Three years ago I studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. Most people in the US are familiar with Swiss fondue, but my favorite melted cheese dish from Switzerland was actually raclette. Lausanne is located in the canton (similar to US state) of Valais. Raclette is a cheese which originates in this canton. For the meal, the raclette cheese is traditionally served on top of boiled baby potatoes and accompanied by small dill pickles, pearled onions, and dried meats. Fondue is delicious, but it is very rich, which is why I prefer raclette.
Raclette is a very social meal; it's not one you'd just eat at your home by yourself. It's somewhat of a "fair food," but much fancier (and better) than the "on-a-stick" foods that shows up at state fairs in the US. In Switzerland, raclette was very popular at Christmas markets or other events where there were lots of people milling about. To make raclette in this atmosphere the edge of a giant cheese wheel would be held close to a heat source. Then the melted cheese would be scraped off the wheel directly onto a plate with the potatoes and pickles.
Raclette can be made at home too, but the process differs slightly. Instead of having an enormous wheel of cheese, one would just buy a wedge and cut it into slices. These slices would then be put into personal trays in a grill in the middle go the table. Each guest would have their own tray, and when the cheese got nice and melty, it would be scraped directly onto the plate. I like to put bits of onion in with the cheese while it is melting. There is also a grill surface on the top of the raclette machine where meats, vegetables, or bread can be heated.
We received a raclette grill as a wedding present from one of my best friends I met while studying in Switzerland. I was excited to find the cheese at Ladonna's Fancy Foods, which is really just blocks from where I live. Last night, my husband and I served raclette as our first dinner party as a married couple. It was a lot of fun to use all of the new (matching!) dishes that we got as gifts. We even hung up the Swiss flag for the occasion! We invited our neighbors over as well as my friend M, the other member of Old Ladies' Club. M and I considered this an OLC meeting, and my neighbors became our charter members (they may not know this). The dinner was such a blast! The food was delicious and the company was superb. It's nice to start hanging out with people in Tulsa. It always takes awhile to build a base of friends whenever you move to a new place, but I am really lucky to have such great neighbors and co-workers.