by Mike Sula
It's been two days since I had my hands on the cheese and they still smell like feet.
Saturday I was helping some Friends of the Food Chain prep a raclette party by slicing two hefty wedges of raw cow's milk Swiss cheese that they'd ordered from Binny's. This was so we could layer it into little pie-shaped trays known as coupelles and slide them under the heating element of the tricked-out raclette grill they've put into service exactly
twice six times. Generally that's the kind of appliance bestowed as a wedding gift or purchased by childless couples with excess disposable income, but either way something that sees little action.
And you don't need one to enjoy raclette, a word derived from the French verb racler, meaning "to scrape," that refers to both the cheese—when it's capitalized—and the meal itself. It's said that Swiss cowboys would situate a wheel of cheese near their evening fire and when the edge got melty, they'd scrape it onto some bread.
Most of the time you drape the melted cheese over boiled potatoes and serve them with cornichons, pickled pearl onions, and charcuterie, and wash it all it with riesling or a light fruity red like Beaujolais, but ideally Swiss Fendant.
Of course you don't need a special raclette grill. You can melt the cheese in a toaster oven, or with a blowtorch, or over a trash fire while pulling on an ass pocket of Wild Irish Rose. And you don't need actual Swiss Raclette either. Michigan's Leelanau Cheese Company makes a world-class Raclette—but any sort of Swiss-style melting cheese will do.
If you want to carry some fine olfactory memories on your fingers however, accept no substitutes.