Sunday, November 9, 2008
Thank you, Michele, for the warm welcome :) Hello! I am Michele's aforementioned friend Lacey... and I am a cheeseaholic. And a chocoholic. So fondue is something very near and dear to my heart... or my stomach. If you have never tried fondue (you must!), it involves skewering things on long skinny forks and dipping said things into a pot of warm tasty substances, then eating the tastily covered things. It's kind of like getting to play with your food ;)
There are 3 main kinds of fondue: oil/broth fondue (in which you dip raw pieces of meat/veggies into flavored oil or broth and cook them), cheese fondue (dip bread/veggies/cooked meats/apples into melty cheese), and dessert fondue (dip fruit/marshmallows/cookies/other sweet things into melty, sweet, usually-chocolate-based yumminess). I haven't tried the oil/broth kind, primarily because I don't go in for the meat so much, but if we make that at some point I'll report back about it. For the inauguration of my new fondue pot, we made cheese fondue.
First, a note about fondue pots. I can't claim to be an expert - I've only had the one - but I think, given a do-over, I might have gone with an electric one, if only because it was so hard to find the alcohol gel fuel stuff I needed for this one. I found it at a cooking supply store, and you can also order it online (is there anything you can't find on the internet?), but the plug would probably have been easier and more cost-efficient in the long run. What I do like about my pot is that it's a "3-in-one" - I can cook oil or broth directly in the metal pot, or put boiling water in it and turn it into a double boiler with a ceramic insert for cheese or chocolate. These can burn if you put them over direct heat - I had it happen to chocolate fondue at one of my favorite restaurants when they forgot the water, and you just don't want to do that to chocolate. It's sad!
So, on to the food :) The classic cheese fondue involves Gruyere/Swiss, but there are many variations, and we went German-style with what we had, which was Cheddar and beer. I looked at a couple of recipes, and they all seem to call for about a pound of cheese and a cup of beer. That made enough for my boyfriend and me to have for dinner, with a salad accompaniment. I used mostly mild cheddar (yay for giant bags of shredded cheese from Sam's Club!), with some uber-sharp Cabot mixed in. Cabot makes some delicious cheddar, do look for it in your grocery store or Sam's. The recipes I saw said to use a lager, but what I had was an ale we got free from a place that brews their own, and it was quite tasty. I don't like beer, and consequently don't know much about it, but I say go with what tastes best/is most palatable to you. Don't worry, the alcohol cooks off :) Other recipes also recommend things like Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, hot sauce or other seasonings, but I found it simply delicious without them. Season to taste, dear readers.
Making fondue is pretty simple. Mix your shredded cheese with about a tablespoonful of flour or cornstarch. Heat the beer til it's basically boiling in a regular pot on the stove. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring it until it's all melted in. Rachael Ray recommends using a wooden spoon and stirring in figure-8 patterns - I have an awesome plastic spoon that looks like a wooden spoon, so it works the same and doesn't get food stuck to it as badly. The figure-8 pattern was good though. Once all the cheese is melted in, transfer the fondue to your fondue pot to keep it warm. Fondue pots would probably also work quite well for queso dip, come to think of it. Serve with whatever you want to dip in it :) We just cut up some bread (Portuguese rolls, actually) and frozen broccoli, but apples are also tasty, and you can pretty much use anything you think would be good covered in melted cheese. If you want, you can also have dipping sauces - I've had a provolone-mozzarella fondue with a side of marinara sauce, and it was delicious. Experiment! I'd love to know what other people do with their fondue :)
I'm sure soon we'll be trying a chocolate fondue, so I'll report back with the results of that. Recommendations are welcome! :)