Raclette is the cheese that makes grown French men weep tears of joy. Picture this: a grown ass man wearing a little beret off to the side, black turtleneck, tiny cup of café au lait or some shit, crying in ecstasy. If you are (even remotely) a fan of gooey, melty cheeses, this dish will make you wetter than the newest Beyonce videos.
But it's best to start with some fun facts:
Raclette is a semi firm—as in, "not soft" and yet "not hard"—cow's milk cheese that originates in the Valais region of Switzerland. And you may find yourself wondering, why do the French claim raclette as their own? Well, because they are French.
Even though raclette was originally conceived as a cow's milk cheese, you can find some killer goat's milk versions in France and the US.
It melts better than the entire cast of Real Housewives of Orange County standing too close to direct heat.
Now that you know the noun, lets discuss the verb. Derived from the French word, racler (translation: to scrape), raclette is the process of taking a wheel of cheese—any wheel of cheese, actually— and cutting an enormous chunk of it (half a wheel, to be precise) and melt the "open" or "exposed" side next to a heat source. The cheese will become bubbly, gooey, and a little charry. This gets scraped off the wheel and onto a waiting [fill in the blank: potatoes, warm bread, your gaping mouth, your spread open legs, whatever].
The meal, production, and experience have appeared in writings dating as far back as 1200 something or other. Melty cheese has been loved longer than Jesus.
Back in the good old dirty and health-code violating medieval times, split wheels of cheese were propped up next to the roaring fire. Nowadays—thanks to general lack of roaring fires and neurotic consumers—there are dozens of fancy contraptions that are designed to bring the cheese close to a heat source, melt it—so you can scrape it up—and allow for the mouth party to begin.
On a cold night, grab yourself a hunk of raclette, a jar of cornichons (French for gherkin, technical term for tiny pickle), some slices of prosciutto or ham, and a giant pile of steaming taters. Motherfucking tah-dah, you got yourself a fancy, melty, indulgent mess that's better than most run-of-the-mill level one sexcapades.