Raclette may be France’s best kept secret. At least I had never heard of it before I married into a French family. But it was destined that I would love this winter dish because I love potatoes so much I consider them a meal even when they have no supporting cast. Even when I am sick and nothing else sounds good, potatoes will save me. Or ice cream. But that’s another post.
So when I was introduced to this dish at R.’s grandparents’ home one wintery evening, you can understand it was love at first sight. Raclette is actually a very humble meal: boiled potatoes are served and kept warm in a bowl on top of a raclette machine which is, basically, a tabletop broiler with individual little trays each person can fill up with raclette cheese, which can be plain or have pepper or spices in it, and what ever other goodies they like (cured meats and ham are usually on the table, too) and then warm it under the broiler. When the cheese is melted and bubbling you pour it out on top of your potatoes and the whole thing will disappear from your plate instantly. Magic. With potatoes.
I knew I couldn’t wait a whole year to have another raclette and since we don’t have a machine (or a place to store it – Parisian apartment!) I have made a gratin version in the chez nous in the winter. But in search of cooler weather comfort food last week, I put the raclette formula together with another of our favorites: pizza. I’m just going to say this because I don’t think you really need to know anything else: thinly sliced potatoes, coppa, melty raclette cheese, creme fraiche, and chives. Shall we?
– 1/2 pizza dough (recipe follows)
– 1/4 lb. fingering potatoes, sliced very thinly preferable on a mandolin
– 5 slices raclette cheese*
– 5 slices coppa
– 1/2 c. creme fraiche
– a small handful of chopped chives
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven on its highest setting with a metal baking sheet inside turned upside down. Baking the pizza on a preheated sheet will give it a nice crispy bottom and turning the tray over makes it very easy to slide the pizza right off and onto a cutting board.
2. Lightly flour the counter and your hands and start flattening out the pizza dough from the center until it is roughly 5 or 6 inches by 8 inches. You can make it round or rectangular as you like; mine are rectangular to fit the shape of my baking sheet. Once the baking sheet is very hot, remove it from the oven and place it on a heat safe surface. Drizzle the sheet with olive oil and place your pizza dough on it, stretching it gently to about 7 inches by 10 inches. Lay out the coppa slices on the dough followed by the potato slices, slightly overlapping until the pizza is covered. Drizzle the potatoes and crust edges with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finish with the raclette cheese torn over the top.
3. Carefully put the baking tray back in the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling, about 25 minutes. When it is done, gently slide it onto a counting board and let it cool for just a minute or two before putting dollops of creme fraiche over the top and sprinkling with the chopped chives. You can serve some French cornichon pickles on the side to be extra authentic.
-2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
– 1 package dry yeat
– 1 c. warm water (105 – 115°F)
– 1 tbsp. salt
– 1 tsp. sugar
– 2 tbsp. olive oil
1. Mix the warm water, yeast, and sugar together and set aside to bloom for 5 minutes.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and form a deep well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture and the oil in and slowly start incorporating the flour into the wet ingredients with a fork until all the flour has been mixed in. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until the dough is silky and smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Put it back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. I push this sometimes by putting it in a warm oven and using it in 30 or 45 minutes.
4. Divide the dough in two for the recipe above. It freezes beautifully if you need to. Done!