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Cheese Fondue

Tips & Techniques: How to Make Great Cheese Fondue


Making Fondue

If you think of fondue as a long-finished fad from the seventies, think again. Sure it can have a bit of retro kitch but it's also just plain tasty and it's a really fun way to enjoy an interactive meal with friends. There are also many different types of fondue you can enjoy, such as fondue chinoise or the Japanese 'shabu shabu' with meat and veggies. That being said, cheese fondue is near and dear to us so we're going to tell you how to make a GREAT version of the classic cheese fondue.

Picking a Fondue Pot

I'm going to admit it, sometimes we're lazy. Therefore, we're a big fan of electric fondue pots over the ones you use with Sterno, since you have to remember to stock Sterno at the house and it's not quite as easy to regulate temperature or stop/start. There's also a lot of debate about material - ceramic/enamel varieties heat a bit more gently, but we have also used metal-based types and think they work just fine.

Don't have a fondue pot at home? These are both great picks:

Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker
The 3-quart stainless-steel bowl is lined with nonstick coating for keeping heated foods from sticking, and the stand, bowl, ring, and temperature probe all assemble and disassemble easily.

Buy at Amazon.com

Swissmar Aspenglow Electric Fondue Set
Top of the line, 11-piece electric fondue set with variable temperature control. Cast-iron 5-cup pot offers an enamel coating and soft silicone handle.

Buy at Amazon.com

How to Make Great Cheese Fondue

We love cheese, and therefore we LOVE cheese fondue. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Although it's partially just out of a pure love of cheese, Mike also spent part of his childhood in Switzerland, where cheese fondue is basically a national treasure. The three keys to making cheese fondue are:

1) Choose Your Cheese Wisely
Not all cheeses will fondue well - because not all cheeses melt the same way. Havarti is lovely but it's so soft and gooey out of the fridge, you melt that baby and it becomes a mess. Gruyere, which we think of as 'true' Swiss cheese, is perfect for fondue. It has an amazing texture when melted and a subtle, nutty flavor. You can even use cave-aged gruyere which is more mature and therefore has a richer, more complex flavor.

2) Maximize Your Fondue Flavor
Start layering your flavor by prepping the fondue pot with a bit of smashed garlic rubbed around the inside surface. Then add a generous cup of dry white wine and start gently heating. When the fondue is nearly ready, you'll finish it with a dash of kirsch (cherry brandy), lemon juice, nutmeg, and a hit of fresh black pepper, but save that for the end. All these things will add those subtle flavors that take your fondue to the next level.

3) The Correct Melting Technique
There's really one big technique tip: slow heating, slow heating, slow heating. You never want a rapid boil - it'll make the cheese stringy and you could end up with it burning, which doesn't taste good. You'll want to watch the temperature like a hawk so it stays just at the start of a boil, where the occasional little bubble breaks through. Do this, and you'll get that perfect gooey, creamy, rich texture.

Our Favorite Cheese Fondue Recipe

1 lb cave-aged Gruyere, grated
1 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic
1/2 lemon
2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp kirsch (cherry brandy)
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste

1.) Peel and smash garlic, then rub it around the inside of the fondue pot. Add wine, leaving garlic clove to infuse flavor into liquid, and heat over medium until it just starts to bubble. Leave for 2 mn then remove garlic.

2.) Sprinkle corn starch over cheese and mix with your hands to distribute evenly throughout. Add cheese to pot handful by handful, stirring each batch into the liquid until fully melted before adding the next batch.

3.) When all cheese is melted into mixture, add kirsch, nutmeg, juice from the lemon and salt/pepper to taste.

4.) Serve with cubes of crunchy bread and anything else that seems like it would be fun to dip into melty cheese! We like french-fried potatoes, as well as cornichons and pearl onions on the side.

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