The thing is, I grew up eating a lot of fondue — both meat and cheese. Maybe it was a 70’s thing or maybe it was just Mom’s way of saying it’s “fondue night,” so she didn’t have to cook. Either way, she’d dig out the fondue pot, a sterno, a couple of fondue forks, and then start cutting up pieces of beef or chicken. When she first started out making meat fondue, we always “cooked” the meat in vegetable oil. Eventually she switched from oil to chicken broth which unfortunately always took twice as long to cook the meat but had the added benefit of giving the diners a bonus dish — bowls of soup to be eaten after the fondue part was over. Sometimes she’d even crack an egg in the broth, giving the soup a weird but good kind of egg-drop look to it. We’d also have a couple of dipping sauces (usually mayo and ketchup or a curry-thing) to dip the meat in, some French fries, and a salad. Of course the meal wouldn’t be complete if someone didn’t stab their fingers a couple of times while trying to spear the meat or poultry onto the fork or even burn their tongue while trying to chew the still-too-hot-to eat pieces!
Somewhere along the way however, I fell out of favor with meat fondue and preferred to go with the cheese version instead. I’d cut up some day-old French or Italian bread into nice-sized cubes and other than having to grate the cheese, the meal basically made itself. (Ok, I will admit that on a few occasions I substituted small white potatoes in place of the bread and once even added a plate of thinly sliced ham that we could dunk into the cheese mixture.)
But I need to segue a bit. I think my kids are the only kids I know who have been to the town of Gruyere to eat real Swiss fondue in (duh!) Switzerland. I’m not mentioning this to be elitist in any way shape or form, it’s simply a fact. Growing up in Munich, I remember visiting the town of Gruyere as a child, and one summer when we were traveling with our kids through Europe, I was determined they would see Gruyere, too.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise given my love of all things fondue-like that I’m the proud owner of TWO fondue pots. One of these pots was actually one of the first things I put into a box after I bought the Red House. After all, we had no kitchen (and no stove), and I figured making a pot of fondue every now and again would be an easy (and yummy) meal.
Why it took me nearly two years to make that first cheese fondue at the Red House, I don’t know. But finally we had it. Be sure to use some good cheese and good wine, and by all means great bread.
Since I’m not a purist, I actually like to use a combination of cheeses (not just Swiss), but feel free to substitute any hard cheeses you like.
And even though I don’t normally “do” recipes, I’m including this one anyway. Enjoy!
Red House Fondue
1 cup grated Swiss cheese (preferably Emmentaler)
1 cup grated Monterey Jack or Colby cheese
2 cups white wine
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup of flour
1 loaf of Italian or French bread cut into cubes
Freshly ground pepper
1. While most recipes call for you to wipe the inside of the fondue pot with a clove of garlic and then toss it (the garlic, not the pot), I actually like to leave the garlic in the pot. Let it cook so it’s nice and mushy, and whoever gets that piece of garlic, in my opinion, wins a bonus prize! Also, most recipes also call for a dash or two of Kirsch to the mixture but I’m not a big Kirsch fan so my fondue is without this additional ingredient.
2. Grate the cheeses and sprinkle some flour over the mixture. This will add a little thickness to the sauce.
3. On the stove, warm up the wine in the fondue pot (remember the garlic clove should be at the bottom, too), then gradually add the grated cheese.
4. Keep stirring until the cheese has melted, then transfer (use pot holders!) to your fondue rack.
5. Dip away!
Oh yeah, try not to eat the entire pot of cheese because if you leave just a smidgen at the bottom, the cheese will “fry” up. Using a knife or even your fondue fork, gently lift up the remaining cheese disk, cut it up into pieces, and be nice and share it with the rest of the table. Or not.