Fondue has come back in style with a vengeance. This very popular dish of the 50’s and 60’s has been reintroduced to both old and new generations as a simple yet sophisticated way to entertain. The word fondue comes from the French word fondre – meaning “to melt.” My husband and I like to call it “Fun-do”. Originally this Swiss national dish was made with cheese melted in wine. Endless variations exist which range from classic cheese with wine, cheddar with beer, meat cooked in hot oil or broth to decadent chocolate fondue.
Fondue brings back extremely fond memories from my childhood along with memories from our honeymoon in Europe. We ventured to six countries by various trains, including the Gornergratt Cog Railway to the town of Zermatt in Switzerland. We had a clear view of the Matterhorn from our balcony. We enjoyed authentic Swiss fondue at a small restaurant that was tucked away downstairs with dark wood and low ceilings.
Fondue can be served on celebratory occasions or just as a weekend treat. A fondue party offers many advantages from an entertaining perspective. It is creative, distinctive and can be prepared in advance for the most part. As a host, I cherish the ability to interact with my guests and the clean up is minimal.
For the past several years, we have our dear friends, Phil, Helen and Graydon, over to celebrate the holidays and host a fondue party. We enjoy a three course feast of classic cheese, filet mignon and chicken cooked in hot oil with assorted dipping sauces and finish with a decadent chocolate fondue. Helen makes her famous madelines, which are always a crowd favorite.
- Prepare the cubes of bread, meat, chicken and/or vegetables in advance.
- Grate the cheeses and toss with the cornstarch in advance. Typically I will use the microwave to get the cheese fondue started and finish cooking in the pot with the flame.
- For cooking with oil, the temperature should be between 350 to 375 degrees
- Chocolate fondue is best served in a smaller fondue vessel with a small candle to keep warm and prevent burning.
- Make sure electrical cords are placed safely aside, so they can’t be accidentally knocked loose or pulled.
- Do not overfill with fondue fuel; you can always add more.
- Protect your table with a large heat proof surface between the fondue pot and your table. Use a wood plank, marble slab, ceramic tiles or heat proof platter.
- To avoid overcrowding, keep your guests lists to no more than six guests. Use color coded fondue forks for each course.
- With the meat and chicken course, use separate serving forks to prevent contamination. In addition, make sure the sauces have a distinct section on the plate.
- If the cheese becomes too thick, thin with a bit of wine or if too thin, add more cheese and cornstarch.
- For the main course fondue of filet mignon and chicken, cut into one inch cubes and cook individually in the hot oil. Best to use canola or peanut oil. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces. A few suggestions: blue cheese dressing, Thai curry sauce, BBQ sauce and teriyaki sauce.
- Dessert fondue is always a favorite. It is simply hot cream and chocolate which is melted slowly. You can add grand Marnier, espresso powder or vanilla to flavor. Serve with pound cake, rice crispy treats, strawberries, bananas, macaroons or marshmallows.
- Do not eat from the fondue fork that will be returned to the pot. Provide an extra fork for eating.
- If you drop your bread into the fondue, traditions says you must kiss your neighbor. Alternatively, you must buy the next round of drinks. If you drop a second time, you must host the next fondue party.
- With cheese fondue, it is recommended that only one person dips at a time. With an oil fondue, give two forks to each person, so you can cook simultaneously. Electronic fondue pots are ideal for oil fondues since you can maintain consistent temperature.
Classic Cheese Fondue
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 C. Dry white wine
1 t. Lemon juice
2 C. (8 oz.) shredded Gruyere cheese
2 C. (8 oz.) shredded Emmentaler cheese
2 t. Cornstarch
2 T. Kirsch (Cherry Brandy)
½ t. Nutmeg
In a large bowl, add the shredded cheeses and cornstarch and mix well. Set aside.
Add the minced garlic and white wine into the ceramic pot. Heat in the microwave until hot. Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, pepper and cheese. Heat on high in the microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly. Stir and place onto the ignited fondue pot. Serve with cubes of French bread.