Sunday, February 8, 2009

Raclette Party

In an earlier post, I'd mentioned that Rog picked up some raclette cheese for me while he was in Germany.

Well, this weekend, we broke out the Raclette Grill and invited our neighbors over. They'd been wanting to see the kitchen, and we had a ton of food, and this seemed like an ideal excuse to have a Get-Together...

They've got a 2-1/2 year-old daughter. Real cutie - and really precocious (although I can't understand a word that she says! I don't sprechen sie toddler!). They've been over here before - for a pool party/bbq - so I knew the dogs were "okay" with Ariana. In fact, Dynah seems completely smitten with her "Little Human Friend!" Although this time we were stuck indoors, so I thought it best to integrate the dogs into the party one-at-a-time. That worked out well.

And Dynah is *still* smitten - which is cute as hell!

Anyway, Raclette is a swiss semi-soft (and - let's say - "aromatic") cheese. It is typically melted and poured over other foods, like boiled potatoes, or slices of baguette, or meats, or veggies, or whatever.

One method of serving it is to use a Raclette Grill. Ours is a T-Fal with an electrical element, a teflon-coated grill-top and 8 individual serving trays that rest under the grill (under the heating element) and are used for melting the cheese. You can either melt the cheese on it's own, or you can add different stuff (sliced potatoes, thin-sliced meats, whatever) and melt the cheese on top.

It's a really fun, kinda "different" and relatively simple way to host a noshing get-together!

Today's menu (not entirely "Authentic" for a Swiss-style Raclette meal!) consisted of Tossed Salad; A couple different baguettes; Thinly-sliced Black Forest ham (the traditional salty bacon-looking kind - not the imitation variety you can pick-up at the grocery store!); Prosciutto; Sliced yellow squash and zucchini; Sliced red onions, fresh mushrooms and bell peppers; Steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots (lightly steamed to al dente - still fairly crunchy); and Boiled potatoes.

For the grill-top, I chopped up some boneless, skinless chicken breast (small - say stir-fry sized); thinly sliced steak (mine came as "fajita meat" - I have no idea what cut of meat it was). I marinated the chicken in Teriyaki sauce and the beef was soaked in some Lawry's "Tenderizing" Marinade solution (came in a "Just add water" kind of envelope from the spice aisle).

Cheeses: Thinly sliced Raclette Cheese; American; and Grated Cheddar - since I wasn't sure if everyone would like the raclette - I was mistaken! (Although Ariana clearly preferred the American cheese!) They were initially put-off by the - well - stinkiness of the raclette cheese. But once it's melted, there is nothing quite like it! Very smooth and "buttery" with a delightful flavor!

So I spent, maybe, an hour slicing and prepping everything. I basically put everything out on paper-plates on the counter. Figured we could do it "Buffet-Style" since our kitchen table is waaaaaaay too small! We had stoneware plates out on the table for the actual eating - but paper-plates for "gathering" stuff to grill (especially the raw meats, for obvious reasons!).

The raclette grill was set in the middle of the table - along with a variety of spices (Poultry Seasoning, Garlic/Onion Seasoning Salt, Salt & Pepper) and a spray can of Olive oil. And everybody basically cooked whatever they liked/however they liked it!

And THAT'S the cool thing about Raclette! You can prepare lots of different things and folks can pick and choose what they like. They can eat as much, or as little as they want. It's an excellent way to entertain without having to worry about who-likes-what. Plus it's fun and informal, and gets everyone talking!

Best part of all: Minimal clean-up! Most of the clean-up involved throwing paper plates in the trash! Yes, kinda wasteful, I'll admit. But we really don't have a lot of space for lots of serving dishes in the kitchen.
Oh, other Helpful Hints:
  • If you have any "Little People" joining the party, you'll want to sit them far away from the electric cord and, hopefully, keep them far enough away from the grill that Little Hands won't get burnt!
  • Since the cooktop is Teflon, you don't want people jabbing their food with metal forks while cooking. You can buy little wooden raclette spatulas which are fairly handy for moving food around on the grill, and scraping the melted cheese from the serving dishes.
  • We also had a full-sized plastic spatula ready, as well as a pair of silicone-tipped tongs (the tongs saw the most use!).
  • After cooking for awhile, you'll start to accumulate some black, burnt gunk on the grill-top. That is easily scraped off using one of the wooden spatulas, and following up with a quick wipe with a paper towel.
Other Uses for the grill:
  • I've heard of folks doing "brunch" type parties using raclette. You could easily cook eggs, omelettes, pancakes or bacon on the grill-top. I'd stick with fast-cooking and thin-type foods b/c it really isn't all THAT hot, and things can take awhile to cook...
  • Another use is for Fajita Parties (it's actually pretty ideal for that)
Anyway, a Grand Time was had by all... And now our neighbors want to buy a Raclette Grill for themselves!

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