Believe it or not last weekend was my first, true fondue experience. My friends were aghast. How could I possibly have eschewed this dish for three full decades? I used the opportunity to reflect on the many excuses I've encountered for not bothering with it.
1) "Fondue was all the rage in the 70's." This one is hurled as an insult far too often. We celebrate all that is retro in other departments. See Fleetwood Mac, record players, and Connect Four. I know bars that have all three.
2) "You need all that fancy equipment." I'm not a fan of single-use kitchen equipment especially that which is cumbersome to store and comes with a heap of accoutrements. Therefore I have no fondue pot nor those slender, elegant, European fork-spears. No gear, no fondue. Or so I thought. This weekend we managed with a good old dutch oven and regular forks. Most importantly we avoided purchasing this. Win-win.
3) "If you throw a fondue party, too many friends will show up." This is a valid problem that I can't help you with. But ultimately it's one we can file in the 'good to have' category.
Despite the world conspiring to keep me and fondue apart, I married a cheesemonger so it was only a matter of time. As it would happen just a few weeks after we tied the knot last year Tripp set off to Switzerland on a cheese-sourcing mission. His goal? Return with new offerings for Formaggio Kitchen from producers not yet featured in the US. Among the cheeses he returned with were a Gruyere and a Vacherin Fribourgeois, two classic fondue cheeses. So you see, this post was in the making before I even started this blog.
Now that I've been initiated I have a few words of wisdom to impart. Splurge on the cheese, not the copper fondue set. The more friends you can squeeze into a circle around your pot, the better the ceremonial quality. Wait for a snowy day and eating all that melted cheese will feel not only justified but necessary.
As a main course a good rule of thumb is a half pound of cheese per person. For each pound of cheese use one cup of wine. Note that this is a generous estimation. This recipe can easily serve more than four depending on appetites.
- 1 lb Gruyere, grated
- 1 lb Vacherin Fribourgeois, grated
- Pinch of flour
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 cups dry white wine (plus chilled bottles for drinking; Fondant or Gruner Vetliner are traditional choices)
- White or black pepper
Comte, Emmentaler, and Raclette are all good substitutes for Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois. There's no magic to a two-cheese blend either. Use one alone or a mix of several.
- Cubed bread
- Cubed salami
- Cornichons (tiny, cute pickles)
- Boiled new potatoes
Other great options: Cured beef, Pickled Onions, Proscuitto, or whatever else you fancy.
- Ready your platter of dippers; the fondue takes only a few minutes to come together and should be served immediately
- Grate cheese (avoid buying pre-grated cheese as a general rule; the air exposure compromises flavor)
- Toss grated cheese with a pinch of flour to avoid clumping
- Rub a heavy bottomed dutch oven or fondue pot with a split clove of raw garlic
- Toss garlic clove into pot and add wine
- Bring wine just to a boil, remove garlic clove
- Add cheese to the simmering wine and use a whisk to incorporate gradually, about 1 minute; you want to allow the cheese to melt on its own terms and avoid vigorous stirring; the fondue will be smooth and fall in ribbons when lifted with a spoon
- Stir in pepper to taste
- Move dutch oven to the table and serve immediately