If the thought of holiday entertaining exacerbates you, think about serving up fondue. The traditionally cheese and wine concoction is easy to make and puts less stress on the host. “It’s been very popular for the holidays,” says David Cahn, FoodE expert at Lunds Wayzata. “It’s an easy thing to prepare right before people arrive, and it can sit at a low temperature so you don’t have to rush around.”
Fondue is the national dish of Switzerland and was served up at the 1964 World’s Fair. It became popular in the United States in the 1960s as a communal way to enjoy a meal. While experts still debate the exact origins of fondue, it’s widely believed the dish was an appealing way for people to eat hard bread and melted old cheese during the winter months. Now, it’s mainly a food for entertaining. “Fondue tends to make a really festive party,” Cahn says. “It’s a fun party food because you can put a fondue pot in the center of a table, and everybody sits there, eats and enjoys a leisurely meal for a few hours.” Cahn says fondue can be served up to large groups, but it’s also perfect for an intimate party.
Besides serving up fondue as a main course, chocolate fondue makes a quick-and-easy dessert. “It’s so simple,” says Pat Godfrey, owner of Painted Turtle Chocolatier in Plymouth. “Have it ready ahead of time, and let your guests serve themselves.” After you make fondue, make sure you dish it up in a serving dish that has a constant source of heat. “The most important thing is that you have a source of heat to maintain your chocolate,” says Godfrey. “They can be electric or fondue pots that are ceramic that have a burner underneath.
Whether you are serving cheese or chocolate fondue, it’s important that the main ingredient is of good quality. “A high-quality chocolate has more cocoa solids because you want more chocolate intensity and less sugar,” says Godfrey, who suggests surveying your guests ahead of time to know which type of chocolate they prefer. When making cheese fondue, an imported cheese works best. “The better quality the cheese, the better your fondue is going to taste,” says Cahn.
Tips for festive fondue:
-Cut and prepare dunkers ahead of time.
-Shred all cheese or chocolate. Less surface area makes the ingredient easier to melt.
-Melt cheese or chocolate completely before adding the next batch.
-Provide plenty of wooden skewers to prevent double dipping, or encourage guests to remove dipped items onto plate before eating them with a fork.
-Use a quality cheese or chocolate for the best taste.
-Four people per fondue pot is an ideal ratio; plan accordingly.
-Electric pots filled with water and then a glass bowl resting in the fondue pot yields best results – similar to a double boiler effect. Not only keeps the cheese and chocolate from scorching the bottom of the fondue pot, it also allows you to transition through courses with ease—no stopping to have to scrub the fondue pot while your guests wait.
-Should go without saying, but no eating off of the fondue forks—this spreads bacteria from the raw meat, can burn your mouth and puts your germs into the pot.
When we fondue, we do it “Melting Pot-style,” meaning we serve the following courses:
- Swiss cheese course: Served with tart green apple slices, bread cubes, tortilla chips.
- Salad course: Mix things up by eliminating the fondue pot for a moment (a great chance for a quick rinse of the dish, too), and serve mixed greens with feta, candied walnuts, fresh raspberries and a raspberry vinaigrette.
- Meat course: Serve trays of chicken, filet mignon, shrimp and scallops—or any other type of meat you desire. The first three meat simmer in pots of broth, wine, herbs, green onions and sliced red potatoes; the scallops get cooked in peanut oil (it has a high heat tolerance). Place platters of different sauces—steak sauces, teriyaki sauces, dressings, cocktail sauce, etc., around the table.
- Chocolate course: Consider either s’mores fondue or a chocolate Toblerone fondue, but you can do flaming turtle (lit on fire with rum), chocolate peanut butter, yin yang (white and dark chocolate), etc. Serve with platters of bananas, marshmallows, strawberries, brownie bites, pound cake and graham crackers.
- French, sourdough or hard roll chunks
- Cooked small red potatoes, skin on
- Fresh vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, pepper slices
- Ham cubes
- Cocktail sausages, fully cooked.
- Pepper spears
- Large marshmallows
- Pound cake or angel food cake
- Fresh fruit like strawberries, orange segments or pineapple chunks
- Vanilla wafers or small cookies
- Small pretzels
- Graham crackers
- Potato chips (those with ridges hold chocolate best)
Makes about 4 cups
2/3 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
1/3 lb. Swiss cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis)
1 cup milk (2 percent or whole)
A drop Tabasco
A dash ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. cherry-flavored brandy (Kirsch)
1 clove garlic, halved
In a large bowl, combine grated cheese with cornstarch. In medium saucepan, heat wine over low heat until almost boiling. Alternately stir in small amounts of cheese with milk, stirring constantly. Make sure each addition of cheese is melted before adding the next batch. Stir in Tabasco, pepper and brandy.
Rub fondue pot with garlic. Transfer cheese mixture to fondue pot, regulating to keep hot.
Recipe courtesy of Lunds and Byerlys.
Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue
½ lb. Swiss Emmentaler, grated
1/3 lb. Swiss Gruyere, grated
1 clove garlic
1 1/3 cups dry white wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. flour
Pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste
Rub inside of fondue pot with cut garlic clove. In a plastic bag, combine cheeses, and sprinkle with flour. Pour wine into a separate? pot, and heat on medium until warm, not boiling. Add lemon juice. Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Add pepper and nutmeg to taste. Let boil once. Remove pot and put on a lighted burner on table. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly.
Recipe courtesy Lunds and Byerlys and the Swiss Cheese Marketing Board
Chocolate Grand Marnier Fondue
1 12 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat cream until very hot. Add the chocolate, and let stand until softened, about three minutes. Add the Grand Marnier, and whisk until smooth. Transfer to fondue pot, and keep warm.
Recipe courtesy of Lunds and Byerlys
Easy Chocolate Fondue
Makes about 2 cups
¾ cup of light or heavy cream
12 oz. of your high-quality chocolate of choice, chopped
Optional additions: Chambord raspberry liqueur, Kahlua coffee liqueur or rum; caramel; or creamy peanut butter
In the microwave, melt the chocolate for about 20 seconds. Stir with a microwave-safe spatula. Watch carefully because chocolate burns easily in the microwave. In a microwave safe dish, warm the cream to about the same temperature as the chocolate. Slowly add the cream to the chocolate, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in additional warm cream if needed. Whisk in 3 Tbsp. of one of the optional ingredients if desired. Transfer to a fondue pot and keep warm.
Recipe courtesy of Painted Turtle Chocolatier
Fun Fondue Themes
Customize your recipes following any one of these exciting events or cuisine inspirations:
- Super Bowl
- Mad Men
- Oscar Party