Like every other chef we know, David Fritsche has had one hell of a year. Luckily for Fritsche, though, he’s had some pretty major superpowers tucked into his culinary arsenal at Stable: cheese and alcohol.
Both Fritsche and his business partner, general manager Silvan Kraemer, hail from the idyllic motherland of Switzerland. After meeting nearly 17 years ago and working side-by-side in numerous kitchens, the two had enough — not of each other, of course, but of working for someone else.
“We said, ‘Why don’t we do our own thing?’ The first thing we thought about was what we missed the most, and both of us said ‘We miss Swiss comfort food,’” Fritsche tells us. “We had been cooking it at home once in a while, but it was very seldom that we got to eat it. So, we said, ‘Well, we both are Swiss — why don’t we stay true to that, and try to get as many products as we can from Switzerland?’ It’s sometimes a little bit harder to do, but we still stay very, very true to our roots and where we come from.”
With that mission in mind, Fritsche and Kraemer opened up Stable DC on H Street corridor, eventually opening the doors to DC’s first-ever Swiss restaurant, where they remain the only ones in the city serving some of Switzerland’s most indulgent comfort classics: cheese fondue, raclette and Fritsche’s favorite, veal Zürich-style with potato rösti, mushrooms and a cream sauce.
Though their location in a narrow townhome doesn’t lend itself to pandemic dining, the pair devised an innovative solution to the space-intensive needs of the day: five individual “Swiss chalets” in their back dining room, which offer diners both privacy and peace of mind. There, or on the outdoor patio, hungry patrons can dig into a hot pot of cheese fondue, clink glasses of warm glögg wine, or request a raclette experience 24 hours in advance.
Another pandemic-driven innovation is an extension of Stable’s take-home menu, which now includes the ability to put a deposit down on tricked-out fondue and raclette kits, complete with all the fixings and even Swiss cocktails if you’re in the mood to imbibe. Both options give at-home diners an avenue to experiment and have fun with the process of making their meal, not just drool over the end results.
Raclette originated in the Valais region of Switzerland, in the southern part of the country by the Italian border. There, Fritsche tells us, dairy farmers would make journeys up to the Alps — always with cheese in hand. The cheese would be melted by the farmers by placing it next to a roaring fire before getting scraped on a piece of bread and quickly consumed. It’s probably the best method for staying warm that you’ll ever encounter.
Here, he shows us how to recreate that experience from the comfort of your home.
Swiss Cheese Raclette
What you need:
- A tabletop raclette grill like this one from Swissmar, this one from Sur La Table or this one from Williams Sonoma will help get you started (if you aren’t close enough to Stable to rent one from them). The granite stone top is perfect for roasting veggies like pearl onions, olives or mushrooms, and cheese gets melted on the coupelles, or small trays, below.
- A good-sized hunk of raclette cheese, which Washingtonians can get from Stable (or check places like Whole Foods). Fritsche tells us that raclette cheese is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a high fat content that makes for easy, high-quality meltability.
- A base for your cheese, like simple boiled potatoes or crusty slices of bread. At Stable, raclette is served in the traditional way, with boiled new potatoes, pickles, an onion salad, green salad and homemade wurzelbrot (bread).
- Optional: The classic alcoholic pairing for raclette is actually a bottle of dry, Swiss white wine called Fendant, which is produced in the same region from which raclette originated. The dry quality of the wine helps to balance the richness of the melted cheese. If no Fendant is available for purchase in your area, Fritsche recommends a dry Riesling or Grüner Veltliner instead.
How to raclette:
Boil a pot of new potatoes until fork tender while you prep your vegetables to grill. Zucchini, bell peppers and onions are all good choices. While Fritsche says meat is not traditionally served with raclette, he says meat lovers can add charcuterie items to their dish such as prosciutto, ham or air-dried beef.
Cut slices of your raclette cheese to fit the individual coupelles, and place your choices of vegetables to grill on top of the granite stone after giving it a light oiling. Cut your potatoes right before serving, then use the provided scrapers to slide the melted raclette cheese on top. Serve with pickled gherkins on the side and a green salad.
Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.