Fromage raclette

by Emily Monaco for USA TODAY 10Best

What is raclette? A guide to the cheese and the meal

Raclette cheese – and the dish it lends its name to – has a rich history that begins in the heart of the Alps, where it was invented as a way to warm up after a long day on the snowy slopes. Here are a few things to know about it.

Its name hints at what it is

The word 'raclette' comes from the French verb racler, meaning to scrape. It's an allusion to the way in which the melted cheese is scraped from the half-wheel once it's been held up to a heating apparatus.

It was invented in Switzerland

Traditionally, the cheese would be held up to the fire to get it nice and melty. Today, most restaurants instead use a specialized heating apparatus that can support a half-wheel of cheese.

Raclette isn't just about the cheese

While the word raclette refers to a specific alpine cheese known for its melting ability, it's also the word used to refer to the traditional Swiss meal prepared with it – a meal that's far more than just melted cheese.

Diners first assemble ingredients onto which the cheese is to be scraped. This includes boiled potatoes, types of ham and bündnerfleisch, a Swiss cured meat made from beef. Small cornichon pickles and white onions complete the dish.

You don't need to use raclette cheese

Semi-soft alpine cheeses similar to raclette, such as French Morbier or even Italian fontina, make a delicious substitute.

You don't need a special apparatus to enjoy it at home

You can easily melt your raclette cheese in a regular nonstick frying pan. It might take a bit more time to serve everyone, but the results will be just as delicious.

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