Raclette with Boiled Potatoes and Quick Pickles

Serves 6 to 8

Note: Crisp, acidic homemade pickles -- or storebought cornichons -- cut the buttery richness of the cheese.

Pickles:

2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds; or 1 red onion, peeled and sliced; or 2 handfuls baby carrots, halved

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup red wine or Champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon pickling spice or red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon cloves

Raclette:

1 1/2 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved

1 tablespoon kosher salt

6 to 8 ounces Raclette de Franche-Comte cheese, or Gruyere

1. Put the pickling vegetables in a large heatproof bowl. Combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar and pickling spice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add cloves, then pour over vegetables. Let sit 1 hour. Pour the vegetables and liquid into a glass container, cover and refrigerate. (Keeps up to 1 month in the fridge.)

2. Start a fire in your outdoor grill so it has time to burn down to mostly grey coals with just a hint of red. (Or preheat your broiler.)

3. Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt, lower heat and simmer until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set them aside.

4. Slice the cheese to fit your raclette pan or a small skillet. Carefully toast the cheese over an open fire or in a preheated broiler.

5. To serve, spoon warm boiled potatoes and chilled pickled vegetables onto each plate. Scrape the melted cheese from the browned surface of the cheese that has been exposed to heat, and enjoy with potato bites.

-- Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, "Cowgirl Creamery Cooks" (Chronicle, $35, 256 pages)