- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Say “fondue,” and you’re talking party. There’s just something festive about a group of friends and family sitting down together around a table, dipping

food into a communal pot.

Fondue seems to be a food style that drops in and out of popularity. As the saying goes, “everything old is new again,” and fondue parties are back.

Fondue originated in Switzerland as a way of using up hardened cheese. The Swiss created fondue out of necessity, not design. In early times, peasants made bread and cheese in the summer and fall to last through the winter. By midwinter, both had become rock hard.

In the long, cold Swiss winters, it was a good idea to huddle around the fire. Soon the peasants figured out that cheese heated with wine over the fire softened and became edible. Voila. Swiss fondue was born. The word “fondue” is from the French verb “fondre” (“to melt”).

Traditional fondue is made with Emmentaler or Gruyere cheese and white wine and seasoned with garlic and pepper. Cherry brandy, or kirsch, is sometimes added to the molten mixture, which is served as a dip for chunks of bread.

The savory mix is both made and warmed over a low flame in a wide, shallow, flameproof pot called a “coquelon.”

The coquelon is placed in the center of the table, and guests use long, thin, two-pronged forks to dip chunks of baguette into the cheese. If you don’t have a fondue pot and forks, improvise with a heavy saucepan, even though you may need to set it over a flame from time to time for warming, and use table forks.

Dippers are not limited to hearty bread. Try steamed new potatoes or diced potato, leaves from cooked artichokes or steamed vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

The best part of a cheese fondue is often overlooked and thrown out. It is the cheesy crust that forms on the bottom of the pot once it is almost empty. When appetites have been sated, leave a thin veneer of fondue in the pot, and a crust will form. Remove the crust, divide it and share it with everyone seated around the pot.

In Switzerland, they tend to stick with the traditional cheeses, but in the United States, we welcome the untraditional.

When children are sharing, for example, try making the fondue with cheddar cheese, which is familiar to them in color, texture and flavor. Children also love chocolate fondue, which is the simplest to make and the most delicious. Dip chunks of fruit, berries, cake or marshmallows into chocolate, then roll the chocolate-coated bites into coatings such as toasted coconut and chopped nuts.

There are two other fondues in the international mix. Fondue Bourguignonne originated centuries ago in Burgundy’s famous vineyards. Legend says that when the grapes were ripe, there was no time for a midday meal.

Someone heated up some oil and dunked pieces of meat into it so that lunch could be eaten quickly on the run. Even China has a version. It’s a beautiful dish called chrysanthemum soup. For it, fish and seafood are dunked into a pot of simmering stock.

Sharp cheddar cheese fondue

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

2 cloves garlic

1 cup dry white wine, or more

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Pinch nutmeg, optional

Cubed baguette

Grate cheddar cheese. Set aside. Rub inside of fondue pot or heavy saucepan with the cut surface of garlic. Leave the garlic in the pan. Add 1 cup wine, and bring to a simmer. Whisk the cheddar slowly into the wine. Bring mixture back to a simmer.

In a small ramekin, mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water. Whisk cornstarch mixture into cheese mixture.

Bring back to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes until smooth and no starchy taste remains. Add a pinch of nutmeg, if desired.

Transfer to fondue pot, and place over fondue burner. Serve warm with cubes of baguette.

Spear bread cubes with fondue fork and dip into fondue, swirling to coat. If mixture becomes too thick, stir in a little additional warmed wine.

Makes 4 servings.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide