With a raclette maker and friends, melted cheese becomes a party
When the first frost hits the ground here in Chicago, that’s the signal: it’s time for me to host a raclette party. The planning is simple—dust off the raclette grill, buy a specialty melting cheese, cook some potatoes, gather a few accompaniments, and call a bunch of friends. That’s essentially all there is to creating raclette (rah-KLEHT), whose name derives from the French verb racler, “to scrape.” (When capitalized, “Raclette” also refers to a type of cheese used for melting.) Like fondue, only simpler, traditional raclette makes cheese the centerpiece of the meal, and guests serve themselves. Each person melts his own portion of cheese on an individual tray of a simple raclette burner and then scrapes it over his potatoes, adding a few seasoned condiments, if desired. It’s such an easy way to entertain that I almost feel like I’m cheating.
At The Barn, Chef Cooke uses fresh parsley root from the garden, for its fresh, bright flavor and silky consistency when pureed. You can substitute parsnips with similar results. Cooke likes wild Burgundian escargots, but you can use any canned variety or substitute wild mushrooms such as morels, chanterelles, and hen of the woods for a vegetarian variation.
Blackberry Farm’s corporate chef Josh Feathers likes to use red-skinned Bartlett pears for this recipe—their slightly firmer texture adds contrast to the other components. If they are unavailable, any crisp variety such as D’Anjou or Comice will do. But be sure they are ripe, or they will taste too astringent and not caramelize properly. For the best results, he also recommends making your own cornbread, although a good-quality store-bought brand will also work.
Joseph Lenn, Blackberry Farm's chef de cuisine, serves this simple but nuanced dish as both a course on tasting menus and an accompaniment to entrées or a family-style side dish. He uses Princess LaRatte, Pontiac, or Kennebec potatoes grown on the farm, but any fingerling variety or red bliss potato will work. If you prefer an aged cheese, Lenn suggests using a microplane to grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over the final dish.
Written by Michalene Busico
Photography by Matt Armendariz
This beautiful, open-faced sandwich, adapted from one created by Nancy Silverton of Mozza in Los Angeles, uses thinly shaved Manchego cheese to accent the bright green scallion oil, peppery arugula, earthy serrano ham, and runny poached egg. If you can find wild arugula, the smaller leaves are very good on this sandwich.
MAKES 4 SANDWICHES
4 or 5 scallions, green part only, coarsely chopped (about 1⁄3 cup)
1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ½-inch thick slices sourdough bread
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 ounces Manchego
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Pinch Kosher salt
4 extra-large eggs
8 very thin slices serrano ham, about 2 ounces total
2 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
There’s a lot going on in these scones—juicy chunks of pear, pockets of creamy goat cheese, and the floral heat of cracked black pepper—but the flavors harmonize the way they do on a good cheese plate, and the yogurt gives them a tender, moist texture a bit like that of a muffin. If you like smaller scones, divide the dough into 8 pieces and bake about 30 minutes.
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick pan until crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Wipe the inside of the skillet with a paper towel, but don’t wash it.
Take out the center doughy part of each roll to create a well. Brush the outside of each roll with the oil. Place the four bottom pieces on your work surface, oiled side down. Distribute the Crescenza evenly over these bottom pieces, followed by the
bacon, chiles, tomato, and goat cheese. Place the remaining four pieces of bread on top, oiled side up.
Feta is an age-old crumbly cheese, typical of hot dry Mediterranean climates where cheese preservation depends largely on high salt. Originally, it was a sheep’s milk cheese but now it’s made primarily with cow’s milk for export (although Greek feta still uses a significant amount of sheep milk). The cheese is cured and stored in its own salty whey brine and is often referred to as “pickled cheese.” Kept in its brine solution for at least several weeks or up to several months, feta can range from soft to semi-hard, with a tangy, salty flavor profile that varies from mild to sharp. In the cheesemaking classes I conduct for home enthusiasts, we experiment with a range of styles using milk from cows, goats, and sheep, alone or in combination. You can too.