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.
Did you know that the thin, grilled end in the lower right is called “the nun”? | J.Besn
In total, there would be 4,800 hectares of vines in the canton of Valais alone. | J.Besn
And as an accompaniment?
Due to the harshness of the alpine climate, the people of Valais used to dry meat in an attic. | J.Besn
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”.