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There's Magic in the Melt

There's Magic in the Melt
Any way you melt it, raclette should be on every foodie's wish list. This alpine-style cheese is a luxurious treat to savor and a fun culinary experience that begs to be shared. Brighten the winter doldrums and host a magical feast starring this gooey, melty party centerpiece to elicit plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” from friends when served.

Meet a Wisconsin cheesemaker handcrafting raclette here in the U.S., and learn how to make a complete meal with this buzzworthy cheese. The only thing left to do? Spread the melted goodness around and invite a few cheese lovers to enjoy it!

Raclette cheese unwrapped on wrapper

Meet an Alpine-Style Dream

Raclette is a traditional Swiss mountain cheese made with cows’ grass-fed milk in the summer and meadow hay-fed milk in the winter. Its name comes from the French word racler, meaning “to scrape.” Historically heated until molten and scraped over boiled potatoes, cornichons, roasted veggies and even locally cured meats, it’s a fitting moniker. Raclette’s high moisture and milk fat ensures it melts like a dream. Melted, creamy raclette has a pungent aroma, and the flavors are nutty and robust.

Although it hails from the lush mountain region bordering France and Switzerland, one ingenious Wisconsin cheesemaker is making waves here with his American-style raclette, Alpinage Mount Raclette™.

Orphee Paillotin and Paula Heimerl

An American Creation

“When I first moved to America, I had a hard time finding this cheese that I used to eat regularly in France,” says Orphee Paillotin, owner and Head Cheesemaker at Alpinage™ Artisan Cheese in Oak Creek. “Raclette in France is the equivalent of cheese curds in Wisconsin; it's part of our DNA. So I decided to focus exclusively on making an American version of raclette cheese.”

Born in France, Orphee moved to The State of Cheese and attained his Wisconsin Cheesemaker License from the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2019. Today, you can find him traditionally making raclette with his partner, Paula Heimerl, the daughter of dairy farmers and Wisconsin cheesemaker Jerry Heimerl of Saxon® Creamery.

Orphee Paillotin with cheese wheels

Crowd-Pleasing and Versatile

Cheesemaking begins at dawn when fresh raw milk from the dairy is pumped into the creamery minutes after milking. Orphee handcrafts raclette by pressing fresh cheese curds into molds to make wheels. The wheels are rotated, pressed and brined. Then they’re aged for at least two months in a cellar on wooden boards and regularly flipped, rotated, and brushed with a “morge” made of pasteurized water, salt and cultures, giving the cheese its distinct flavor that makes each morsel of Alpinage Mount Raclette™ as delicious as the next.

Different than its European cousin, Orphee’s take on raclette is characterized by its creamy texture and prominent earthy, buttery, nutty and fruity flavors with just a hint of pungency. “We started to work on a recipe that was really close to the French counterpart,” recalls Orphee. “French raclette is very soft, best melted and usually not served as table cheese. Since our customers will also eat our raclette as a snacking cheese, we decided to work on a more versatile and unique version. It’s as good of a table cheese as a melting cheese.”

This innovative raclette could be melted and scraped on veggies and crusty bread. But it’s also meant to be enjoyed melted into warm dishes like au gratin or scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese, paninis, and as a topper for French onion soup. Or slice and serve this delightful gem on a cheese board with candied nuts, pear and apple slices, and pair it with Burgundy wine.

people sitting at dinner table with cheese on table

A Reason to Gather

Raclette isn't just a great-tasting cheese; it's an experience. Like fondue, raclette can be served during each meal course—appetizer, main dish and dessert. Guests scrape their melted cheese to create various bites, and it's interactive, providing a great way to socialize with loved ones.

Set the table with flavorful, colorful accoutrements and a half-wheel of decadent raclette. (See the Raclette Dinner Party recipe at the bottom of the page for menu inspiration and melting instructions.) Add good wine and lively conversation to equal one epic dinner party. Explore different cheese pairings, too. The ideas are virtually unlimited!

Raclette cheese wtih heating tool

Tools of the Trade

For ease, melt the cheese with a tabletop raclette grill featuring individual pans for guests. Or consider using a large raclette melter if hosting a big party, which holds a half- or quarter-wheel, available online or through your local specialty cheese shop. In a pinch, the cheese could also be melted in an enameled baking dish in the oven.

Raclette Serving Tips:

  • Group your accompaniments into meal courses.
  • Plan roughly three ounces of raclette per person when the courses include fully cooked meats.
  • Cut the raclette into 1/4-inch thick slices if using a tabletop raclette grill, and arrange them on mini cheese boards.
  • Divide ingredients among several platters for larger parties and set them on opposite sides of the table, which makes sharing easier.

Raclette cheese wtih heating tool

Make it: Raclette Dinner Party

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