Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ghetto Raclette

It started with a hangover. I'd gotten a bit too celebratory at our previous night's party and was groggily scanning my Google Reader when I stumbled upon this, which was pretty much looking like the thing that was going to save my life at that particular moment. Unfortunately that photo was taken in New York, 3,000 miles away, and nacho cheese-covered kimchi duk bok ki is not exactly a dish you can find at your neighborhood Korean joint. At this point, I was craving melted cheese like a fiend, and my husband, who craves cheese in all forms on a daily hourly basis was more than happy to empower me to follow my dreams of cheese, sweet cheese.

I floated a vague suggestion to make raclette, and before I knew it, my cheese-addicted husband had whisked me into the car and straight to Bed Bath and Beyond, where he attempted to fork over $120 for a raclette machine before I could come to my senses. Unfortunately, they didn't have one in stock. And it was 6 p.m. on a Sunday, which meant any place that would carry such a thing was now closed. But I don't let a little thing like lack of gadgetry stand in the way of my food cravings. We grabbed all the necessary ingredients and headed back home to rig up some ghetto raclette.

The $120 machine, as far as I can tell, consists of some metal cheese melting pans and a grill for accompanying vegetables. So I grabbed two tiny cast iron pans and my grill pan. It must be said that I could not find a single web result that told me how to make raclette without the machine, and yet, this was so very, very easy. In fact, it hardly even merits a recipe. Boil some potatoes. Grill your vegetables of choice (I used red pepper, asparagus, and fennel). Lay out some cold, cured meats. You absolutely must have cornichons. Their sharp, sour bite cuts some of the heart-stopping fattiness of the cheese-smothered potatoes.
Now for the ghetto raclette bit. Look for cheese labeled "raclette." Gruyere, Morbier, or Tallegio would work as substitutes, but raclette shouldn't be overly difficult to find. You'll want about half a pound of cheese per person. Slice the cheese into pieces about ½ an inch thick. Place one cast-iron pan per person over a medium flame on your stovetop. The pans should be fairly small, otherwise the cheese will spread out too much as it melts, resulting in a thin, gooey mess. I used five inch pans. Then place one piece of cheese in each pan and let it sit for about 3-4 minutes. Once the bottom has formed a nice crust and the top of the cheese is soft and melted, scrape underneath the cheese with a spatula and flip the whole thing onto the boiled potatoes on your plate. At this point, depending on how quickly you eat, you can place another piece of cheese on the pan (like my husband) or turn the flame off and take a break (like me).

Note: the pans looked completely trashed when we were finished, but after a few hours of soaking, and a fairly brief wash-up, they were as good as new.

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