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Spring Brook raclette: more American than fondue

There's a warming Alpine tradition involving wheels of raclette: Herdsmen melted the semi-soft, cow's milk cheese by their nighttime fires, scraping it onto potatoes and bread.

Here's the Chicago, 2011 edition, courtesy of Pastoral:

In honor of the new raclette from Vermont's Spring Brook Farm, the local cheese market has brought in miniature machines, designed to melt precisely enough cheese for two. Pick up a half-pound of the nutty, grassy raclette ($22 per pound)–made from pasture-raised Jersey cows–and Boska's electric or candlelit raclette warmer ($50 each).

A loaf of crusty bread, cornichons, a crisp white wine (like Gewürztraminer), a pot of sharp mustard (try Ameline, a small-batch mustard made from seeds grown in Dijon) and some boiled potatoes complete the equation.

To sample the cheese sans machine, place slices of boiled potatoes in an oven-safe crock and top with thick strips of raclette. Pop under the broiler until bubbly and serve hot, with bread and the accoutrements on the side.

Or, for the easiest (read: laziest) option, try Pastoral's newest seasonal sandwich, with mustard, raclette and cornichons ($5).

Pastoral, 2945 N. Broadway St., 773-472-4781; 131 N. Clinton St., 312-454-2200; and 53 E. Lake St., 312-658-1250 or pastoralartisan.com