I’m not typically a big fan of cooking with fine cheese, but Reading begs to be melted. Made by Vermont’s Spring Brook Farm, this handsome wheel is modeled on Raclette, the alpine cheese so delicious that it has a dish named after it.
I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I’ll never forget my first raclette (the dish, not the cheese). Dining on a pitiful student budget in Paris, my friends and I found a tiny, dark restaurant in the fifth arrondissement and ordered what everyone else was having: molten cheese scraped in sheets from the surface of a half wheel of Raclette that had been heated under a flame. The buttery cheese puddled on our plates, and we ate it hungrily with boiled potatoes, cornichons and little pickled pearl onions. I think a few carafes of cheap white wine were involved as well.
Reading (REDD-ing) is a farmstead cheese made from raw Jersey cow’s milk and matured for three to five months. (French and Swiss Raclettes are not always raw-milk.) The 16- to 20-pound wheel has a thin, damp, mold-dusted rind and a semi-soft interior that smells like roasted peanuts. It melts like a dream, and warmth heightens its beefy flavor.
At Union Larder, a stylish new wine and cheese bar in San Francisco, you can sample a fine raclette made with Reading (pictured above/below). The kitchen invested in the costly contraption that cradles a half wheel of cheese under a heat source; as the golden face of the cheese warms, the cook scrapes the softened layer over boiled potatoes with diced bacon.
Purists would say a proper raclette requires a wood fire, but I’m not that fussy. You can make a modified raclette at home with a broiler and a hunk of Reading, and although my method has zero fireside romance, I think it would make a fun New Year’s Eve dinner. Have all your plates ready with warm boiled potatoes (waxy fingerling types are best), cornichons and cocktail onions or other pickled vegetables. Cut the Reading—rind included—into ¼-inch-thick slabs and arrange them on a baking sheet. Place the cheese six to eight inches from the broiler until the slabs visibly soften, less than a minute; you have gone too far if the fat oozes out. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to slide the cheese off of the baking sheet and onto the waiting potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley and a few grinds from a pepper mill. Eat immediately if not sooner.
Click here for a partial list of retailers for Spring Brook Farm Reading.