squat shape, the orange and brown palette, the thick swirling accents. I don’t know anything about food fads, but based on the design, it looked like raclettes had a moment in the sun around the same time as fondue pots, although if I’ve never seen one, they must have fallen out of favor a bit harder. I mean, I don’t know anyone who has a fondue set, but it’s not like I’ve never even SEEN one before.

Looking around, modern raclettes do exist, but they do NOT look as cool as the one the architects inherited. When I tried researching the history, all I got is the big picture stuff — does anyone know when raclettes were hip? Are they a thing now?

Comments on Let’s talk about the raclette, retro step-sibling to the fondue pot

  1. Well, I do own both a raclette and a fondue… Wait, two fondues, one for 8 people and one for two. Must be because Spain (where I live) is so close to France, where they are still commonly used.

  2. I LOVE raclette! We always had it in France with some family friends, but I hadn’t seen many machines over here (UK) until I at Uni when my housemates had one, it was brilliant! There are some restaurants in London that offer it too – my husband won huge points by taking me for one a while ago ๐Ÿ™‚
    We did have fondue a fair few times when I was growing up….and I have my own set now and have done it a fair few times too recently! MELTED CHEESE WINS!

  3. My husband is from Quebec, and fondue and raclette are the thang. We have both, and I’m thanking you for the reminder to use those suckers soon. Our raclette is modern, and in addition to the little dishes that slide in, the top is a grill for meats and veggies. Christmas with his family involves a large raclette in the middle, flanked by two big fondue pots. Heavenly!

    • I’m living in Quebec too and I agree. To say it is popular is an understatement. Racelette is a little less common, but the other day we hosted a fondue evening and we asked if someone could bring the pot ’cause we don’t own a complete set. EVERYONE invited braught one (even the friends who never cook and a friend who just moved out of her parents place) We could have served the whole street.

  4. YAY for raclette! I love it so much I had a raclette wedding and we have raclette literaly every single week of the year, even in summer ๐Ÿ˜€
    And when other people have grilled cheese, we have grilled raclette. Yums.

    But I live in France, where raclette is so popular in winter, and everyone owns a raclette set. Some people even have the real shit: traditional raclette sets which look like this:

    French-style, you’re supposed to scrape the cheese onto hot boiled potatoes, cold cuts and/or gerkins ๐Ÿ˜‰ Swiss love it with paprika.

  5. I live in northern Germany, and raclette is definitely a thing here – loads of people do raclette for New Years Eve dinner. In my family we do raclette on Christmas eve. Nothing beats the food coma from cheesy gooeyness! We do potatoes instead of bread, because this is Germany. Having to peel the potatoes slows down your face-stuffing, so you can eat longer ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Funny, my family always has cheese fondue for New Year’s Eve. I have no idea when the tradition started, but we always whip out my mom’s electric fondue pot for the occasion. Maybe there’s some correlation between my family’s German- and Swiss-American heritage and the fondue thing.

      We typically do it with cubed bread and meat–originally ham (or now also turkey or chicken as not everyone in our family does pork), then have a side of pickles, and sometimes also a bunch of cruditรฉs, too (carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower…).

      Now I’m craving fondue…

  6. My brother spent a year in Germany as an exchange student in high school (a long time ago – like 89) and he brought one back. I bet my mom still has it – i should make her dig it out next time i go visit!

  7. My Aunt and Uncle lived in Switzerland for a time, and they brought back a raclette. It is one of the modern ones, but it is still awesome. Often instead of bread, we will put the gooey melty cheese and meat and veggies on top of a baked potato. Crud. Now I am hungry…=)

  8. I often had raclette for New Year’s Eve in Germany … but also other special winter occasions. Everybody got a potato (peel and slice as you go), and then there were lots of other veggies and treats around, like: pickled pearl onions and other pickled vegetables, other fresh veggies, and cured meats.

    Modern raclette grills may not look as fabulous, but I prefer them because (some) have a grill surface on top so you can grill your veggies or (precooked) meats as you go and get grill marks (zucchini, cooked carrots, slice of bread, bell peppers… the possibilities are endless).

    Raclette cheese is very expensive, and the strong taste isn’t for everybody, so often other melty cheeses were available for the guests as well (my favorite is actually Gruyere).

    • Yes, I once bought raclette cheese when I lived in France, in an attempt to find an acceptable (aka, not-so-expensive) alternative to cheddar. I was disappointed and learned pretty quickly that I don’t like the taste. If I were to do raclette, I would probably opt for something more mild like gruyere, too.

  9. Seconding what FriendlyDalek, andrea and Sunny said – Raclettes are still kinda hip here in Central Europe, cheese and bread and potatoes and any kind of (pickled) veg; especially for New Years’ or any other large holiday family/friends’ gathering when the host can’t be bothered to cook. ๐Ÿ˜‰ That’s why I’ve come to despise the thing – at least in my “social circle” it always ends up in “the girls” being sent to the kitchen to do all the chopping and cutting and being treated as kitchen slaves by the hostess because it’s sooo much fun and such a great bonding experience bitching about the right way to chop an onion, whilst “the boys” make themselves comfortable on the sofa and chug one beer after another waiting for the magic to happen, and then you spend ages waiting for a teensy amount of food and stuffing your face with crummy bread in the meantime because there are never enough pan-thingys for all the people present. Ugh. I dunno, your mileage may vary, it might be an exotic idea if you’ve never had it before, but … yeah. I’m kinda over it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • lol Sad your guy friends feel like it’s ok to be lounging around while you work. Mine are quite the opposite. When we have a group meal, there are all over that kitchen stuff ๐Ÿ˜‰ (except for my husband, but he has other qualities :-P)

      I can see how it’s not such a great experience when one doesn’t have at least one or two designated pans. Larger raclette grills are a must if you’re using them at parties. We actually had 3 running grills last time we had it.

      • I totally get how it can be super fun if you’ve got the right crew. ๐Ÿ™‚

        You know that cartoon with the barbecue? The one where the wife spends all day in the kitchen stressing out, making thousands of salads and dips and sauces and stuff, and cleaning the grill, setting the table, and tidying up everything; and the husband stands next to the fire, beer in hand, doing his lazy manly meat-flipping-thing and says: “Honey aren’t you grateful that you don’t have to cook today?” ๐Ÿ˜‰ That’s exactly that neanderthal vibe I get from my husband’s guy friends and my male relatives (AND the females, who never object!) whenever it comes to raclette, fondue or barbecueing … and sadly enough, sharing experiences with my friends I know I am not alone! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Yeah, I get that. Part of my family is still like that. I remember our mothers buzzing about the kids table while we ate at family gatherings, as the dads and uncles sat in the living room with a glass of wine. It was never the other way around, and it’s not like they’d do the dishes afterwards either. *sigh*

  10. How interesting to read about your discovering raclette! Since it is very popular in French speaking countries in Europe, it’s no wonder it’s still very much alive here in Quebec. It never really disappeared, but did fall out of favour at some point because, let’s face it, it’s not exactly a fat-free meal ๐Ÿ˜‰ But it’s come back in force in the last 10 years or so, and we do have some specialty restaurants for it here in Montreal.

    Also, traditionnal raclette set-up with a half wheel of cheese : http://image1.trefle.com/images/service-divers/full/location-appareil-a-raclette-tradition-pour-1-2-roue.21816275-80640628.jpg

    That little reclangular thing on top is a heating element that melts the cheese. Then you just scrape it off on your plate.

  11. Oh, also, those grills are great for brunch! Cut up some veggies and grate cheese so that everyone can make a little personalized omelette in the little pans. Then mix up some pancake batter and pour it on the plaque on top, and sprinkle with desired toppings. Wipe the flat plaque clean, turn it over, and grill meat of choice to go with the rest. It is very cool ๐Ÿ™‚

    • We just put the little pan thingies in the dishwasher and the grill part on top comes off to hand wash so it’s usually less cleanup than other meals. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sadly ours doesn’t have a marble top, though, so sometimes it gets pretty hot for grilling veggies.

  12. Oh, raclette – here in Paris it means that Winter Has Arrived. We bring ours out in late October and have raclette parties… you can buy special cheese with cumin, or “morbier”, which looks like soft cheddar with a blue line running down the middle. Traditionally, we boil small potatoes and grill bacon, ham and onions on the top grill while the delicious special cheese melts below. It goes fantastically well with beer and white wine, and it is a very easy and affordable way to throw dinner parties. Kids love it too.

    And ours doubles as a crepe maker just by adding a top flat plancha – which is fantastic for desserts. If you can find it, spread Speculoos paste on the small resulting crepes, and maybe some apple slices… yum!

  13. They have this in the Netherlands but call it Gourmet. The little pans are used not for cheese but for frying and grilling little morsels such as mini sausages and burgers, which are sold in ready made just for this in supermarkets. People also make up tiny spiced meatballs for it and slice up some veggies. But it’s basically a raclette set repurposed and is very popular at Christmas. I experienced it for the first time this year with my Dutch partners folks and immediately saw the possibilities of such a marvellous contraption. The one I’m getting is new but I love that retro one!

  14. Yes, here in Munich (Germany) if you ask anyone what they did for New Year’s Eve, they will have hosted or gone to a raclette party.

    We use boiled potatoes (we get the organic kind so we can skip peeling them, mwah ha ha!) and put the slices into the little pans with the cheese (+ other toppings sometimes) on top and let it melt inside. I like to marinade a little sliced zuccini and mushrooms and grill them on the top part of the raclette cooker and then add that to the cheese/potato goodness. Pickled stuff and some fresh veggie finger food for a side dish.

    You can use left over cheese (assuming you overbought, otherwise there will be none) for a sharper mac and cheese, or if you’re in Germany, Spรคtzle (basically just thick little noodles with cheese melted directly onto them).

    Also – just as a side note: cheese fondue is even better (no potatoes needed!), but you should also try meat fondue with hot oil (assuming you’re an omnivore) – you make a bunch of different dips to go with the meat and it’s delicious. Of course it’s not the most healthy thing, but in the end the oil should be hot enough that the meat is seared right away and doesn’t actually absorb it. You can let it drip off and then it’s not sooo bad. Just have some hard liquor (Schnapps in Germany) after to “help aid digestion.” ๐Ÿ˜€

    • You had me at Kรคsspรคtzle! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      My Swiss aunt is totally hardcore about having ONLY slices of cheese, potatoes, pickles and teeny tiny Silberzwiebeln for a “proper” raclette, but I don’t care about tradition and love myself some mushrooms and zucchini and paprika (bell pepper) with the cheese. ๐Ÿ™‚ As for fondue, I personally prefer soup fondue – with meat boiled in searing hot beef/marrow (Ochsenschleppsuppe, if you know what I mean, fellow German speakers ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) or chicken broth instead of oil, which adds so much aroma and cuts down on the greasiness.

      Greetings from Austria! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Raclette evolved as a French country dish because it is traditionally eaten with salt potatoes, dried or smoked meats, and while many types of cheese will work, there actually is a ‘raclette’ cheese. Tasty, but expensive here in the US. It was meant to be eaten in the winter, typically by poor farming families that stocked away their potatoes and smoked meats for the long, cold dark winters. It combines easily stored, winter food, and cozying up together around the heat and for family time. Its typically still eaten in the winter in France, and typically a small dinner party with friends. Its a lovely old family, farm-style tradition that I love!

    • The same goes the other way round: “Please stop thinking your cookware, home appliances and foods are ordinary. To the United States, they are all incredible, novel and life-changing. Please share.”

      Having lived in Central and Western Europe for all my life I have nigh on NO FREAKING IDEA what you guys overseas know or have. For me it’s all so normal, everyday life you don’t even really think about while you live, and I only got to know you guys through shallow Hollywood movies and the Empire, y’know? — and I kinda envy you because you have doughnuts and deepfried everything, even though that might only be a prejudiced myth ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’d totally write up some European-style cooking and eating content, if anyone’s interested, btw. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • I went to quite a few yodeling concerts while I spent time in Austria. But to be fair, they were “local flavor”/traditional music concerts in the park (with lots and lots of beer). So that probably influenced the music selections.

      • My French colleague told me she only recently discovered kale, which I’ve been munching out of my mom’s garden since I was a kid. I was shocked! She doesn’t live in France now, but she said when she was younger, no one ate or grew kale.

      • Hmm, I’m trying to think of appliances that might not be common elsewhere. Crock pots/slow cookers? Counter top grills? Bread machines? Deep fryers are awesome, but most people don’t have one in their homes.

        • Yeah, I think (other Europeans will correct me if I am wrong!), that we don’t have crock pots/slow cookers in Europe much. We do however have pressure cooker (a big thing in France at least), which I am guessing is not as common in the US?

          • You’re correct about slow cookers in Europe. I have wished for one for years but nobody knows what I’m talking about when I mention it.

            Also, in the Netherlandsโ€”at least in Zuid-Hollandโ€”most of our friends have a deep fryer even if they don’t have an oven (just a combimagnetron!) or use a hotplate instead of a range. There is a deep national love of both sweet and savoury fried foods.

          • Pressure cookers are used in the US, but they are regarded as a little old-fashioned. Plus, you really have to know how to use them so the meal doesn’t explode! They are also used for canning here, but that is also a little old-fashioned — although, it’s getting trendy in hipster and natural food circles.

        • Any appliance designed to make typically American food, like cake pops machine, donut machine, cupcake machine (though that would be an oven right? ๐Ÿ˜€ )…

          Here in France, we have crepe (pancakes) makers, which often happen to be combined with raclette set, actually.

          I personaly own a grilled cheese/waffle making machine which is nothing short of awesome, and a Nespresso coffee machine.

          Many friends have gone all out with a bread/dough/everything machine named KitchenAid, is it common in North America?

          Oh, and since we’re in the cheese topic, has anyone heard of tartiflette outside French-speaking Europe? Now that’s a comfort food the rest of the world probably wants to know about ๐Ÿ™‚

          • We do have some of that here in Quรฉbec, but made with Quรฉbec cheeses instead of reblochon. Mostly in brasseries in fact… I love it, but can’t have it too often ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Kettles are absolutely bog-standard! No place, however humble a flat or grand a hall, is habitable without one. Of course, that’s in the UK and Ireland…

            In the Netherlands it seems like everyone’s converted to pod coffeemakers.

            [edit: This is my new and much-loved kettle – Cuisinart Multi-Temp. I haven’t used it for long enough to fully recommend it, but so far so great!]

          • I do love my Ove Gloves. Yes, plural. They were gifts from the in-laws that actually turned out useful.

        • Hmmm good question.

          What is a Crock pot? Is that something like a Thermomix?

          The most unusual thing I can think of is my mum’s food steaming oven, which looks like a microwave but works with steam for veg etc. She also has a pressure cooker (“Kelomat”) but she only ever uses it for potatoes.

          What about a pasta machine? I love making my own fresh pasta from scratch, and using the machine is so much easier than using a rolling pin. Is that a big thing in the US?

          Electric kettles are a no-brainer, I couldn’t survive without especially because I don’t have a microwave.

          Espresso machines are very important, too. Machines that use pads or capsules (Nespresso, etc.) are all the rage now, but I prefer the kind that works with regular beans (way tastier, cheaper, and better for the environment and social responsibility!). It’s the most expensive kitchen appliance I own and the first I bought when I moved into my own flat, and could not live without it! I also have a “Caffettiera”, which is a stovetop espresso kettle that works with ground coffee. I understand that most Americans prefer filtered coffee or Starbucks instead of a good home-made coffee?

          • We have an honest to goodness espresso machine in our house. Instead of replacing everything we already owned with new versions with the wedding gifts, we decided to get the espresso machine that grinds up beans. It is part of the reason I started drinking tea at work is because I’m spoiled with nice coffee at home.

            I personally don’t understand the pods. The most popular brand around here is the Keurig, but the coffee that comes from that tastes like paper to me. It is cheaper in the long run to get a refurbished espresso machine because those cups are SO EXPENSIVE. My in-laws use the refillable cups, but at that point, why not just make normal drip coffee?

          • A crockpot is absolutely not a Thermomix, as the later is a much more sophisticated and versatile appliance. To give you an idea, a Thermomix is sold about 1600 $ CA, while an average crockpot will sell for around 25 to 45 $ CA (depending on the functions).

            The crockpot is a heating base in which is inserted a stoneware recipient. It is used for slow-coocking (low temperature for a long time). Some can be programmed to start and stop at a designated time. Most just have 4 or 5 settings : 4 or 6 hours on HIGH and 8 or 10 hours on LOW, plus a “keep warm” setting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_cooker

            As for the rest, I can’t say for Americans, but most people actually have drip or store-bought coffee because it’s easier (for the latter) and less costly (for the former). But a lot of people here also have an espresso machine, a bialetti stovetop thingy or a bodum.

      • There are definitely some American foods that I can’t get my head around at all! What are grits? Biscuits appear not to be the things that I think of as biscuits, are they similar to scones? What is jelly?

        • Hi!

          I’m from Quรฉbec, so not exactly the same, but I understand that grits are actually differents from one region to another, but I’ve seen a version of it that is like cornmeal porridge…

          Also, biscuits are made with buttermilk and, although they have a similar texture to scones, they are not as rich and are more flaky than pillowy (in my experience) and have quite many regional variations as well. They are usually savoury, not sweet.

          Jelly is somewhat like jam, except all the solids are filtered out, so you get a gellified form of the juices made with pectine. So clear, firm jam. However, I’ve heard some people use the term to describe usual jam as well.

          • Biscuits don’t have to be made with buttermilk — the recipes I use use regular milk. But you’re right, both biscuits and grits absolutely vary by region! I am from the southern US, where grits rule the world. They are basically cornmeal porridge (they’re made from hominy), and we always add butter and sugar when we have them.

          • Thank you! Grits sound quite confusing, I think I would have to try that to figure it out properly. Now I’m trying to think of other things that people eat in books that confuse me!

  16. My family is Dutch and apparently it is a Dutch tradition to do this for Christmas, but it is called ‘gourmetten’. We’ve done it a couple of times for Christmas dinner. Just be sure to bring your patience ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Like many many others, I learned about this while I was in Europe! A German friend had me over for raclette while I lived in Austria. It is absolutely delicious! I loved smashing whole garlic cloves onto the whole mess, and covering it with emmentaler cheese (although “raclette” cheese slices are a thing).

  18. We got one for Christmas last year from our local lidl (in the uk) and its been a real hit for easy dinner parties. We quite like it a little more unconventional with steak, prawns and chorizo on the hot plate top and all types of cheese with bread, potatoes, garlic butter melted on top. Our current fave cheese is a Mexicana one – spicy and yummy?!

    • Raclette and fondue are two things I was worried I would miss having the ability to quite readily and easily get my greedy hands on when we move from Montreal to London (UK) in a few months. Donna, the fact that you could buy a set from Lidl has made the return to my home country a little bit less worrisome!
      Is it possible to buy Raclette cheese in the UK though? Although any low-temp melt cheese is good, Raclette has a particular taste. We use OKA cheese here as it has a similar pungency and texture.

  19. I actually bought a raclette set from Walmart, for 30$, in Canada (BC), so I thought it was relatively mainstream! (I’m from France though, so that’s how I knew about it.)

  20. We had Raclette nights when I was growing up (as well as Fondue nights). My mother had the vertical style melter, in red. It’s sooooooo delicious. Dang, I had no idea they’ve become so expensive these days!

  21. We used to do raclette on children’s birthdays, because picky eaters can make their own meal. And I guess raclette is not quite as unhealthy as it sounds (at least for me), because you eat reaaaaly slowly. That way you don’t eat as much in one go and the meal lasts the whole evening.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation