Raclette. The name in and of itself should invite beautiful feelings and chills that creep up your spine. Sadly, however, most Americans have no idea what raclette is. It truly is a tragedy. But here, in France, someone knows exactly what you mean if you say raclette.
Aside from being a cheese, raclette is also the word for "squigee," and while you may be aware of how often I bitch and complain about the nonsensical french language, this is actually a play on words that makes sense. You see, raclette is traditionally served melted and then scraped off with a special scraper (or cheese squigee) and poured on top of pork products, boiled potatoes, bread, vegetables, and whatnot.
I first met Raclette in Chamonix when my friends ordered a dish large enough for two. I was thrilled when the waiter brought out a gigantic wedge of cheese on a spike that swung close to a heat lamp to melt one side. It was so decadent and wonderful I knew I had found something I would always adore. And frankly, I find it ridiculous that American's don't have this cheese and eat it every tuesday. God knows we love our melted fromage.
But, as much as I love raclette, I haven't eaten all that much of it since I've been here. Something about ordering a plate of melted cheese and pig doesn't exactly make me feel good about how "soft" my waist has become. Sure duck confit may not be a diet dish either but at least it's more of a meal than a fat kid's wet cheese dream. So when Audrey recommended that we have raclette for dinner last night I was instantly filled with a guilty excitement.
Audrey and Elze went to Laurent Dubois to purchase our glorious raclette and I am so happy that they did. Monsieur Dubois is a M.O.F which is a French anagram for kicks everyone's cheesy ass! A M.O.F (or Meuiller Ouvrier de France) is someone who is the best in their artisan field. It literally translates to "Best Worker of France," and their are M.O.F's for hair cutting to masonry. When it comes to cuisine, there are pastry M.O.F's and culinary M.O.F's and cheese M.O.F's as well as others. And upon first smell I knew that he more than deserved to win such an esteemed title. I couldn't help but pop a piece into my watering mouth and enjoyed it so much in it's solidified state I could barely wait to eat it once melted.
We had three different types, the best of which was the smoked raclette. It was oh so smokey but not so much to be overwhelming or make you feel that you had just swallowed a campfire. It also melted beautifully and slipped neatly out of its little raclette dish (because Audrey brought her own raclette machine with her which comes with little ridged pans that you put raclette slices into and melt under a radiant heat source) onto our potatoes and cured pork.
Raclette is definitely not a weak cheese but it isn't exceptionally strong either. It doesn't linger too long in your mouth making you feel the need to brush your teeth or wash out the back of your throat with burning mint mouthwash. But be careful, it can stink up your fridge and your trash if you don't dispose of all raclette evidence.
Raclette has a nice soft texture, when solid, that is quite creamy and delicate and requires very little chewing at all. It has an underlying smoky essence, whether you buy the special smoky rendition or not, which goes hand it hand with the glorious woody/nutty flavor that I feel is the main player in this cheese. It is slightly sour and slightly bitter giving it a desirable sharpness but not so much so that it is any bit off-putting.
Raclette is certainly one of those things that all people should try if they are presented with an opportunity while in France. It's such an experience in and of itself and is also quite tasty. I also recommend that if you have any interest whatsoever in cheese to swing by Laurent Dubois' miraculous shop! It has certainly made its way onto my list of "must-sees" for my visiting relatives and friends.