Fondue, A Dish perfect to Ring in the New Year
Today, when we think of fondue, images come to mind of lavish parties, fresh ripe strawberries dipped in warm melted chocolate. However, such luxurious foods we now associate with Fondue were absent from fondue’s not so luxurious history.
Fondue originated during the 18th century in Switzerland as a way to use up leftover bits of stale bread and cheese that preserved that were too hard to eat. It was served communally out of a pot and everyone had had their own fork. The cheese was the tradition for fondue until 1956 when Chef Konrad Egli of New York’s Chalet Swiss Restaurant introduced meat and oil.
It was not until 1964 that the most dessert popular fondue today, chocolate fondue began to be used. Fondue enjoyed a long life during the 50ties, 60teis, and 70ties, but thanks to manufacturers who like to revive trends, the fondue pot is coming back.
Easy and Elegant
To have your own “fondue” party, all you really need is something to keep the cheese, chocolate, or oil mixture warm in without scorching it and fondue forks or skewers.
I would recommend starting with a cheese and chocolate fondue. Oil can be dangerous and messy if not prepared properly. Etiquette for fondue is simple. For food safety’s sake, don’t double-dip or touch the end of your fondue fork with your mouth. Fondue is a communal meal that is easy and there are countless recipes on the web for the perfect combination of Emmenthaler and Gruyere cheese. Typically you would add wine to the melting cheese and a little cornstarch to bind it together. Other than that, it’s a pretty simple process. Keep your guest list small for the first few parties because only 4-6 people fit comfortably around one pot. You will need a pot for each course. Try borrowing pots from friends and family. You would be surprised how many people have them stashed away in their attic. Garage sales and second-hand stores are also good sources for pots and they work as well as the new ones.
The next thing you need to think about is what to dip? Cubed sourdough bread is a must, as well as steamed and quartered potatoes. Steamed veggies are terrific for variety and color and of course fruit (fresh and dried) and rice crispy treat and cookies will work for chocolate fondues. You want to figure about a pound of dipping cubes per person for a cheese fondue and 2-3 ounces of chocolate fondue per person.
Just remember the ancient Swiss tradition if a nugget of bread is lost in the cheese by a man he buys a bottle of wine or a round of drinks and if such a thing happens to befall a woman she kisses the man on her left.
Chocolate Lover’s Fondue For Two
This classic flavor of chocolate and orange will be a hit at your next intimate party. For dunkers think Biscotti, pretzels, strawberries, and fancy cookies. Stay away from dippers like cake or any other crumbly product as they will break and fall into the fondue pot. This is a basic recipe that can be used as a starting point. Other extracts and liquors can be substituted for the amounts listed.
Yields 2 cups of sauce - You will have leftovers if there are 2.
12 ounces good-quality chocolate chips (Ghirardelli or comparable)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons Gran Marnier Liquor
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
Over a double boiler, stir all ingredients over low heat and melt until smooth and thin. Be sure to have your fondue pot on low heat or chocolate will scorch.
Chef’s note: This recipe can also be done in the microwave at half power, cook for 30 seconds at a time until smooth, and stirring in between cooking times.