“Raclette is always amazing and it’s impossible to screw up”. Melted cheese over delicious foods like potatoes, salami, prosciutto, and sliced apples. What’s not to love? Learn how you can prepare a fancy raclette dinner for date night with simple ingredients in your fridge.
What is raclette?
Raclette is a semi-hard cheese and a dish commonly enjoyed in France and originated in Switzerland. Similar to fondue, raclette involves melting cheese on a special stove and serving the melted cheese with different foods.
The difference between fondue and raclette is that raclette is melted or even fried cheese that you spread over foods whereas fondue allows you to dip foods into melted cheese.
My friend Benjamin, of French Together, taught me how to make a raclette dinner. The term raclette comes from the French word racler, which means to scrape. The raclette dish received this name because large wheels of raclette cheese are traditionally heated, and the melted cheese gets scraped off and served on a plate with the accompanying foods.
Why make raclette
“Raclette is always amazing and it’s the perfect dish because it’s impossible to screw up,” Benjamin explained to me. With that kind of endorsement, we couldn’t wait to try raclette. And it’s a romantic meal that’s simple to prepare, which makes it terrific for date night and during physical distancing when we can’t go to restaurants.
Once we tried raclette, we discovered there are many reasons to make raclette.
- Raclette is very fast to prepare because it requires boiling potatoes and assembling the ingredients. That’s it. You don’t need to cook anything for guests because diners serve and cook for themselves.
- Raclette is a great dish for dinner parties because it scales up easily. Whether you have 6 diners or 30, you simply need more cheese and other foods to accompany the raclette.
- Raclette is a wonderful opportunity to socialize because it forces you to slow down when eating, and raclette dinners can extend over many hours.
- Raclette is melted cheese over tasty foods, also known as deliciousness! What’s not to love? It’s like eating pizza without the doughy bread.
- Raclette appears very fancy without requiring a lot of work because your diners are doing most of the cooking themselves.
Raclette for date night at home
Raclette is an excellent dinner idea for organizing a date night at home. It’s easy to prepare a raclette dinner, and it’s perfect for socializing. Benjamin thinks it’s funny that I find a raclette dinner to be romantic. But it is.
After all, you get to buy your favorite foods to enjoy with the melted cheese. It is a fancy dinner despite being simple. It’s out of the ordinary so it feels extra special. And it’s designed to give you more time to talk to each other rather than spending hours behind the stove cooking an elaborate dinner.
What kind of cheese can you use for a raclette dinner?
Raclette cheese is the most traditional option for making a raclette dinner. There are multiple places where you can buy raclette cheese. If you cannot find raclette cheese, here are other cheeses that you can substitute (from most to least common and easy to find):
- Goat cheese
- Mont d’Or
We’ve experimented with multiple kinds of cheese. We discovered that any kind of hard, semi-hard, and semi-soft cheese that melts well works as a substitute for raclette.
NOTE: For example, gouda and cheddar are not traditional choices for raclette dinner but they taste pretty good. The most important factor is that you enjoy the taste of the cheese.
Where can you buy raclette cheese?
Amazingly, Trader Joe’s sells pre-sliced raclette cheese. We found Whole Foods sells Emmi raclette cheese in pre-sliced and wedge form.
We discovered there is a Vermont raclette cheese. Whole Foods sells it for half the price of the Emmi raclette cheese, and it tastes as good. Benjamin buys Emmi raclette in London because it’s an affordable option. However, he would opt for a more artisanal raclette cheese if he could get it (preferably raw milk), which is what he buys in France.
I imagine your local cheesemonger would also carry raclette cheese so if you have a good cheese shop in your town, I would recommend checking it out.
How to make raclette without special equipment
The traditional way of serving raclette is heating large wheels of raclette cheese on a special rack in front of an open fire.
These days, raclette cheese is usually sold in wedges or already sliced for convenience. Home cooks and restaurants use tabletop electric raclette grills to heat the cheese.
However, Benjamin tells me that you can still go to a raclette restaurant to experience the traditional way of melting large wheels of raclette. These specialty restaurants have more traditional equipment that melts the cheese and scrapes it for all the diners.
Before you get worried about you can make raclette at home because you don’t have special equipment, this post explains how we make raclette at home without the raclette grill or the coupelles, which are small pans designed for melting cheese.
We have tried making a raclette dinner using a frying pan on our stove. It works well, even if it’s less romantic. We have also tried using our hot pot stove with a nonstick frying pan, which allows us to bring the cheese to the dining table. And this has worked well as an alternative to an electric raclette grill.
What to serve with melted raclette cheese?
Imagine all the delicious foods that would taste even better with melted cheese! That’s the beauty of a raclette dish. You can pick any foods you love to accompany the melted raclette.
There are traditional French foods that Benjamin recommends with raclette. Alex and I also experimented with vegetables and fruits and decided it was a success.
TIP: If you’re low carb, skip the potatoes and bread. If you’re vegetarian, skip the cold cuts. If you’re keto or on the carnivore diet, skip the potatoes, apples, and bread.
- Traditional French-Style Raclette Dinner
- Vegetable and Alternative Ideas for Raclette Dinner
RELATED: Check out the article on What Is Umami? to get inspiration on umami-rich ingredients you can use for raclette.
Tips for success
- Prepare all the foods before melting the raclette cheese: If you have raw vegetables like zucchini/courgette, mushrooms, and onions that you want to serve cooked, fry them in the pan first. Once the cheese is melted, you will want to eat immediately because it tastes best warm. It’s important to assemble the other ingredients first before frying the cheese.
- Use medium or medium-low heat the first time: If you’re melting raclette cheese on a frying pan because you don’t have a raclette grill, it’s easy to burn the cheese if your stove is turned on too high. Start with 2 slices of cheese on medium-low heat and turn up your stove to medium heat if you feel the cheese is melting too slowly.
- Melted cheese and pan-fried cheese are both delicious: If you want to melt cheese, cook the thinly sliced cheese for 30 seconds to 1 minute over medium heat on a preheated frying pan. If you want to fry the cheese, cook it for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese bubbles and creates air pockets. See the image below as an example. Both kinds of cheese are delicious.
Raclette With Potatoes, Cold Cuts, Vegetables
- Chopping Board
- Soup Pot
- Frying Pan
- Raclette Grill
- 5 oz raclette cheese
- 1 pound potatoes, optional
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, optional, for cooking vegetables
- 2 zucchini, sliced, lengthwise
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 6 mushrooms, sliced
- 1 head broccoli, washed and steamed
- 10 slices cold cuts, optional
- 1 apple, sliced
- 1 jar cornichons, mini pickles
- Gather the ingredients.
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender when tested with a fork, about 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes cook, if cooking vegetables, add the canola oil to the frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables, such as the sliced zucchini, onion, and mushrooms, and cook until golden, about 3 minutes.
- Assemble the foods to accompany the cheese on the table. Heat your frying pan on medium-low heat on the stove. Add the slices of cheese and allow the cheese to melt, about 3 minutes. Once you have a good idea of how quickly the cheese is melting on the frying pan, you can turn the heat up to medium if you want the cheese to melt faster.
- Once the cheese is melted, serve over the vegetables, potatoes, and cold cut meats.
- Enjoy your raclette!