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I admit it. I own a fondue pot. We don’t use it as much as my kids would like but it comes out on special occasions and holidays. I’m sure that many of you have fondue pots that you received as wedding or Christmas gifts back in the Last Century that you never use. Dust it off, and let’s get ready to make some fondue.
Fondue is a communal, fun meal. It is great for appetizers, dinner or dessert and is a perfect dish for a cocktail party with friends. Fondue is not hard to prepare, everyone has fun doing it, and it tastes really good.
Fondue (French for “melted”) originated hundreds of years ago in Switzerland. As with many national dishes, it arose as a way to reduce waste. It was also a matter of survival. Bread and cheese were made in the summer and autumn to last through the winter.
Eventually, the bread became hard as a rock and the cheese aged and also became very hard. The Swiss realized that they could melt the cheese with some wine and then dip small pieces of hard bread into it to soften the bread. In this way, they were able to survive harsh winters and not let even stale food go to waste.
These days, cheese fondue is a fun and festive way to share food with friends, no stale bread required.
1 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
½ pound Emanthaler or other softer Swiss cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
10 oz. dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons kirshwasser (cherry liqueur) or dark beer
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1 clove of garlic, split in half
Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic.
Whisk together the kirshwasser or beer and the flour. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, heat the wine and lemon juice.
Pour in the flour mixture, whisking thoroughly. Let boil for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat and stir for a minute to cool slightly.
While whisking constantly, add the cheese, a handful at a time until all the cheese is melted. You may have to put the pan back on the heat briefly, but do not let the mixture boil or it will separate. Don’t forget to keep whisking.
Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
Pour into the prepared fondue pot. Stir frequently to prevent lumps. Serve with small pieces of fruit and/or toasted bread.
As the popularity of fondue grew in America, more ways were devised to use fondue pots. Meat fondue arrived in the 1950s followed by dessert fondue in the 1960s.
With meat fondue, small pieces of beef, pork, or chicken are deep fried. Of course, this requires a much hotter pot than a home fondue pot meant for cheese. Because of the danger of burns from splashing oil, it is best to enjoy meat fondue out at your favorite fondue restaurant.
An alternate method for serving meat fondue is with a court bouillon. This method works well with more delicate meat such as chicken breast, shrimp and other seafood. A court bouillon is a light broth made of chicken or vegetable broth with some wine, mire poix and bouquet garnis added.
The bouillon is kept at around 180 degrees, F, and people poach their own bits of food on the ends of their fondue forks. Again, this might not be the most viable option for home consumption.
Dessert fondue is a different story. Not only should dessert fondue be kept at lower temperatures, it is also extremely tasty and easy to make at home. Here is a recipe for a dark chocolate fondue that you won’t be able to resist.
2 oz. butter
4 oz. sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup corn syrup
¼ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon rum
½ teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. best quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Whisk together cocoa powder, water and rum into a paste. Place in a bowl with the chopped chocolate and the vanilla.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, cream, corn syrup milk and salt. Bring to a boil and keep at a slow boil until the mixture is a light caramel color, about 15 minutes.
Strain the cream mixture into the chocolate mixture and whisk well until smooth. Pour into fondue pot to keep warm. Serve with cubed pound cake, marshmallows, fruit, or frozen cubes of cheesecake.
Variations: Add ½ teaspoon (or to taste) of orange extract or peppermint extract. Boil a cinnamon stick in with the dairy mixture.