Saturday, November 19, 2011

Melt Cheese Like the Swiss Skillshare

by Elaine Siew

A couple weeks ago, I invited Slow Foodies over to my house to explore the decadent world of fondue and raclette. I spent a year in Switzerland as an exchange student in 2005-2006, and was very fortunate to learn about the sweet melty-cheese-magic of fondue (not just for chic 70’s parties anymore) and raclette (stinky cheese heaven). For the first time two weeks ago, I ate BOTH in one night with my fellow Slow Food cheese-lovers!

So Swiss cheese fondue (French for “melted”) is a delicious combination of Gruyere cheese, Emmental cheese (what we would commonly know as just Swiss cheese – with the holes in it), white wine, and lemon juice, with a couple subtle spices. I cooked this on the stove and then poured it into a garlic-rubbed fondue pot over a flame, but traditionally you would cook this in a heavy stoneware or cast iron “caquelon” and eat right out of it. Also, in Switzerland, you would normally just eat this with bread cubes – oh yes, carbs and cheese all night long – but at the skillshare we added grapes (and you can really dip anything that you like covered in cheese!). And we drank wine with the fondue of course, because many a Swiss person will tell you that you can only drink wine or hot tea with fondue – or you will die (seriously).

To double-dose on cheese, we also prepared raclette – my FAVORITE Swiss meal. It is basically melted raclette – a pungent-smelling, soft cheese abundant in Switzerland – over boiled potatoes and cured meats, sprinkled with cracked pepper and garnished with cornichon pickles. Traditionally, the Swiss would take a massive half-wheel of raclette and prop it over an open flame, then take a big knife and scrape off the melted layers onto the accoutrements on your plate (it’s amazing to find a raclette hut mid-mountain when you’re skiing the Swiss slopes). Today, you can buy special raclette grills – with mine, you can grill veggies on top (to also get covered in cheese, of course) while you melt slabs of raclette on little paddles in cubbies under the grill.

For dessert, we enjoyed Swiss “carac” tarts – which are tartlet shells filled with chocolate ganache and fondant, as well as bars of Cailler chocolate – the most amazing chocolate in Switzerland that they sadly do not export (but were shipped to me by a very sweet friend in Geneva).

All in all, a beautiful evening celebrating everything that is good and right about Swiss cheese, and proving yet again that you can never, never have too much cheese.

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