Fondue is a consummately convivial dish in any season. I’ve had fondues in summer, crowded around a communal table at Le Refuge des Fondues, that long-lived Montmartre institution famous for serving barely-drinkable wine in baby bottles. Yes, baby bottles. And I’ve had plenty of fondues in winter. Fondues marked many a special occasion in my family, with mid-December and early January birthdays expanding the holiday calendar on both ends. (Maybe this is why I can’t help but associate fondues with cold and snowy winter evenings.)
For my family, there was and remains only one way to make a fondue: equal parts Emmenthal and Gruyère cheese, white wine, and a hearty dose of Kirsch. Even today, this “classic” Swiss fondue remains one of my favourites. But I remember a late spring evening some decades ago in Zermatt, the picturesque town in the shadow of the Matterhorn, an evening that awakened me to the possibilities of this rustic dish. For starters, the restaurant listed not one but several fondues. This, in itself, was a revelation. I settled on the herb fondue, a classic Swiss fondue with so much basil that the fondue was more brilliant green than its typical yellow-cream colour.
Since that evening, I have concocted dozens of variations on the traditional fondue for what has become an annual winter dining tradition chez moi. To keep things interesting, I began experimenting with different combinations of cheeses and ingredients. I might, on occasion, add morels and roasted garlic, or sundried tomato and oregano, or even finely diced pancetta. It was just a matter of time before it occurred to me that I could melt the cheese in a liquid other than white wine.
Following are three fondue recipes straight from the Tempest cookbook, fondues that’ll warm the guests around your dinner table and keep the conversation lively well into the wee hours. The first features hard apple cider as its base, while the second is a richer affair bolstered by Doppelbock. The final recipe may be the only fondue recipe you’ll ever need.
For all of these recipes, you’ll need some way to keep the pot of bubbling liquid and cheese warm at the table. You’ll also need long forks. A fondue set works best, but you can always rig something up. All recipes serve four to six people, depending on how much bread and other accompanying food you’ve prepared.
Gorgonzola Apple Cider Fondue
- .3 lb. Gorgonzola dolce, cubed (use Cambozola if you can’t find a less assertive gorgonzola; it’s good to have a mix of creamy and pungent cheeses)
- .4 lb. Gorgonzola piccante, cubed
- .5 lb. Gruyère, grated
- 1 cup hard apple cider, off-dry
- 1 clove garlic
- 2-3 tbsp. Poire Williams
- 2 tbsp. flour
- For dipping: broccoli florets, cauliflower florets (parboiled); brown mushrooms (whole); fennel (sliced); 1 loaf sourdough bread or country bread (cubed)
Prep the vegetables. Parboil the broccoli and cauliflower, and leave the fennel and mushrooms raw. Cube the bread.
Cube the Gorgonzola and grate the Gruyère. Cut the garlic clove in half, and rub the inside of the fondue pot. Mince the remainder.
Heat the cider and minced garlic over medium heat till liquid begins to bubble, turn the heat down, and begin adding the cheeses slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon: Gruyère first, then the Gorgonzola. When it is all melted, dissolve flour in the Poire Williams and stir in. Check the seasoning, and add pinches of sea salt if need be.
Serve with apple cider, an American pale ale, a crisp northern German Pilsener, or a dry/off-dry Riesling.
Aged Gouda and Doppelbock Fondue
- .7 lb. aged Gouda, grated
- .3 lb. Gruyère, grated
- .2 lb. Emmenthal, grated
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 cup Doppelbock
- ¼ cup Amontillado Sherry
- ½ shallot, diced finely
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. sherry (Amontillado or Oloroso)
- 2 tbsp. grainy German mustard
- cayenne (pinch)
- nutmeg (pinch)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 loaf sourdough bread, rye bread, or country bread (cubed)
Cube the bread and grate the cheese. Mix the flour into the grated cheese. Heat the beer and sherry till it bubbles. In a separate pan, melt the butter and sauté the shallots. Add the shallots to the bubbling liquid, then slowly incorporate the cheeses. Add the pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Once melted, finish with the sherry-mustard mix. (If fondue doesn’t appear thick enough, dissolve more flour in the sherry-mustard mix). Check seasoning, and add sea salt if needed.
Fondues aren’t for those watching their waistlines, and this one’s at the far end of the richness scale. I find that Doppelbocks aren’t the best accompaniment – too much of a good thing. Try a Hefeweizen, or a lighter Weizenbock like Weihenstephan’s Vitus. A glass of Amontillado complements this dish wonderfully.
Swiss Fondue (Family Recipe)
- .5 lb. Emmenthal, grated
- .5 lb. Gruyère, grated
- 1 cup dry and fruity white wine
- 1-2 tbsp. flour
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
- 2 tbsp. Kirsch
- freshly ground nutmeg (pinch)
- freshly ground black pepper`
- 1 loaf french bread, cubed
Cube bread. Grate cheese, and mix with flour. Rub fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat till it simmers. Reduce heat. Slowly stir in the grated cheese.
Once the cheese has incorporated into the wine, add the kirsch. (If the fondue appears runny, dissolve a bit of flour into the kirsch beforehand). Stir in freshly-ground black pepper and nutmeg, then transfer to fondue burner. Et voilà.
Beverage choices for this kind of fondue are fairly wide open. White wine from Swiss, German, Austrian, or eastern French regions are typical accompaniments, but you could also opt for a red wine like a Beaujolais, even a lighter Pinot Noir. As for beer, try an aromatic and lower-IBU American IPA, or a southern German Pilsener.
Related Tempest Articles
Zermatt Image Source: Wikipedia
Fondue Pot: F.D. Hofer
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