Now, I know that all of you outside of Europe (and a few of you within) are asking "WTF is a raclette?" Which is fine, as this post will tell you everything you needed or wanted to know about the subject!
First, let's steal a quote from Wikipedia:
"...the modern way of serving raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans, known as coupelles, to heat slices of raclette cheese in. Generally the grill is surmounted by a hot plate or griddle. The cheese is brought to the table sliced, accompanied by platters of boiled or steamed potatoes, other vegetables and charcuterie. These are then mixed with potatoes and topped with cheese in the small, wedge-shaped coupelles that are placed under the grill to melt and brown the cheese. Alternatively, slices of cheese may be melted and simply poured over food on the plate. The emphasis in raclette dining is on relaxed and sociable eating and drinking, the meal often running to several hours."
This describes, rather clinically, the hours of enjoyment that is raclette. Raclette is also a type of cheese and a specific (Swiss) way of eating it but that isn't the topic.
The best part about this whole thing is the fun. It's so totally social - everyone sits around the table and has to interact with one another - always asking for some ingredient, talking about the various ways to prep the food, what's good and not so good, etc. I love raclette for this factor alone.
It's also a really great way to eat entirely too much food.
Seriously, you would think that a bit of potato, cheese and various cold cuts and veggies wouldn't be so filling but after a while, you notice that you are starting to get obscenely full but you don't care because it tastes SOOOOO good and you wanted to try out some other strange combination.
What goes on the grill is limited by your own imagination. I am a bit of a traditionalist - I melt my cheese in the pan and pour it over my potatoes while others make intricate little pans of food and put those under the grill. Either way, it's delicious.
If you have the opportunity to buy a raclette, I suggest you do so. Invite good friends over (you know, the kind that you can drink comfortably with) and have a great meal where everyone cooks!
I bid you Peace,