Cozy up to a warm bowl of gooey cheese fondue accompanied by plenty of fruit and vegetable dippers. It’s easy to make at home for a special night in.
If the lack of a fondue pot is keeping you away from this heavenly indulgence, then I’m happy to say you don’t really need one to start. A regular saucepot and dinner forks will do just fine. And if you find that you enjoy fondue-ing as much as I do, then that’s when you should shop for your own dedicated fondue pot with a burner. I couldn’t resist using my most beloved fondue pot for this post, which was given to me as an anniversary gift from my husband years ago.
I’m including a few tips on serving and safety when firing up a fondue pot. I have several books on the topic and this seems the right place to share what I’ve gleaned from them, along with some of my own experience. These all pertain to cheese-based fondues.
- It’s best to make the cheese fondue on the stovetop in a saucepan, and not directly in your fondue pot. Transfer the mixture to the fondue pot after it’s mixed. If you’re without a fondue pot, simply serve the fondue in the saucepan placed on a trivet, or transfer it to a pre-warmed bowl. The best way to pre-warm a bowl is to fill it with hot water, when the fondue is ready, pour out the water and wipe it dry before filling.
- An overfilled fondue pot is a recipe for disaster. Fill it no more than halfway full.
- Fondue forks should be regarded as cooking implements and not dining tools. Don’t eat directly from the fondue fork. Instead, place the dipped, cheese-covered food on a plate and use a standard fork for eating. If you’re without fondue forks, use large dinner forks as your mode of dipping, and salad forks for eating.
- If you’re fondue-ing for family night, small children should be watched closely near an open flame. Provide them separate small ramekins of melted cheese away from the pot. They are also enthusiastic dunkers, so I don’t recommend using your best table linens.
- Cheesy fondues need to be stirred intermittently. This is a pleasant babysitting job, and you can help keep the cheese mixed by swirling your fondue fork in a figure 8, stirring the cheese as you dip.
- Don’t keep the burner on the entire time. Unless your fondue pot is electric, it could make the cheese too hot to enjoy. Re-light the burner when the cheese cools and bring back to melty consistency. When you’re almost done eating the fondue, turn the burner to low and allow the remaining cheese to form a browned crust. Remove and break it into pieces to eat for a crusty cheese delicacy.
What to dip? More like what not to dip! My favorite dippers tend to be fresh fruit and vegetables, although my new favorite dipper is roasted fingerling potatoes. I love cheesy potatoes of all sorts, and this was a revelation. I also feel that no cheese fondue is complete without French bread cubes – so good!
Most of our fondue nights are for a party of two, which means there will be leftovers for lunch the next day. Instead of re-melting the leftover fondue, we simply cut the chilled fondue into pieces and serve it alongside crudités and light charcuterie meats. Even chilled it holds the wonderful wine notes that make fondue so delicious.
Classic Cheese Fondue
Yields 6 servings
Emmental cheese is Swiss cheese with buttery notes and fruity flavor, it is traditionally used in this recipe. American style Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace) can also be used and is milder with nutty flavor. Purists may object, but a small amount of cornstarch is added to this recipe. It keeps the wine and cheese from separating when heated, and no one will know it’s there.
1 garlic clove, halved
1 1/2 cups sauvignon blanc wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 lb. Gruyere, coarsely grated
Assorted dippers: grape tomatoes, fresh celery and carrot sticks, roasted fingerling potatoes, French bread cubes, tart apple slices, small whole radishes.
Rub the interior of a 4-quart saucepot with the cut sides of the garlic (discard garlic).
Pour the wine into the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small condiment cup, stir the cornstarch and water together to form a slurry. Set aside. Add the cheeses to the pot of simmering wine gradually. Stir in a figure-8 and zigzag pattern to prevent the cheese from balling up. Avoid using a circular motion. Cook until the cheese is melted and creamy (do not boil).
Re-stir the cornstarch slurry if it has settled; add it to the fondue and stir in figure-8/zigzag motions to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened about 5-8 minutes. Transfer the cheese to a fondue pot set over a flame and serve immediately.
Two tablespoons of kirsch (cherry eau-de-vie) may be added to this fondue for a truly authentic Swiss Fondue. Kirsch can be hard to locate but can often be found in pastry supply stores.
Almost any dry white wine can be used in this recipe, but for my personal taste only sauvignon blanc will do.