When I was younger (as in, like, 5 years ago) I thought fondue was this strange, slightly embarrassing thing people did in the 70s. Like disco. And colorful polyester suits.
I imagined it involved using retro equipment that looked like this:
And people who looked like this:
Or maybe this:
(By the way, I totally got sidetracked searching for funky 70’s pictures. Like – hours. I’m back now.)
I don’t know why I had this impression of fondue. Maybe something I saw on TV? I have no idea. But I definitely thought of it as some quaint, odd thing that was done in the hazy 70s and that normal people didn’t do anymore.
And then I went to The Melting Pot with my husband. The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant (in case you hadn’t figured that out) and I discovered that – hey! – fondue is good! In fact, it’s more than good, it’s fabulous! And fun! Even without polyester and a disco ball.
For those of you who have no idea what fondue is, it’s basically dipping things in stuff. And then eating it. Bread and veggies into melted cheese, meats and seafood into hot broth or oil (to cook it), fruits and cakes into melted chocolate. You get the idea. There are endless varieties of what you can do with it. The Melting Pot has a whole menu full of choices.
The Melting Pot has a lot going for it. It has great atmosphere, and gives you four whole courses of dinner. But it’s also really expensive. On our second visit there, somewhere in the middle of the cheese course, the thought came to me, “How hard can it be to make this? I’m sure I could do this at home.”
And I was right, of course. After all, it’s melted cheese and stuff in a pot. Totally easy. You do need something to do the fondue IN, however. If you have a small personal sized crock pot, that might work. I went out and bought a fondue pot. It was about $30.
Let me tell you, we love this thing. We don’t do fondue that often – maybe a couple times a year – but whenever we do we love it. The kids think it’s great, and it’s fun to do with company. You’re really only limited by your imagination, and there are lots of fondue recipes online. What I’m sharing here is my basic fondue recipe. Sometimes I’ll add in a little something else, switch out the cheese, or use different alcohol. Some people really like a cheddar and beer based fondue. But I usually just go back to this as my favorite, since I love flavor of the white wine and swiss/Gruyère together. So stinkin’ good.
The first thing you do is rub the inside of your pot with a garlic clove. The directions I’ve always read say to throw the garlic away at this point, but I always just toss it in the pot. I mean, it’s garlic. How can that be wrong? I also grease the inside of my fondue pot with olive oil or refined coconut oil before starting to help keep the cheese from sticking too much.
Then shred your cheese. It’s half a pound of Gruyère and half a pound of swiss. I’ve also used fontina and that’s good too.
Put the cheese in a bowl and toss it together with 2 Tbsp of flour. I wasn’t sure how well whole grain flour would work in this and I had some white spelt, so I used that. It’s only 2 Tbsp, so you’re getting a very minimal amount of it, but if you’re concerned about it or if you’re gluten free you can substitute 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder instead and that will work.
Pour some dry white wine in the fondue pot and turn on the heat. Heat it until it’s hot, and then squeeze in the juice from half a lemon.
Start putting in the cheese by small handfuls, stirring until melted after each addition. The heat should be high enough to melt the cheese, but it should not be boiling. If the cheese doesn’t melt down well and stays clumpy or stringy, then the heat’s too low, if it’s boiling it’s too hot.
Keep going until all the cheese is incorporated. By the time it’s all in, if the heat was high enough and you were incorporating the cheese slowly enough, the wine should have been heated enough for the alcohol to have basically cooked out. This is why I feel safe serving this to my children, and why I think it’s safe even on an anti-inflammation diet. However, if you’re concerned about the alcohol, you can substitute apple or grape juice instead. The flavor will be different, but it will work. (If you use juice instead of wine, however, the lemon juice can not be omitted, because fondue requires some sort of acidic liquid for it to work right.)
After all the cheese is melted in, I like to add in chopped chives. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s yummy!
Now, all this stirring and melting business keeps you pretty occupied, so you’ll either need to have prepared all your dipping choices before you start melting the cheese, or have someone else do it. Fondue is a group activity, though, so it’s good to have people helping you in the kitchen!
You can have any assortment of things you want. The thing we particularly like is apples (this is my favorite! It might sound strange but it’s SO GOOD.) A crusty bakery bread is our other favorite, though I only let myself have a few pieces these days since it usually isn’t 100% whole grain. And then an assortment of different veggies, cut into bite-sized pieces: carrots, cauliflower, broccoli. Basically whatever veggies you think would taste good dipped in cheese!
My husband is fine with the veggies being completely raw, but I prefer them to be blanched (very slightly cooked) so that they aren’t quite so hard. Especially the carrots. If you’re like me on that, then all you need to do is boil some water in your kettle, put your veggies in a large bowl, and then pour the boiling water on top. Let it sit for a few minutes and then pour off. If you’re doing carrots, they can stay in longer than other veggies, so you can do those first for a few minutes, and then add in the other veggies with the carrots for another few minutes. They will still be mostly raw, and taste raw, but be a little easier to chew!
We also like bites of sausage. Just make sure it’s good quality sausage that’s uncured and nitrate free, as well as sugar-free. Read your ingredient labels closely before buying any kind of sausage, because most of them will not be anything you can eat! I only found one brand at the grocery store that fit all those criteria. (I’m sure Whole Foods would have more, but I didn’t feel like going all the way out there.)
It’s really good, and is the ONLY one at my local grocery store that doesn’t have MSG, “natural flavoring” (which is the same thing as MSG), sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. There are several different varieties and they’re all delicious. Just cook them up and slice them, and add them to the rest of the dipping options.
Then dig in!
My niece was visiting us, and this was her last night with us so we celebrated her visit with a fondue party!
The skewers are not supposed to be used in this fashion, but if you have a kid like my son it’s hard to convince him of that. No matter how many times he’s told he’ll stab himself with it. I try, folks. I really do.
And then when you’re done, you can provide entertainment by dressing up your bunny like Peter Rabbit and making it do tricks for left-over vegetable bits.
This is what crazy Friday nights look like when you’re in your mid (*cough* late) thirties and married with two kids. But, somehow, I think it’s the bomb. I can’t imagine anything else really being better than this at this point of my life.
The next time you’re ready for an equally wild and crazy night in, give this a try. Rabbits (and disco ball) optional.
- 1 lb shredded cheese - Gruyère, swiss, fontina, or a combination of any of them
- 1 clove garlic
- 1½ cup dry white wine (or white grape or apple juice if you're nervous about the alcohol)
- ½ lemon, juiced (1 whole lemon if using juice instead of wine - you need the extra acid)
- 2 Tbsp white flour (spelt or wheat), or arrowroot powder
- pepper to taste
- chopped chives
- Items for dipping: crusty whole grain bread, tart apples, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, uncured nitrate-free sugar-free sausages, etc.
- Lightly grease your fondue pot with a little olive oil or refined coconut oil.
- Cut the end off the garlic clove, and rub the cut end all around the fondue pot.
- Shred the cheese, and toss it together in a bowl with the flour or arrowroot powder.
- Pour the wine in to the fondue pot and turn on the heat until the wine starts to simmer. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
- Put a small handful of the shredded cheese into the hot wine and stir until melted. If the mixture starts to boil, it's too hot so turn the heat down. If the cheese is staying clumpy or stringy and isn't melting well, turn the heat up a little.
- Continue adding handfuls of cheese and stirring until it's all incorporated.
- Stir in the pepper and chopped chives.
- Serve with various items for dipping - besides the things mentioned in the ingredients list, anything that you think would taste good dipped in cheese!
- If you prefer your veggies to be a little softer, put them in a large bowl and pour boiling water over top. Let it sit for a few minutes and then drain off the water. They will be a bit softer, but still taste raw. Carrots need to be left in the boiling water a little longer than the other veggies to soften up.