Warning: This post requires special equipment–a fondue pot. If you do not want to invest in one prior to your first Fondue Night, then beg, borrow or steal one from your neighbor. If you choose to trust me, I promise that this could be the best $40 that you’ve spent in a long while. And, if you already own a fondue pot, your Valentine’s Day dinner is set!
In my home, cheese fondue is in the regular rotation. Way back when, it was a romantic night with my new husband. Lingering over dinner with a bottle of wine, just waiting for someone’s bread to drop. A mandated kiss the result of tradition but nonetheless savored. Not surprisingly, we enjoyed fondue too much to relegate it to special occasions and we were eager to try new varieties. The traditional Swiss was always satisfying but what about cheddar and beer or brie and blue cheese? If we ate fondue more often–meaning every Friday night during some cold winter months–we could experiment with all sorts of combinations.
Years went by with these Friday nights being sacred for Gary and me. And then suddenly…the kids wanted in on the action. Imagine our dismay. The kiss of death for romance. But who could blame them? They like cheese, bread=good, throw in some long forks, a bubbling cauldron and fire…they were sold. Fondue immediately ranked right up there with s’mores.
In our house the announcement of “Fondue Night!” is guaranteed to elicit huge smiles, excitement and offers to help set the table (seriously). If I’ve already picked the movie–I assume it goes without saying that we eat our fondue at the coffee table in front of the television?–then we are well on our way to nirvana.
After so many such nights, I have the procedure down to a science because after all cheese fondue is more about assembly than cooking.
Step 1: Shred the cheese. I prefer to use the shredding disc in my food processor but if you would rather use a box grater, go right ahead. Just watch those knuckles!
Step 2: Toss the cheese with about a tablespoon of flour and set aside.
Step 3: Cut a crusty baguette into cubes, approximately 1″ x 1″. You want crust on every piece because you spear your fork through it. Set aside.
Step 4: Prepare a salad (because the acid from a vinegar-based dressing is the perfect foil for the richness of your melted cheese).
Step 5: Set your table with the fondue stand, votive candle and forks.
Step 6: Put a kettle of water to boil on your stove. This water will be poured into the outer shell of your fondue pot prior to inserting the inner bowl (which holds the melted cheese).
Step 7: Select your wine. It may be an old wives’ tale but my understanding is that adults (in Europe it’s the children, too) must drink wine with fondue because water will cause the cheese to form a lump in your stomach. This is my story and I am sticking to it.
And now you are ready to start cooking just 10 minutes prior to sitting down for dinner.
Following are three fondue recipes because I couldn’t choose just one. If you are celebrating Valentine’s Day this Friday with your one true love, go for the blue cheese version because it’s special. But if you’ll be celebrating as a family which is the only way we do it these days, then get two pots going and be sure to include the Swiss or Cheddar because they are very kid-friendly. Happy Valentine’s Day!
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 lb (12 oz) aged gruyere cheese, grated
- 1/4 lb (4 oz) Emmentaler cheese, grated
- 1 Tbls flour
- kosher salt, sprinkle
- pinch of smoked paprika, optional
- crusty baguette, cut into large cubes
- Rub the halved garlic clove around the inside of the pot, discard (or leave in the pot to simmer with the wine), and add the wine. Heat over medium high heat until wine is simmering.
- Meanwhile, toss the grated cheeses with the flour. Once the wine is simmering, add the cheese one handful at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula in a figure eight motion. Once the cheese is melted, add the next handful of cheese, repeating until all of the cheese is melted in the pot. Add a sprinkle of salt and a pinch of paprika, if desired.
- Transfer cheese to a fondue pot set in an outer shell with boiling water (per instructions above). Place pot over a lit votive candle on the fondue stand. Serve with bread for dipping.
- Other possible dippers include, small boiled red-skinned potatoes; sliced sausages; apple or pear wedges.
- 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 8 oz mixed mushrooms, sliced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 Tbls flour
- 12 oz chilled 60% (double cream) Brie cheese
- 4 oz chilled Roquefort
- 1 c dry white wine
- freshly ground black pepper
- crusty baguette, cubed
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, shallot and thyme; sauté until mushrooms just begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Place flour in a large bowl.
- Remove rind from Brie (I find that a vegetable peeler works best for this task) and cut into cubes; drop in flour. Toss to coat.
- Crumble Roquefort and add to bowl with flour. Toss to coat.
- Place wine in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat.
- Add cheese by handfuls, stirring continually until smooth. Stir in the mushroom mixture. Season with pepper and serve in fondue pot with bread cubes, alongside.
- 1 lb good quality aged cheddar, shredded
- 1 Tbls flour
- 1 cup lager beer
- 1 tsp Coleman's dry mustard
- 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- crusty baguette, cubed
- apple slices, optional
- In a large bowl, toss shredded cheddar with flour.
- Meanwhile, heat lager in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once beer is simmering, add cheddar by the handful, stirring to incorporate.
- Once all of the cheese is melted, add mustard powder and Worcestershire sauce.
- Transfer cheese to a fondue pot and serve with crusty bread and apple slices if desired.