It seems fitting, given the thrust of this post, that my initiation to raclette dining involved Valentine’s Day.
Picture it: Washington D.C., 2007, a night at the Swiss embassy. I’d finagled an invite to a Valentine’s Day reception there for myself and one (in those days) soon-to-be Mrs. Flavorful World. We spent a delightful evening sampling Swiss chocolates and molten raclette cheese with potatoes, cornichons, and a variety of accoutrements.
With February devoted to matters of the heart, and the 14th less than two weeks away, I’m reminded of that evening for many reasons, not the least of which is the food we enjoyed that night. It got me thinking about ways to amp up the romance this Valentine’s Day by injecting a bit of thematic style into the typical raclette dinner.
Red or Pink Condiments
Dijon is delightful and aioli’s all good, but since shades of red and pink feature heavily on Valentine’s Day, liven things up with the likes of sriracha, harissa, arrabiata sauce. Because what’s romance without a little heat? If your palate doesn’t dig on flaming ardor, go pink and creamy with a drizzle of vodka sauce or sun-dried tomato alfredo.
Sure, red potatoes are the easy go-to here, but the love story doesn’t have to begin and end with them. Think radishes, beets, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers. Sliced thin and fashioned into little valentines, these strike an eye-catching figure on your plate. No need to pull your hair out (lest there be less for your enamorata to run their fingers through after dinner) trying to hand-carve them, either. Your standard heart-shaped cookie cutter will do the trick. They’re inexpensive and not hard to find.) Slicing your potatoes paper-thin and soaking them in beet juice will impart an attractive pink hue that also could work to your advantage come meal time.
Serve your companion two shrimp laid with heads and tails touching to form a heart (before drenching them in the liquid gold that is raclette cheese) and your efforts are sure to earn you a smile. If that doesn’t do it for you, consider layering pink or smoked salmon onto your cheese-bathed potatoes and cornichons. Cut the potatoes into heart shapes if you like. Or don’t. We won’t judge you either way.
Add Color With Fruit
Unconventional? Yes. Tasty? Absolutely. Garnishing your molten cheese-covered tray of delicacies with slices of red or pink lady apple or with pomegranate arils is a quick, easy way to inject some fun and color into your Valentine’s Day raclette meal.
Shape Your Thin-Sliced Meats
Here again, cookie cutters will work to fashion flowers or hearts from thin-sliced meats like Parma ham, prosciutto, pancetta, Black Forest Ham, or others. Sliced thinly enough, red meats like beef for brasciole or pork belly for shabu shabu will work for this as well.