When my mom and dad were young urban parents and invited people over to play dominoes or cards, they often made a fondue pot; sliced lots of stale bread, cold cuts, and sometimes veggies to casually dip during their beer and wine fueled social gatherings, because it was the newest food fade for a party. Yes, while my brother, sister and I peered from around the hallway corner. Jealous we 'couldn't dip our fingers into its goodness (and not the booze).
Try having a Raclette party.
I have done the fondue parties...passe. No, I would do them again, they are still fun.
But it's 2012, the holidays are here, and you want to be the talk of the town. Right?. You want to invite a few friends over, but aren't sure what the menu should be, and you want to host the newest craze in food themed parties Raclette's are fun and easy to prepare for. Did I just say that? Sure you have to make the menu and prep schedule. Shop (and in this time of year, til you drop, because stores are crowded!). Put it all away. Then prep at least one day ahead so you can relax and pull it all out ready to go when the guest arrive.
Sadly though unless you buy two racklette stands, you better only invite six other people besides you and the significant other. Why, because the stand I bought only serves eight to ten people, and I only have six chairs. It was comfy with six, with a few extra tray inserts to help ease the wait for food.
Raclette food prep is very similar to doing fondue- I made a grilled shirt steak, sliced and plated it. Grilled some chicken breast, sliced and plated them. Bought a loaf of hearty bread, had them slice it, and I brushed on olive oil and grilled it (already pre-planned grilling kabobs, so it was obvious), cut it into pieces to fit raclette trays. Pour some white wine into small pitcher for pouring over bread and veggies, then add sliced cheese. Prep broccoli, raw string beans and squash slices for veggies. Made a pot of my Green Chili Meatballs in sauce to heat in fondue pot which came with my racklette stand. And I must say that worked out beautifully as an extra protein filler with bread.
Now about the plate of cheese- I served six cheese courses, one plate per couple (or two people and they had better not be shy) , and all wedges of various melting cheeses, along with sliced Barolo dry salami. Hard cheese like parm will melt but it takes longer under the electric broiler on the stand, so I went with a racklette cheese, and four other semi-soft fat cheese which melted a bit faster. Three cows milk and three goat (two were raw). No need to state which in fact, just be creative on your own.
Ánd don't forget the roasted/boiled potatoes and the gherkin cucumbers (cornichons, and not one was left in the jar)! They are a suggested side when reading upon racklette, which means 'scrap'. I also served a homemade Korean BBQ sauce and mustard for the meats. You can read the history 'Racklette' and plan your next party.
The question on your mind may be "How similar are these two themes, fondue and raclette'? They are very similar in the ingredients are the same (or as you will, the dipping sides), but the melting methods are different. The trays provided for the raclette are actually fun to use and easy to clean up, right down to dessert.
The whole experience was really sweet when my guest, John and Lisa Howard-Fusco brought out her chocolate dessert course! Two kinds of chocolate bars, four fruit choices- two dried and two fresh, along with pound cake. We melted the two chocolates, bitter dark and milk together, that seemed to work best and then dip away.
Thanks to Lisa Howard-Fusco for posting a question about raclette on FB, and it sparking our get together this past Sunday. If you live in New Jersey and don't follow their site, you are missing out. I had the pleasure of meeting them on one of my food tours in Princeton five years ago and we've been friends since.
Oh, one more thing, I know this post is already too long, but a new drink came out of this gathering 'The Friendly Scandinavian'...the next post...
"I experiment with Flavors"...
Elizabeth Stelling, hails from her home state of Texas and has been involved in the food industry via institutional, fast food, B&B's, ethnic eateries and other restaurants since she was fourteen. Now living n New Jersey she has ran her own cafe, teaches culinary classes, runs a small boutique catering and staffing business, restaurant consulting for NJWBO, is a personal chef and shares her love of cooking with local, organic, healthy, and natural ingredients with the community.
Chef E is a member of Slow Food and the American Wine Society, Princeton, New Jersey. She has published written works of poetry and media pieces, as well as ran Open Mics in the Princeton, NJ area.
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