swissmar-raclette.jpgWithout fail, every time we visit with our wonderful friends Anne and Michael, we pick up lovely hosting ideas. And this New Year’s Eve we learned about raclette, a dish/serving method that’s wonderfully communal and conversation inspiring. It’s also perfect for people like me who like to sample a little bit of everything at dinner, and it presents elegantly while being super simple to prepare.
European in origin, the modern way to serve raclette is via a tabletop grill, such as the Swissmar raclette grill that our friends own (their model is oval; the one shown here apparently is a newer version of the same). The set comes with eight little pans (and matching little spatulas) that fit under the griddle; the downward heat melts cheese and the topside serves to cook food directly. Simply melt cheese in the pan and pour it over nibbles on your plate, or assemble a little collection of nibbles in your pan and top with cheese to melt.

Anne and Michael made such a pretty presentation. The raclette grill sat in the middle of the table and on either side were plates of mixed cheese (raclette and gruyère) and platters and little dishes of food (boiled potatoes, chorizo, sausage, apple, ham, broccoli, mushrooms, cornichons, sauerkraut, and onions). The beauty of this serving method is that you can present any variety of items (because really, anything tastes great with cheese melted over the top) and guests can pick and choose what suits them in the moment. It’s a great way to use up random food in your fridge!

Though ours was a gathering of good friends, Anne and Michael said that raclette has proven great for gatherings where the guests don’t know one another as well. The communal eating creates a relaxed environment and serves as an instant point of conversation.

Normally I shy away from extra appliances, but this raclette grill totally is on my wish list.