I can be pretty discriminating when it comes to samples in the market. I can refuse crispy crackers, vitamin water (although I did succumb once after sampling a dip, both of which were pretty awful) meats (of any kind, I don’t care if you call it steak) chips and pretzels. I guess you could call me a snob, but when I see folks with their carts full of nothing more than little cups and crackers traversing the market on the hunt for the next sample and leaving the store with a full belly and no groceries, I turn up my sniffing nose. I guess there is no truth, after all, that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
But one thing I never, ever pass by is the cheese counter. I have a love of cheese that is only surpassed by 72-percent dark chocolate.
Last week at Whole Foods they were sampling a raclette. Raclette is the name of a cheese — a mountain cheese, to be exact. There’s French raclette and there’s Swiss raclette, but this was a Mediterranean raclette from Wisconsin (which is about as far from the Mediterranean as you can get, I suppose) complemented by garlic, black olive and sun-dried tomatoes and when offered melted atop a slice of French bread I couldn’t resist.
According Daniel the cheese guy who offered me the sample, the favorite way to enjoy raclette — according to the Swiss — is melted atop potatoes (another favorite), so I decided to prepare some tiny new potatoes with the cheese for dinner, along with grilled swordfish and a Caesar salad. I didn’t have a recipe for the potatoes; I simply boiled them until just tender, then added a knob of French butter and shaved raclette, and set the pot aside to keep warm. Wonderful doesn’t begin to describe the flavor.
It was the next day that I discovered several recipes for the raclette and potatoes, most offered with pickled onions and cornichons and bacon (bacon, potatoes and cheese — now we’re talking). I plan to fix the dish again, using the added ingredients and sliding the dish of potatoes and cheese under the broiler to melt and crisp. But, really, the first time was the charm for me.
Raclette with Potatoes
Recipe adapted from Sauver
1 pound medium red-skinned new potatoes
4 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1-inch-by-1/2-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 pound raclette, thinly sliced into square pieces
1/2 bunch chives, chopped
Put potatoes into a medium pot, cover with cold water, and add 2 generous pinches salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and cook until potatoes are just soft when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10–15 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and set aside.
Meanwhile, put bacon into a small skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and set aside.
Preheat broiler. Divide potatoes between 4 medium ovenproof plates, arranging them to overlap slightly. Season each to taste with pepper and a pinch of the cayenne, sprinkle with some of the bacon, then cover with some of the cheese. Put plates under broiler until cheese melts and bubbles and browns in places, 5-10 minutes. Garnish with chives. Serves 4.
Per serving: 347 calories; 19 g fat (11 g saturated fat; 49 percent calories from fat); 23 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 58 mg cholesterol; 287 mg sodium; 20 g protein; 2 g fiber.