Grilled Raclette with Rosemary Kumquats, Coriander Apple & Star Anise Pear

The light dimmed, tall candles casting flickering shadows on the ceiling, the room filled with the dry heat from the crackling fireplace and the smell of burnt wood and cheese lying in the air like a heavy cloud. When it’s time for Raclette at my mother’s house in the countryside, it’s a celebration of everything that I connect with coziness. Surrounded by family and friends, everybody gathers around the sizzling Raclette grill to watch the magic happen: aromatic cheese melting and dripping, golden bubbles bursting and splashing as they touch the glowing grill, and the rind turning into smokey charred bites.

When you eat Raclette at a snow covered hut in the mountains, you would most likely enjoy it the classic way, with boiled potatoes, raw spring onions, pickled vegetables like gherkins (cornichons) and pearl onions, and lots of crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns. The cheese needs added acidity, which can come from the pickles but it can also come from fruit.

So here’s the fruity way to enjoy the fragrant melted cheese on a crusty baguette: I skip the pickles and go for Raclette with rosemary kumquats, coriander apple, and star anise pear. Kumquats cooked with honey and fresh rosemary turn the tiny citrus fruits into soft and caramelized bites. Pear wedges seared in star anise butter taste like Christmas and apple wedges softened in coriander butter are sweet, aromatic, and slightly sour. That’s the colorful trio to complete my rustic Raclette table but you could also add roasted grapes or plums, or juicy persimmons. Whatever fruit you would normally eat with cheese will fit; it can only become better with a little heat, either in the pan on the hob or under the grill. The heat softens the fruit’s texture and makes the flavor even more concentrated. I would keep the side dish simple, you can serve the grilled Raclette with a quick green salad.

My mother always uses a very old Swiss made grill that’s rather large. It can hold half a wheel of Raclette, melting the surface where the cheese is cut in half, and then you scrape the melted layer right off the wheel onto your plate. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s heavy, you need a lot of people to eat up half a wheel of cheese, and you can only feed the hungry crowd in batches – around two people every time you scrape the top layer off, then the half-wheel needs to go under the grill again. This is not necessarily a bad thing seeing as we’re talking about a meal that’s rather rich and filling. A break once in a while doesn’t harm the hungry cheese lover, but if I want to throw a cozy Raclette party just for my man and myself (and maybe a couple friends), I go for my more practical tabletop grill with single Raclette dishes instead. Then I opt for sliced cheese and grab Le Rustique‘s Raclette l’Originale. It’s aromatic yet not overpowering and melts like butter. When I use sliced cheese I remove the rind, and if you’re after that smokey burnt touch you can just leave the Raclette on a little longer until the charred bubbles burst under the grill.

Thanks to Le Rustique for sponsoring this post and reminding me of the coziest celebration of cheese: watching – and eating – bubbling and crackling Raclette.

Grilled Raclette with Rosemary Kumquats, Coriander Apple and Star Anise Pear

You’ll need a Raclette grill for this recipe.

Serves 3 to 4

For the fruit
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles (whole needles, not chopped)
12 fresh organic kumquats (or canned kumquats, drained), cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Unsalted butter, to cook the pear and apple
3 star anise
1 large, firm pear, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 large baking apple, cored and cut into thin wedges

For serving
About 500-600g (18-21 ounces) sliced Raclette cheese (for a tabletop grill with single Raclette dishes), rind removed
1-2 crunchy baguettes, sliced
Crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns

Optional
2 large handfuls mixed small leaf lettuce (young spinach and chard, mâche or corn lettuce)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fine sea salt
Finely ground pepper

For the kumquats, in a small, heavy pan, heat the honey over high heat until bubbling. Add the rosemary, kumquats, and orange juice and cook, turning once, for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and soft – mind that the kumquats don’t burn. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

For the pear, in a medium, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the star anise over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the pear wedges and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

For the apple, in a medium, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the coriander seeds over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the apple wedges and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

Melt the cheese, one slice at a time, under the Raclette grill until bubbly then scrape onto a slice of baguette, top with kumquats, apple wedges, or pear wedges and season with crushed black pepper.

You can serve the grilled Raclette with a simple green salad on the side: Divide the mixed lettuce leaves among the plates, drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!