Tag Archives: easy

Host a Raclette Night

Melted cheese as the basis for dinner?  Yes please!!  No it’s not fondue, it’s raclette – the Swiss tradition that is becoming all the rage.  Raclette is actually a kind of semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, as well as a method of melting said cheese into a dinner party sensation.  Years ago as a wedding present, my family friend Beverly, gave us an 8 person raclette maker along with a mega waffle iron.  The genius of a large raclette maker is that the top acts as a griddle so she explained it would be great for pancakes etc but if we wanted to it also doubled as this thing called a raclette maker, something very popular up in Canada where she lives.

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The little raclette scoops go under the griddle surface to melt, while the top is left free to heat up anything you want to dip into the cheese.  Genius.

I sort of forgot about its secondary use until one day, low and behold, Crate and Barrel had an entire raclette display set up.  Up until then I didn’t realize it meant melting cheese and pairing it with all of my favorite things!  I ran home, pulled it out and raclette night has been popular in the Costello house ever since.  Friends love raclette night because it’s a fun communal way of eating that encourages sitting around, cracking into some bottles and experimenting with different combinations.  When I first started doing raclette it was hard to find the actual cheese but now I am seeing it everywhere.  If you are in DC, Righteous Cheese  carries an imported raclette from Switzerland (right) as well as one made in Vermont (left).  They also carry it at Trader Joes and Whole Foods.  As you can see it looks like Swiss cheese (duh) but has a much more nutty, rich flavor.

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You can always improvise with another kind of melting cheese if you can’t find raclette – I won’t tell anyone.  The real trick is getting one of the makers.  If you are going to get one I say go whole hog and get the one with the griddle on top so it’s a multi use item.  Now that you have your maker and your cheese you are going to need to find stuff to dip into that melty goodness.  I like to go classic with a mix of hearty vegetables, cured meats and of course BREAD.  The Swiss are also partial to pickled items with their cheese that gives it a nice tang.

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For this raclette party I served the following:  roasted brussel sprouts, prosciutto, calabrese salami, boiled baby new potatoes, cornichon, baguette slices, crackers, green grapes and grainy mustard.  Also good would be pickled onions, roasted turkey or ham, asparagus spears, chutney, kettle cooked potato chips…the list goes on and on.  That’s what is so fun about this dinner party is that all you really do is assemble.

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To go with the raclette I suggest getting some nice Belgian beer like these Chimays I picked up.  The beer makes a great foil to the cheese – we also had some nice artisanal cider from Millstone, which was particularly great with the Vermont raclette.

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Lest you think people will go away hungry, don’t – eating this much cheese really fills you up.  But just in case it is a good idea to end the night with something sweet.  I made this an amazing blood orange tart with salted caramel on top.

I have seen lots of local wine bars and cheese shops doing raclette nights so check out your local ones and see if you can get on the bandwagon.  I am sure once you have done it you will want to get a raclette maker for yourself!

Lemon Chicken

There was a time, that my family never lets me forget, that I basically only ate pasta with lemon.  I know most kids go through a “white food” phase but this was pretty specific and weird – I would bring in cold pasta and lemon wedges in my lunch box to school every day!  Luckily my palate has expanded since then but I must admit, a squeeze of lemon makes almost any dish better in my opinion.  I started making this dish back in college, looking for an quick dinner that didn’t require having a ton of ingredients on hand.  Make sure to get thinly cut chicken cutlets for this recipe or alternatively use your knife skills to cut a regular chicken breast in half or pound it out to an even 1/4 inch thickness.  You want to really quickly cook the chicken without it getting tough and then just zip up the quick pan sauce.

Lemon Chicken 

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 pound chicken cutlets (i.e. thin cut breasts)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • splash of white wine, approximately 1/2 a cup
  • 2 lemons, one halved the other sliced thinly

In a shallow bowl mix the flour with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil.  Dredge the cutlets and add to the skillet (do in two batches if your skillet isn’t big enough).  Really make sure to shake off the excess flour so they are just lightly coated.

Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the chicken browns then flip for another 2 to 3 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  Remove to a plate and keep warm until foil.  If you need to do a second batch add more butter and olive oil and repeat.

Once the chicken is all cooked add the lemon slices and cook for 1 minute until they get a little color.  Splash in the white wine and squeeze over the other lemon to deglaze the pan.  Add the chicken back in and cook all together for another minute.

A Classic Chicken Salad Sandwich

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I can be accused of tweaking and tweaking a recipe until it’s almost unrecognizable from it’s first incarnation.  I can’t help myself.  However, every once in a while I really love a classic dish that is simple and unmessed around with.  This isn’t to say boring – it’s just that the classics are classics for a reason and sometimes less is more.  This chicken salad is totally timeless with the snap of the celery, the herbaceous tarragon and creamy dressing.

The addition of lemon zest and dijon mustard might seem like too much, but they actually bring out the flavors of the rest of the ingredients and help everything sing together.  I like my chicken salad to be pretty lightly dressed but if you want more sauce throw in a little more mayo.  I like the mix of mayo and greek yogurt which gives it some extra tang and makes it a little healthier but just use whatever you have on hand.  Paired with some chips and a cold beer you have the perfect afternoon meal.

Classic Chicken Salad 

  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 roasted chicken breasts, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon (about 2 sprigs)
  • 1/2 cup canola mayonnaise (or 1/4 cup mayo and 1/4 cup non fat greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • bread and arugula for serving

In a large bowl toss the celery with the chopped chicken.  I used 2 breasts from a rotisserie chicken but you can also roast your own by baking bone in skin on chicken breasts on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 40 minutes until cooked through.  In a small bowl whisk the lemon zest, tarragon, mayo (and yogurt), dijon and salt and pepper.  Add to the chicken and celery and toss until coated.  Serve on toasted bread with arugula or just straight with a fork!

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