February 9, 2014

Cheese Fondue

A friend gave me a Cuisinart electric fondue pot and every time I get it out I am struck by how easy it is to use and how much fun it is to build a meal around it. It came with a recipe booklet that includes lots of fondue variations, including chocolatey dessert ones. I've never branched out beyond the two cheese fondue recipes here from the book because they are so good. I alternate between them because I'm not sure which I prefer. 

When I made the classic cheese fondue one Christmas Eve, we couldn't locate the fondue forks, but we've decided since then that that we prefer to not use them anyway. What works really well is to set the table with plates and forks and with a little cup or dish on each plate. We leave a plastic serving spoon on a spoon rest next to the fondue pot. Everyone can scoop out a dollop of fondue at a time into their cup, and when they use it up get seconds as needed. You'll need several additional scoops of fondue throughout the meal. But this way, the little bit of fondue in your dish stays warm as you eat it, and you can double dip as much as you want, and if you drop some of your food into your dish it doesn't matter. Most accompaniments work best as finger foods and you can feel free to use your fingers this way. In my experience, it's the only way to serve fondue. Also logistically, plan to have an extension cord ready to keep the pot plugged in at the table and warm while you eat. 
I think fondue is fun to make for/with company, because it's easy, the spread feels abundant, and it's festive. Have all your accompaniments cut up or blanched or whatever they require and ready on plates or platters (we do a separate big bowl for the bread cubes), then when dinner is just a few minutes away, start the fondue. Obviously, apples and bread cubes are delicious in cheese sauce, but I think you should know how good blanched broccoli and gherkins and boiled little potatoes are too. The variety is what makes it so much fun, for adults and kids both. (Oh, and in these pictures I made the hard-cider fondue, and we thought that paired very nicely with sparkling hard cider.)
Our cute little niece
If you have a little bit of leftover fondue, it microwaves great the next day; you just need to eat it quickly after reheating or it stiffens up again. Our leftover boiled/blanched vegetables (beans, broccoli, and potatoes) from last weekend's fondue night got crisped up midweek in a pan with some oil, then chopped coarsely, and stirred into some very fine scrambled eggs for dinner.   

Cheese Fondue, Two Versions:
both from the recipe booklet that comes with my Cuisinart Electric Fondue Pot

Classic Cheese Fondue  
(6 - 8 servings)
1 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
3/4 lb. Emmenthal cheese, grated
6 t cornstarch
1 1/2 t dry mustard
1 clove garlic, peeled, cut in half
2 1/4 C dry white wine
2 1/2 T Kirschwasser

Place grated cheese in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add cornstarch and dry mustard and toss to coat completely. Set aside. 

Rub the bottom and lower half of the sides of the fondue pot with cut sides of the garlic clove. Add wine to the pot. Turn temperature to setting 5 and bring wine to a strong simmer (bubbling, but not boiling strongly). While stirring constantly with wooden spoon or nonstick whisk, gradually whisk in grated cheeses, sprinkling in a handful at a time. Don't add more cheese until each handful is melted and smooth. Mixture will slowly thicken. 

When all cheese has been added, stir in the Kirschwasser and serve. Reduce temperature to setting 3 to serve.

Cheddar, Onion, Apple, and Hard Cider Fondue
(8 servings-- we had maybe 3/4 cup of fondue leftover after serving it to five adults and two kids who ate just a tiny amount each)
1 1/2 lbs. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 1/2 T cornstarch
1/2 t dry mustard
1 T unsalted butter
1 oz. chopped shallot (or onion)
1/2 C finely diced tart apple
2 to 2 1/2 C hard cider

Place shredded cheese in a large bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch and dry mustard; toss to coat. Set aside. 

Heat butter in fondue pot using setting 3 1/2. Cook shallot and apple in butter until tender and golden, about 3 - 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of hard cider and bring to a boil. 

Reduce the heat to setting 3, and with cider simmering, gradually add shredded cheese a handful at a time, while whisking with a plastic or coated whisk. If mixture seems too thick, whisk up to a 1/2 C more cider in as needed (I've only used the 2 cups). To serve, keep the temperature set at setting 3.

Accompaniments for Either Fondue:
  • cubes of rustic bread
  • blanched broccoli or green beans (or other blanched vegetables...cauliflower, snap peas...)
  • sliced summer sausage and/or pepperoni
  • apple slices/wedges
  • gherkins
  • boiled and slightly cooled fingerling or little red potatoes

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