- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when my husband and I were newly married, fondue parties were all the rage.

Along with our friends, we were just beginning our careers and had modest budgets and no significant culinary skills, but we all loved to entertain.

Switzerland’s most celebrated dish, which is both simple to prepare and inexpensive, became the centerpiece for many of our gatherings.

We speared cubes of meat and cooked them in pots of bubbling oil, or we swirled skewered chunks of crusty bread into mixtures of melted cheese seasoned with white wine.

We always added a salad of mixed greens and a dessert to round out the menu. On these fondue evenings, our small group of guests would kick up their feet and spend hours enjoying good food and conversation with us.

As time passed, the craze, like most trends, seemed to fizzle out, and I stored my fondue set on the top shelf of a cupboard, where it collected dust.

Recently, I began to notice that cooking catalogs were again featuring fondue sets. The new ensembles are fancier than my old one and include a stand with a burner and a pot, several bowls for condiments, and sometimes a Lazy Susan.

The pot can be used for either cheese or meat (although traditionally, the saucepan or bowl used for cheese is wider than the one for meat) or for melting chocolate for dessert fondue.

I was thrilled, so I decided to include a fondue in one of my cooking classes. I prepared a classic cheese fondue by melting imported Gruyere cheese in a dry white wine.

When the mixture was smooth and hot, I added a hint of nutmeg and a splash of kirsch. In addition to serving the fondue with crusty bits of bread, I offered bowls of sliced apples and pears and some toasted walnut halves.

The dish was a huge success. Students returned to the buffet table time and again to dip bread or fruit into the pot of warm cheese.

After class, as they were leaving, I heard several students say they were going to have a fondue party soon.

Cheese fondue with apples, pears and crusty bread

Use a fondue pot and stand with a burner plus long forks or skewers. If you don’t own a fondue set but have a chafing-dish stand, you can improvise. Place a heavy, wide-mouthed medium saucepan over the stand, and use long bamboo skewers for spearing the bread and fruit.

2 tart red apples

2 ripe but not mushy Bartlett pears

Juice of lemon

A crusty baguette

1 cups walnut halves, toasted (see note)


1 garlic clove, peeled

1 pound grated, imported Gruyere cheese

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cups dry white wine

2 teaspoons kirsch

2 generous pinches freshly ground nutmeg

For the accompaniments, core, but don’t peel, the apples and pears. Then halve lengthwise and cut into -inch-thick slices. Place fruit slices in a nonreactive bowl and toss with lemon juice. Cut the baguette into bite-size cubes so that you have about 2 cups.

For fondue, rub the inside of a medium nonreactive saucepan with the garlic clove. Discard garlic. In a large bowl, toss the cheese with the flour. Pour wine into the saucepan and place it over medium heat.

Bring wine to a simmer, and gradually stir in the cheese, a generous handful at a time.

When all the cheese has been added, continue to stir until mixture is smooth and just comes to a boil. Remove and stir in kirsch and nutmeg.

To serve, transfer cheese mixture to a fondue pot and set over a flame to keep warm. Place bread cubes, apple and pear slices, and walnuts in individual serving bowls arranged around the fondue pot.

Skewer bread or fruit slices on forks or skewers and dip in the hot cheese. Top each bread or fruit serving with a walnut half. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: To toast walnuts, place on a rimmed baking sheet and into a preheated 350-degree oven until browned and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and cool.


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