The real raclette recipe

Raclette would have become the favorite dish of the French. This is, in any case, what suggests a survey commissioned by TF1 last December. But the Frouzes, do you really know how to prepare it?

To discover the secrets of the real raclette recipe, we decided to trust the Swiss despite the defeat and more specifically our colleagues from Le Temps. They consider that the Château de Villa offers its customers the “best raclette in the world”. Tempting.

If you want to meditate at the “temple”, you have to hop on a train to Sierre, in the heart of Valais. The first difficulty of the day, straight out of the station: a hypnotic red arrow painted on the asphalt leading to the funicular for the Crans-Montana station. This century-old line would be the longest in Europe.

There is no ski lift to get to the Villa, but it is still steep. The vines set on the hillsides, the cold cuts lying on their backs and the cheese aromas that perfume the entrance augur well for a good lunch. Finally, in principle. “You are going to eat ravioli“Threats a mother in an attempt to calm her little one in tears. It’s Friday, but still, not here, ma’am…

Only Swiss products

At the Villa, it is Emmanuel Charpin who receives. This Franco-Swiss has been co-director and active here for eighteen years. The castle, you can imagine, was built long before, in the 16the century. Managed by the de Preux family for many generations until 1923, the building then fell into ruin, before being bought in 1939 by Mrs. Panchaud de Bottens (impossible to know if it is Monique, the ex-fiancée of the writer Ian Fleming or of Simone, the stepmother), finally victim of an intra-family fraud during the Second World War. “There was a big earthquake in 1946 that shook buildings and drove the nail in a bit. The notables of the time decided that they could not let this castle go into a spin. tell our host.

The octagonal tower is the oldest part of the castle. | J.Besn

Since November 1951, the place belongs to a private non-profit foundation but of public interest. “It’s a funny mix actually…”, he admits before detailing the two main missions of this foundation which employs twenty-five people. “The first is to maintain the castle, find the necessary funds to enhance it. The second is to defend the Valais on three axes: culture, gastronomy and viticulture. We only work with local, therefore Swiss, products. You are in the right place.”

The cheeses on the Villa menu are all matured for four months. | J.Besn

The raclette would have been born in Switzerland and more precisely, in the Valais. There really isn’t room to deny it. David Lewis had the misfortune to say that she came from Neuchâtel during her naturalization interview. The Briton was refused the house passport.

It’s not easy to know precisely when “roasted” cheese was invented (in the 12the century? in the 16the?) and by whom. The magazine Géo advances the name of a certain Léon “who would have had the idea of ​​cooking their cheese directly on the fire”. Raclette is, in any case, part of the list of living traditions in Switzerland. “We make raclette in the canton of Fribourg, Gruyère and all the alpine regions where cheese is made. Afterwards, I think that the fondue is rather from Fribourg, the raclette is rather from the Valais, it is the only protected designation of origin”, argues Emmanuel Charpin.

The cheeses served at the Villa (eight and a half tons a year are scraped) are therefore not pasteurized. The château works with twenty-five different dairies and mountain pastures – all from Valais. The five names inscribed on the slate attest to this: Jeur-Loz, Champoussin, Dents du Midi 30, Orsières and Simplon. “We always try to have cheeses from Bas-Valais, central Valais and Haut-Valais”, explains Luis Russo, scraper for eight years, in front of his TTM raclette melter. A made in Swiss, of course.

To locate the five Valais cheeses of the day, click on the yellow chips. | J.Besn

A knife and wine

Here, no raclonette (your old appliance with individual portions would be a “sacrilege” according to Emmanuel Charpin), or wooden spatulas. The scraper melts half wheels weighing 2.2 kilos at an average of 5 centimeters from the heating body. The forty portions of the wheel are served with the blade of a knife.

A chef’s tip? “As soon as the cheese starts to crunch, you have to scrape it off. By giving a rather dry, regular hand, so as not to dig into the cheese. It has to be smooth. We bend the knife and we shoot,” he shows during the gunshot.

Easy? Apparently not that much. Nothing is left to chance, as evidenced by the heated cabinet that sits on the floor for the plates. “If you put a hot cheese on a cold plate, it will curdle immediately, it must be temperate, lukewarm”, emphasizes Emmanuel Charpin before detailing this know-how.

“Not everyone is able to scrape cleanly. The oven temperature is always the same, but it is the distance imposed by the scraper that will determine its success. If you press too hard on the knife, you get raw dough out of the wheel, the melt is made flush with the wheel. If you don’t press enough, you only have the extremely hot part of the cheese and it liquefies in fat. It requires dexterity and concentration. Depending on the consistency of the wheels, the ripening time, the fat content, whether it is a winter or summer cheese, its age… the reaction is not the same. As with a bottle of wine, with each wheel, there is a reflection.

Did you know that the thin, grilled end in the lower right is called “the nun”? | J.Besn

Emmanuel Charpin is well placed to talk about bottles since he is an engineer-oenologist by profession, trained in Dijon. Even if the Swiss wine is not the best known in the world, the locals grow grapes from Lake Geneva (at 372 meters above sea level) to the village of Visperterminen, located at more than 1,300 meters. “In Switzerland, we produce only 37% on average of our national consumption. That’s why he is very little known outside the borders.
As is the case with the cheese, the wine offered at the château is 100% Valais. And if Emmanuel Charpin had to recommend only one wine for raclette, it would be Fendant. “The Chasselas is unstoppable with all cheeses. An extremely mineral wine, very terroir, but very fresh. It has the advantage of being modest in alcohol content and digestible.

In total, there would be 4,800 hectares of vines in the canton of Valais alone. | J.Besn

And as an accompaniment?

The Château de Villa also offers its customers cured meats: dried beef, dry bacon, country sausages and raw ham. Foods, taken together, which form the Valais plate. Here, charcuterie is served as a starter and shared around a glass of wine. Traditionally, raclette is eaten afterwards. “We don’t mix everything. They are all the same very greasy, powerful things. It’s a shame to erase them with another product. We tend to sectorize the two,” explains Emmanuel Charpin.

Due to the harshness of the alpine climate, the people of Valais used to dry meat in an attic. | J.Besn

On the other hand, pickles and onions, a great tradition, are eaten at the same time. For the former, the Villa opts for the Swiss brand Reitzel, which has been producing it since 1909. Raclette also goes well with mushrooms: boletus, chanterelle… “We make them in vinegar and offer them as a condiment. We also have sweet and sour zucchini. We are really into pickles.”

Choose a potato “a little sweet but not too much”, not too big, with a sufficiently thin skin. The Villa often opts for ratte. “It is paradoxically the hardest product to find all year round with high quality. We buy between 12 and 15 tons per year. It’s not easy to find potatoes of this size and quality that aren’t spongy. It is a challenge for us.”

Finally, know that we can add black pepper, to give “a little boost” with a scraper. Forget mustard and paprika: here too, it’s “sacrilege”. For dessert, an apricot sorbet from Valais (or an apricot eau-de-vie for the punks) will do just fine. And for the party, afterwards, a little “Raclette Reggae”.

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