The French Have Started Melting Their Cheese. It’s Why We Live Here

These are the French cheeses that rule the wintry nights. 

It’s cold out­side. The leaves are yel­low and rust col­ored under­foot. A girl’s thoughts nat­u­ral­ly turn to crack­ling fires and thick cabled sweaters that look like cash­mere until you wash them. How­ev­er, one can­not accept imi­ta­tions in the case of the oth­er annu­al cold-weath­er impulsereal French melt­ed cheese. 

Only the real can relate

– Car­di B

As soon as win­ter arrives in France, we down­shift from our pique-nique state of mind of smash­ing fresh goat cheeses with chilly craft beers and rosé wines avec les amis at that spot on the tip of Ile de la Cité. Instead we gath­er indoors with melty hot cheeses that dare not show their crusts dur­ing the steamy sum­mer months. Pick up a few crusty baguettes à la tra­di­tion on the way home and there you have it — an Alpine mood rules the chilly nights… 

Here’s the Win­ter Cheese Playlist to bring après-ski  à la française to your table (or read to the end to have the experts do it for you at one of our restau­rants spe­cial­iz­ing in melt­ed cheese. Yes, that’s a thing):

MONT D’OR — Makes the Winter Magical. Smelly, But Magical.

mont d'or

Mont D’Or is sold in a wheel in a spe­cial round­ed spruce box that will not start on fire in the oven at a low tem­per­a­ture unless you for­get about it (don’t ask how I know this). You can dial it up a few notch­es by punc­tur­ing the skin with sliced cloves of gar­lic and bury­ing them inside the cheese before pop­ping it into the oven. 

It’s easy — place the spruce box direct­ly in the oven and, after about 10 min­utes or so, Voilà ! Out comes a gooey, pun­gent, fon­due-like bowl. All you need are those crispy baguettes tra­di­tion (the bet­ter kind of baguette) to break into hunks and dip. As with all things melt­ed cheese in France in the win­ter, assume you will eat all of it and not just a prim, lady­like ‘taste’. Plan accordingly. 

Pairs well with an adven­tur­ous Vin Jaune (a dis­tinc­tive, yel­low wine aged under a lit­tle raft of yeast) or a Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region. 

THE RECIPE: 180° celsius/350° fahren­heit until it’s melty, about 10 minutes. 

CAMEMBERT RÔTI — The Boy Next Door Heats Things Up

camembert roti

Your mis­sion, should you choose to accept it: 

Find a real French camem­bert (aka raw, not pas­teurised) and some crusty sour­dough (and fresh thyme sprigs if you like). 

Place them all in the oven for just five min­utes at 180°C/350°F. For the camem­bert, remove the paper, stab it with those fresh thyme sprigs, and place it back in the box, or just stab it gen­er­al­ly to let your feel­ings flow. It’s been a weird few years and cheese isn’t sentient.

Skip the wine here as the melty, aro­mat­ic, and savory Camem­bert pairs well with a cidre brut. The Nor­mands know a thing or two about what to do with apples and if you are hit­ting it hard, try le trou nor­mand — a win­try dilem­ma of feel­ing full after head­first cheese dives is solved in the most Nor­mandy way pos­si­ble — tak­ing a shot of *brac­ing* Cal­va­dos, an apple brandy that gives you a mys­te­ri­ous feel­ing of not being too full…so you feel embold­ened to go back in for anoth­er round of whichev­er bewitch­ing melt­ed cheese has your atten­tion that day (trust me, do them one day at a time).

THE RECIPE: 180° celsius/350° fahren­heit until it’s melty, a mere 5 min­utes, on average. 

RACLETTE — A Friend with Benefits

raclette
Raclette

Orig­i­nal­ly an après-ski affair in the Alps, the eat-your-body­weight-in-melt­ed cheese habit has made its way into the big city thanks to portable elec­tric raclette grills. 

It’s sim­ple, and best of all, you foist most of the food prep and cook­ing on your guests (suck­ers). Sim­ply plug and play your French Alps-themed din­ner with a pound (half-kilo or so) of boiled small pota­toes per per­son, and plen­ty of char­cu­terie to sear on the crisper sec­tion of the grill. 

While speck, cop­pa, pro­sciut­to, and jam­bon de Paris are my favorites, you can also use sala­mi. Keep in mind that the cheese can be strong on it’s own, as in, do you remem­ber the term ‘smok­ing sec­tion?’ strong (con­sid­er your dry clean­ing bill a sou­venir of a gas­tro­nom­ic adventure).

As a side, heap plen­ty of tiny cor­ni­chon pick­les on your plate because veg­eta­bles or something. 

How it start­ed: the wheels of Raclette (or Mor­bier, with it’s lit­tle blue-grey veins of mold for those feel­ing like a lit­tle walk on the wild side) were placed next to the fire­place at the ski chalets to sat­is­fy the skiers after a day of, I dun­no, doing ski­ing stuff (can you tell I have nev­er been ski­ing?). As the cheese dripped off, it would be deft­ly scraped away and por­tioned out to eager ski bun­nies. In the city, the elec­tric grill does the melt­ing, unless you have a fire­place. If so, by all means get the wheel hold­er and go all-out (I’ll pray for your car­pets. In the name of the father, the son, and Holy grease-stain). 

How it’s going: I legit impressed my fam­i­ly and their var­i­ous boyfriends one Christ­mas when I vis­it­ed Chica­go with a car­ry-on’s worth of real French cheeses (I sup­pose the Cus­toms agents found me charming/boring enough to let me pass with a def­i­nite­ly sus amount of fra­grant Frenchy stuff). 

In a hol­i­day mas­ter­stroke (if I say so myself), I had a raclette grill sent over from Ama­zon and we had a day-after Christ­mas raclette party. 

If You are Already Here and The Time for Cheese is Now:

We rec­om­mend Les Mar­mottes restau­rant for a live­ly raclette din­ner ensconced in moun­tain ski chalet decor in the Les Halles dis­trict in cen­tral Paris. 

Or the old-school raclette king, Le Chalet Savo­yard in the hip­ster 11th arrondissement. 

Final­ly, there’s Le Refuge des Fon­dus, on the Mont­martre hill. Small and cozy.

Reser­va­tions recommended.

Bon appetit!

+ posts

Indeco­rous Cul­turevore and Poly­chrome Chow Vir­tu­osa Kat Walk­er likes nice things.

When she’s not writ­ing about crois­sants, love, cul­ture, and lov­able, sexy crois­sants, she is a gonzo per­for­mance artist whip­ping up a (usu­al­ly) polit­i­cal ruckus.

In a bid for your atten­tion and approval she writes things here and man­ages this unruly tribe of Parisians endeav­or­ing to bring you what Paris­ing is real­ly about.

Sub­scribe HERE to PARIS RIGHT NOW dis­patch — for a week­ly dose of her, and the rest of the ram­bunc­tious and per­fect­ly depraved gals’ tren­chant and thought-pro­vok­ing cura­tion. Or tune in to their antics on Twitch or youtube LIVE. .

More Stories
Arc de Triomphe + the Champs-Elysées