13 December 2007

Cooking: Fondue Style

Yes, that is the name of the cookbook that I inherited from my grandmother along with her bright orange fondue set. The book is copyrighted 1964, so I think it is safe to say it's a bit of a cooking relic. I've had the fondue set for over a year and have always wanted to have a fondue party but never quite got around to it. Then one day a few weeks ago I decided to just do it and send out the invitation over email. Only afterwards did I realize that I had never had fondue before so didn't know if I would even like it, much less be able to make it.
After looking at many recipes, both in the cookbook and online, I decided to go with Alton Brown's. For my first attempt at fondue cooking I thought Alton's recipe would be a safe bet- also, it called for emmenthal and smoked gouda in a base of hard cider. Since I am not a fan of swiss cheese, I thought this would be more to my liking than using the traditional mixture emmenthal and swiss. The recipe called for 10 oz. of cheese total and as this was going to feed 5, I didn't think it sounded really ridiculous, healthwise. I tried to make our dipping choices a bit healthier too with broccoli, mushroom, carrot and grilled chicken along with the requisite bread.

Fondue, it turns out, is really quite easy to make- you just grate the cheese, toss it with some cornstarch and slowly add it to the sauce base (wine, beer, cider, stock) on the stove, before moving it to the fondue burner on the table.* There, your guests will be impressed both by the fire on the table and your cooking skills and they dip and swirl away. Unfortunately, while the emmenthal melted quickly, the smoked gouda was being rather stubborn and refused to melt, no matter how long I stirred it. We ended up with a delicious tasting, if slightly bumpy fondue. I think it may have been my particular brand of smoked gounda (the full fat variety from Trader Joe's) that didn't melt, as this particular recipe seems to have had good success judging from the comments on the food network website.

I followed Alton's recipe to the letter on this one, so I will give you the link here. If you try it out, do let me know how it turns out.


*I did have a bit of a problem with the fire part that I should warn you about. My fondue set has a small alcohol burner that fits perfectly into the fondue stand. I just assumed that I would be able to pick up the fuel alcohol at CVS or at the camping goods store down the street. It turns out that even the term 'fuel alcohol' is archaic and caused Zach some unwelcome stares when he asked for it. Now it's called denatured alcohol and apparently isn't widely available, at least where I live. I had to improvise, creating a little platform out of a cut up cereal box wrapped with tin foil on which I perched as many tealights as I could fit. So- the moral of this tale is- don't wait to purchase the fuel for your fondue burner until an hour before dinner begins.

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