The latest kitchen appliance to enter my house came not from Sur la Table or William Sonoma. No, no, this particular gadget, a raclette machine, traveled far and wide to grace my Brooklyn abode. Mais, qu’est-ce que c’est la raclette, you say? The short answer is raclette is a delicious cheese, which is served melted upon bread and vegetables as a hearty winter meal. The long answer, in case you are curious, can be found on Wikipedia. My boyfriend Jeff first tasted raclette at a Christmas market in Germany last winter, and as an avid consumer of bread and cheese, he was thunderstruck by this particular European treat. His mother took note of his infatuation, and lucky for me she decided to purchase Jeff his very own raclette machine this Christmas. We could scarcely contain our excitement upon unwrapping this unexpected gift!
This past Sunday we invited a few friends to our apartment to give the raclette machine its first tour of duty. We researched the traditional format for raclette parties and quickly realized our machine, which I would describe as “apartment sized,” required a different approach. While a classic raclette machine serves six to eight people simultaneously, we decided it would be best for one person to continually operate our machine, and for guests to come up individually for a smattering of melted cheese. We did offer the traditional side dishes of boiled potatoes and gherkins, we also sliced up fresh tomatoes and apples and blanched a couple of heads of broccoli. Finally, we served up plenty of fresh bread and set out some grainy mustard and a buttery garlic spread for guests who wanted a more minimalist experience.
I felt a bit of of my typical hostess anxiety at the start of the party. The combination of an open source of extreme heat, cheese and alcohol seemed to be potentially disastrous, but I am pleased to report there were no raclette-related injuries. In fact, everything went quite smoothly, and by some miracle we seemed to have the perfect amount of food. Our guests were quite adventuresome, and discovered many exciting combinations of bread, fruit, vegetables and cheese – really, only the gherkins failed to please. Everyone seemed to embrace the spirit of the party, and several people had sought out wines that would pair well with a cheesy meal. Really, I could not have asked for a better crowd; thank goodness for cheese-loving friends.