Thursday, April 05, 2007
A friend popped in to see me yesterday afternoon, so I just had to open a bottle of wine, didn't I? I twisted my own arm, quickly succumbing to the pressure! He was dropping off a Raclette he'd picked up for me down the coast. It was too good a deal to miss. $40.00 at Aldi, the German-owned supermarket chain.
A Raclette (pronounced - "Rah-Klett") for those who've never heard of them is a Swiss speciality. Think 'fondue', then wipe that image from your mind! It is a type of grill, placed in the centre of the table, like you would with a fondue and diners cook for themselves. Up to 8 people can do so at the same time, but I think 4 people would be enough otherwise it could get a little out of hand. If catering for 8 or more people I would suggest having two Raclettes operating. It is powered by electricity and is thermostatically-controlled, which ensures that constant temperature is maintained. It has a large metal grill-plate on top and below this plate are individual pan-holder sections into which small flat pans fit. The element is between these two cooking areas. In these flat pans, one places the ingredients to be cooked. Wooden spatulas are provided with the appliance for the release of any sticking food without scratching the non-stick pan surface. My Raclette is oval in shape, not rectangle as pictured. I've been busily gathering together ideas for when I christen it. I won't be using it for my Easter Sunday lunch, but I know I'll be organising another lunch soon after, as I'm eager to use it. In the meantime, I'll share with you a couple of Raclette recipe ideas.
In Australia two cheeses which are ideal for raclette are available from the gourmet cheese section at any supermarkets. A German-made cheese called "Alpsberg" is highly recommended. It is a delicious cheese with excellent melting qualities with a great flavour. The other is Australian-made Swiss-style cheese called "Aussie Swiss Gold" which has a great sweet nutty flavour. Other Swiss cheeses such as Emmenthal or Gruyere are also perfectly suitable are available from large delicatessens etc. Mozzarella mixed with grated Parmesan and Romano cheese is also good. It is recommended that you mix some mozzarella (grated or fresh) with the Alpsberg cheese to balance the moisture content.
Traditional Swiss Raclette: Boil 1kg (2lb) even-sized baby potatoes (Chats) in their jackets. Line a basket or bowl with a napkin and wrap the hot potatoes in it to keep them warm. Cut 800gm cheese in pan-sized slices and set them out on a dish. Put bowls of trimmings, a pepper mill and paprika on the table.
Side Dishes: A selection of dried meats, proscuitto, parma ham, pancetta, Chorizo sausages or any spicy, flavoursome Continental sausages etc. Baguettes, gherkins, preferably dill-pickled cucumbers, pickled onions.
Place a slice of cheese into raclette pan and place under the grill to melt. When the cheese has melted, scrape onto potatoes, gherkins and pickled onions. Grind fresh pepper on top with a piece of dried meat and baguette. A light white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon Blanc is ideal with this treat.
Prawns and Creamy Mascarpone Sauce: Peel and de-vein large prawns/shrimp and marinate in extra-virgin olive oil and crushed garlic. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Place 250g Mascarpone into serving bown and add finely chopped Italian parsley (curly-leaf if you don't have Italian parsley, will suffice). Bring ingredients to table. At the grill: take a prawn, place in pan, add a spoonful of cream cheese and a small piece of suitable cheese (perhaps, mozzarella) over the top and grill till cheese has melted. Serve over bread. Sprinkle with freshly-ground pepper.
Prawns in Garlic Butter: Using peeled green (raw) prawns/shrimp, place a prawn or three in an individual raclette pan, add some garlic butter (lots of garlic!) and place the pan in its section under the grill. Serve with crusty bread and/or rice which you can keep warm on top of the grill. Bog in....let the juices flow down your chin!
Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella: Cut cherry tomatoes in halves and place in serving bowl. Slice 100g fresh mozzarella (if you can get it) and sprinkle on both sides with some freshly chopped basil, stems removed, and place on a serving plate. Finely chop 3 bacon rashes, fat and rind removed (or you can use pancetta or proscuitto). Place in a serving bowl. Place ready-made croutons in another serving bowl. At the raclette grill: In a raclette pan, take a few cherry tomato halves and some croutons, cover with a slice or two of mozzarella and top with diced bacon. Allow to grill under raclette until the cheese has melted and the bacon becomes crispy.
Stuffed Mushrooms With Feta: Clean the outside of 12 large, firm mushrooms with a damp paper towel (do NOT peel mushrooms any time for any recipe!) and remove stems. In a bowl, add 75g Feta cheese, 75g ricotta cheese, 1/2 a red/Spanish onion, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and mix together. Fill mushrooms with this filling. Then mix 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs with 3 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of the filled mushrooms. At the raclette grill: Place a filled mushroom in a pan and place the pan under the grill. Cook until the tops are crispy.
I can see myself having a lot of fun with my new Raclette! I hope I've tempted you, too!