Back in December I wrote about our raclette Christmas dinner. For the unacquainted it’s the name of a luxurious semi-firm cow’s milk cheese as well as the name of the grill on which you melt it. It looks like this: a hot stone with a heating element and small trays underneath it. You melt the cheese in the trays while you heat your fixins’ on top.
Raclette has Swiss origins, though the name comes from the French verb “racler” which means “to scrape” (as in scraping cheese off the wheel). It was Andy who introduced me to it when I’d visit him during his ski season across the border from Switzerland in the French Alps.
I had never seen such a thing: a massive wheel of cheese brought to the table, along with a heating element to melt it. Before electricity, this cheese was melted by an open fire, and then served with charcuterie, potatoes, cornichons and pickled vegetables.
When we moved to the states Andy pined for raclette, so last year Mom and Dad bought a raclette machine for our New Year’s Eve celebration. We loved that night and vowed to repeat the meal again soon. But time passed and our raclette machine sat in the closet for nearly a year.
The opportunity presented itself again this past Christmas. We needed to keep it simple yet special, so we pulled out the raclette machine for supper. It was perfect–no cooking, but totally impressive and delicious! We gathered the raclette staples – charcuterie, pickled onions, cornichons, olives, and boiled potatoes and added a few non-traditional things to the platter too like peppadews, hearts of palm and leftover ham. Mom brought back a loaf of Sharon’s bread from Atlanta which made the meal even more special.
We ate until we were immobile, but there was leftover cheese which Mom served in the coming days alongside our soup and bread lunches. For the first time, I experienced raclette cheese sans grill and realized what a totally wonderful cheese it was on its own–semi-hard with excellent meltability and mild but earthy flavor, slightly sweet and salty. It’s not a difficult cheese to love!
I started thinking about how we could use raclette besides the grill. Caramelized onions and dried cherries were the first to come to mind, and what better place to marry these three than between slices of crisp grilled bread.
When I served Andy his first grilled raclette, he asked me to make him a second. Which I did. And then less than a week later he asked me to make it again along with a pot of soup I had made.
I was happy to make grilled raclette again for the second time in a week. I don’t always factor ‘easy’ into the equation, but as far as dinner goes, this was pretty darn easy!
Grilled Raclette with Caramelized Onions and Dried Cherries
You can also use kirsh or Luxardo in place of the brandy. If you can’t find raclette cheese, substitute Gruyere or Swiss.
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons each: olive oil and melted butter (combined)
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced thin
4 slices good quality white bread
4 ounces Raclette cheese, grated (scant 2 cups)
Heat cherries and brandy in a small saucepan until cherries absorb the brandy. Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat half the butter mixture in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until caramel brown, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Turn into a bowl; set aside.
Return skillet to medium-low heat. Spread a portion of the remaining butter mixture over one side of each of the bread slices; set aside. Evenly sprinkle the remaining 2 slices with half the cheese and a portion of onions and cherries. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top each with remaining bread slice, buttered side up.
Place sandwiches, buttered-side-down in warm pan. Spread remaining butter mixture on each bread top. Grill until golden brown on bottom side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn sandwiches and continue to grill until golden brown on remaining side and cheese has melted, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Halve each sandwich and serve.