I can’t believe I didn’t actually discover raclette in France. It was in London (for shame!). And being the cheese lover that I am, I’m shocked that it took me until my late twenties to make such an epic discovery. The guys at the Kappacasein cheese stall at Borough Market secure huge wheels of the semi-soft, pungent cheese under special-made broilers, that heat, melt, bubble, and char the top layer of cheese exposed to the heat. That cheese is then scraped off the wheel—and right onto a plate of fluffy potatoes, with some cornichons on the side to add some bite to cut through the fat. It’s just something that everyone should put in his or her mouth every once in a while. It’s primaly, undeniably, resolution-floutingly delicious.
But I don’t have a special raclette grill at home, and I don’t eat it often enough to warrant buying one. Nor do I always feel like trekking down to Borough Market. So I came up with this ultimate grilled cheese as the antidote to a raclette-less life. The key to this simple sandwich is to use the best ingredients you can find: the best bread (Poiâne if you can swing it), raclette (you’ll need to find a terrific cheesemonger), mayonnaise (excellent imported French mayo, which has a mustardy, vinegary edge that adds a lot to the sandwich), and sea salt (fleur de sel or Maldon preferred, for salinity as well as crunch). This may seem nitpicky, but I’ll explain.
The best thing about raclette is that it can actually toast. Much like a Gruyère on top of an onion soup, it can brown and crisp and char, adding a different texture and flavor to the oozy, gooey bits of cheese under the toasted crown. By using an airy pain au levain with a great crust, you create tiny little holes through with the raclette can melt as you toast the sandwich. So, the inside cheese is gooey and runny, like a pungent mozzarella, and the crust of the sandwich is a crispy combination of toasted sourdough, sea salt, a swipe of sharp French mayonnaise, and little rivulets of toasted cheese. So you get the experience of a real raclette grill with just a stove and a skillet. A little American ingenuity and a lot of great French flavor. This is my ultimate grilled cheese. Bon app!