Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trek and Treat

One wintry Sunday we went for a bracing romp through the Wissahickon with friends.  Following a six mile round trip up Forbidden Drive to Valley Green Inn, our friends treated us to a culinary adventure --exposing us to a Raclette supper.  This Swiss staple involves flash braising food at the table.  It's reminiscent of a night out at a Korean Barbecue restaurant, although the raclette dishes all focus on cheese in various guises.  We were treated to rolled eggplants stuffed with pesto, Cornish hens with cranberries and apples, mushrooms in heavy cream and gouda, small potatoes, an assortment of sausages, and three different cheeses.

The idea is simple. 

A raclette is basically a two-tier griddle, sort of a turbo charged fondue on which you saute meats and vegetables on the upper level.  While this deliciousness is going on, you simultaneously melt cheese in little dishes under the griddle, then drizzle the cheese over the cooked food when ready.  Alternatively, for the impatient among us, you can gorge on baguette and crudites dipped in the molten cheese if you're too hungry to wait for the main course to cook.)

According to our Belgian friend, the raclette was invented to encourage conversation.  You have to talk to your neighbor to ensure that dishes are passed down the table.  It's quite an ice-breaker (and keeps the kids entertained while adults converse). 

As if the raclette weren't impressive enough, our host produced these extraordinary cookies to top off the afternoon.  Time consuming to make, they lived up to their star billing "Mint-Melt-Aways."  The peppermint fondant layer between the rich crumbly shortbread and the bittersweet chocolate is sensational - ice cold to the tongue. 

Here's the piccie to inspire you and here's the recipe for Martine's Melt-Aways...

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