It seems like all my blog posts in winter are about how you should take the opportunity to treat yourself during these dark gloomy months. If the weather can’t help raise your morale, then maybe a chocolate cake can. Or a big hunk of cheese, or a fourth glass of wine. You get the idea. Why not make your life a little better with some indulgence rather than continue to stew at home until the crocuses start blooming?
This year has been no exception for my household, and we take treating ourselves very seriously. One tradition we’ve come to look forward to is our Valentine's Day dinner. My wife and I have divided the romantic holiday labor in half where I’m responsible for the anniversary (for which I usually do some fancy coursed out meal), and she is responsible for Valentine's Day. In the past, we’ve tried a few different things for that holiday, but what we’ve stumbled on that we really love is to make ourselves a raclette dinner.
If you’re unfamiliar with raclette it is a semi-hard Swiss cheese in an alpine style (think gruyere but not as firm). It's perfectly good eaten room temp as part of a cheese board but it really shines once its melted. If you’ve ever been to a market or fair and seen a stand with a big partial wheel of cheese being held up to a broiler then having all its melty gooeyness scraped onto a waiting baguette (maybe with some ham…) then that was raclette. It is a little on the stinky side, but that’s well worth enduring because this is one of the world's great melting cheeses.
If people are planning to make a meal out of raclette they will typically make a few different things to build a little plate with before covering it in a thick blanket of melted cheese. Things like little potatoes, pickles, some ham. Pretty humble but delicious stuff. That is the same sort of approach we follow, but I figured we could crank the volume up a little bit.
I wanted to keep the same sort of vibe where there are a lot of options of simple things and you can pick and choose as you’re eating what you’ll go for next, but I also wanted to make sure those options were as delicious and indulgent as possible (within reason (mostly)). The first thing I new I wanted was a good steak. Something small, but high quality. I figured some A5 wagyu was probably the ticket. For the uninitiated, A5 wagyu is the highest grade of the insanely marbled beef from Japan (A5 is the grade, wagyu is the breed). This stuff is no joke. The steak was so heavily marbled it almost looked pink.
A5 wagyu chuck steak
Closeup of same
In addition to this, we got a couple lobster tails to round out the proteins. The rest we decided to get from our winter's farmers market. Here’s a look at the full spread.
In order of appearance in the video, we have superb apples, gorgeous radicchio and lovely cream potatoes all from local farms. Then the raclette itself makes an appearance. This is kinda the smallest amount we can get. It’s a quarter wheel or about 3.5 pounds of delicious alpine cheese. Next to that we see the grilled and sliced wagyu steak followed by our grilled and sliced lobster tails. In the top of the frame towards the end we have some pan roasted carrots (also of very nice quality from a local farm), and all our little accoutrements to dress up our plates a little bit. We have garlic oil, garlic chips, sliced scallions, and quince paste. The nice thing about this line up (aside from everything) is that it all not only tastes amazing on its own (let alone smothered in melty cheese), but they all taste great with each other as well. No matter how you mix and match those components you can’t come away with a bad or even inharmonious plate of food. This makes it easy to just absolutely cover your plate with cheese and just enjoy eating without worrying about constructing good bites.
Most often when people make raclette dinners at home they use a raclette warmer. Basically, you cut a slice of cheese, place it in a little tray, it melts in the tray, then you dump the tray over your prepared foods. This is good. Fine. But I’ve got a better way. Or at least a more fun way. Using a product called a Searzall which turns a blowtorch into a handheld broiler. With this I can melt and scrape the cheese just like they do at those little food stalls.
We also got a few lovely wines to pair with the food. One white, and one red which we poured at the same time (into different glasses of course) so we could choose which wine to sip depending on the bite of food we had just had.
Overall, it was truly one of if not the most delicious meal we’ve had in recent memory, and it all come together with very little work on our end. Just source good product and it will do basically all the work for you. Hopefully this has inspired you (once again) to indulge in a little midwinter gastronomy, and if you want some pairing ideas for your own wine and food pairing adventures why not check out our upcoming World of Wine: Tasting series with our Advanced Sommelier Mary Ross.