The 5-minute essential guide to Raclette

If you ask any French person what typical autumn/winter dish they like to eat, they’re very likely to mention Raclette. While leaves are falling, cheese is melting. But what exactly is this famous cheese that’s used in the eponymous dish? Read on for a few minutes and you’ll be an expert.

The history of Raclette

Although Raclette is unbelievably popular in France, it was originally a Swiss dish, eaten by peasants and shepherds in the medieval period and mentioned in writings as early as 1291. The peasants would melt part of the wheel of cheese on the fireplace, before scraping it off and eating it on toasted bread.

This rustic method is still used in some restaurants. However, most French households have an electric Raclette machine, composed of a heating source and small pans to hold the cheese and allow it to melt. Raclette is a dish that’s truly embedded in French cuisine.

Raclette: the cheese itself

Raclette is a semi-hard cheese made from pasteurised cows’ milk. You can find it either sliced or in a half (or whole) wheel, to suit all types of machine.

There is a multitude of Raclette cheese. Find a good cheese shop and ask them what kind you can use.

France has two main regions that produce Raclette: Savoie and Franche-Comté. You can also find Raclette from Switzerland, Australia and Québec.

What do you eat with Raclette?

  • Potatoes: Raclette must be served on top of potatoes, preferably small and firm - ideally new potatoes - which you can either steam or boil beforehand. Serve them warm.
  • Delicatessen: if you want to follow the traditional Swiss recipe, you need to include some bison meat. But for the French version of Raclette, you’re free to put whatever charcuterie you enjoy on the table. Opt for cold cuts such as prosciutto and salami for Italian flavours, or give your Raclette a Spanish touch with ham and chorizo!
  • Vegetables: Some people like to add vegetables to their Raclette spread. Mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, courgette, asparagus, cauliflower and bok choy are classic choices to put on the table. For this one, the sky’s your limit.
  • What to drink? A soft white wine like Riesling is an obvious choice, but you can also enjoy the dish with red such as a Pinot Noir. If you’re not a big fan of wine with cheese, beer is a good option too.

Bon appétit!