Fondue is fun, fondue is romantic, fondue is easy to make. All you really need is a heavy pot, good cheese, some good acidic wine, a spoon and food to dunk. If you’re mystified by it, please read the notes that follow the recipe and hopefully you will be dipping away …
3 cups coarsely grated real Gruyer cheese
2 cup coarsely grated or diced Ementaler
1 cup coarsely grated Appenzeller or more Gruyer.
*over all you will need about 11/2 pound of cheese*
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup dry white wine + lemon juice as needed
1/8 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1 ounce (3 tablespoons) Kirsch (or brandy) mixed with 1 teaspoon good Dijon mustard
Kosher salt to taste
What to dunk: On a recent cooking class at Whole Earth Center we used cooked Brussels sprouts (cut in half in salted water for about 3 minutes), also raw fennel and Belgian endive cut into sticks and chunks of apples and pears. It was a feast of winter elegance. You can also use steamed carrots and cauliflower, boiled baby or fingerling potatoes, cornichons or baby pickles and olives, salumi or even dried fruits. And of course crusty bread.
Cut everything into large bite size pieces. Also make sure that each chunk of bread has a piece of the crust so you won’t loose it in the fondue…
In a small bowl, toss cheese with cornstarch to coat evenly.
In a small heavy saucepan, combine wine, lemon juice and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
Sprinkle the cheese mixture into the pot a large handful at a time, stirring each batch in a figure-8 pattern so that the cheese doesn’t ball up as it melts. Continue adding and stirring until all of the cheese is melted, smooth, and thick, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain barely a simmer.
Stir in the Kirsch (or brandy) mixed with Dijon and season to taste with salt. If the alcohol content bothers you, you can add the kirsch with the wine, so that the alcohol cooks off.
If using a saucepan, transfer the fondue to a fondue pot. Set the fondue pot over a low flame at the table to keep it warm. Instruct your guests to give it an figure 8 stir every time they dip their food in it.
For a version of this fondue made with LOCAL cheese, please visit princetoneats.org
There are many fondue pots in the market. For the occasional cheese or chocolate fondue, go for the ceramic one. Make the fondue on a heavy pot on the stove and then transfer to the ceramic pot. If you want to invest in a mufti-purpose fondue pot (one that can also be used for meat), enameled cast iron is your choice. After all these years I am still enamored with Le Creuset. Some people swear by electrical pots, but with those the romance goes out the window…
Fondue forks: Important. If possible buy with identifying marks so each diner can stick to his/hers. Fondue etiquette calls for double-dipping, using the fork for dipping and eating. In modern-day America I’d suggest using another fork to unload the dunked food into the diners’ plates.
Your best heating device for a cheese fondue is a candle. Heat up the ceramic dish before adding the fondue (fill it up with boiling water and then empty and wipe dry) and the candle will provide just the right amount of heat to keep the cheeses melting but not scorched.
Liquid- acidity is key. The acid interacts with the protein to create the smooth texture. Hence the choice of a light, crisp wine enhanced with lemon juice or vinegar. Kirsch and other hard liquors are used to finish the fondue and give it a bite. If you’re using a strong tasting cheese you don’t really need them.
The classic fondue cheeses – semi-hard mountain cheeses such as Gruyere, fontina and emmentaler are great, but most cheese combinations will work. If you use very hard cheeses such as Parmesan, aged Gouda or pecorino romano, or soft cheese such as blue cheese, fresh goat cheese or feta — mix them with semi-hard cheese. Avoid stringy cheeses such as mozzarella, those strings of melting cheeses are very appealing on a pizza but you can imagine the mess.
Cornstarch or flour – they help create a smooth sauce. If you are adding flour, be sure to cook the fondue at least 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour flavor.
Key to success: constant stirring on a bare simmer and adding the cheese gradually. When you serve the fondue, instruct your guest to stir the fondue with each dunk so it stays nice and creamy.