Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December 2007 - Cheese Fondue

Semi-Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue

I lived in Switzerland for a couple of years during the late 1990’s and each winter I would get treated some fantastic fondue dinners. Over the years I naturally developed my own personal preferences regarding what makes a really good cheese fondue.

I call this a “semi-traditional” recipe because most Swiss cheese fondues are made with white wine instead of beer. However, I always thought that fondue made with white wine had an unusual after-taste, so, for me, this recipe was a welcome change. It’s also not entirely traditional because I like to add various fruits and vegetables to dip in the fondue instead of just using chunks of bread. You can change the recipe to add whatever items you think would be good to dip in a pot of piping-hot cheese…but trust me on the pineapple and potatoes recommendation discussed below!

This recipe is based on one that was given to me by some of the best people I have ever met, the Pelly family. I spent some of the most memorable nights of my mission sitting around the Pelly’s dining table, eating great food, listening to good music and taking part in some lively, and always entertaining, discussions. And while Switzerland may be a long way away from where I live now, I always seem to be able to get back there pretty quickly by whipping up a batch of Pelly’s cheese fondue. Although not entirely traditional, to me, this recipe is Switzerland in a pot.

NOTE: This recipe can be made in a large, ceramic fondue pot or non-stick electric fondue pot, whichever you prefer or happen to have handy. The instructions outlined below are for a ceramic fondue pot that is designed to be used on a stove and then transferred to a Sterno burner in the middle of the table to keep warm while eating. A few minor changes will need to be made if using an electric pot.

Should easily serve six hungry people

1 garlic clove, cut in half
24 oz. beer (I usually get Miller High Life because it’s cheap and does not overpower the cheese)
8 oz. apple beer (optional)
1 pound Emmentaller cheese, grated
1 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
½ pound of either aged white cheddar, appenzeller or vacherin cheese, grated (optional)
2 tablespoon cornstarch, set aside
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in ½ cup cold water
Generous squeeze of lemon juice to taste
Ground black pepper and nutmeg to taste

Dipping items:
1 loaf of rustic, crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 pounds boiled Yukon Gold or Red potatoes
1 can of pineapple chunks, drained

Optional dipping items:
Steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets
Grilled bratwurst, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
Apples or pears, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cooking instructions:
Step 1: Rub garlic all over the interior of the fondue pot. Place garlic, beer, apple beer, lemon juice, black pepper and nutmeg in fondue pot and bring to a boil on stove over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 2: Mix the grated cheeses and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch together in a large bowl. Add cheese to fondue pot, one handful at a time, waiting a few minutes until melted. Stir constantly in a figure-8 pattern to incorporate the cheese. Repeat process until all cheese has been slowly added.

Step 3: Once all cheese has been added, continue to stir and let simmer for a few minutes to make sure everythinig is combined. Use the cornstarch and water mixture to bring the fondue to the desired consistency, adding a little at a time and letting the mixture come back up to a boil before adding more. Add additional black pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Step 4: Transfer pot to table and place over a low heat source (like a Sterno burner that is typically used for buffet warming trays) so that it maintains a gentle simmer during the meal.

Step 5: Dip your bread, potatoes, pineapple and other items into cheese and enjoy. Stir cheese occasionally throughout the meal adding additional apple beer, lemon or pineapple juice if the mixture starts to get too thick. Based upon my experience, the best way to enjoy fondue is to place a piece of pineapple with either a piece of bread or potato on the fondue fork and then dip them completely into the cheese. Just try it and you’ll become a believer too!

NOTE: Take care to ensure that an even, golden-brown crust is forming on the bottom of the pot, being mindful of the temperature on heat source so that the cheese does not begin to burn. The Swiss consider this to be a delicacy and is generally peeled off the bottom of the pot and shared with the guests at the conclusion of the meal.


Lani said...

I don't know if I'm allowed to leave a comment if I haven't actually made this recipe myself. Hopefully "the committee" will not be angry at me. I can personally vouch that this recipe is DELICIOUS! In fact, I probably need to do some trade work or something in hopes that TK (of TKRC fame) will treat me to some.

TK said...

"Give me your tired, your poor, your hungry massses yearning for cheese; send these, the fondue-less hunger-tossed, to me; I'll have my fondue pot ready for when they crave more." TK