Originally a melted cheese dish, the concept evolved to cooking beef, chicken, chocolate or seafood in the fondue pot. February is National Fondue Month, so why not plan a fondue feast?
THE HISTORY OF FONDUE
The melted cheese dish originated in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The word fondue itself is the past participle of the French fondre, to melt down.
The fondue is served from a communal pot called a caquelon, using long forks to spear cubes of bread that are swirled in the melted cheese. The tradition dates to the 18th century; some say it was developed as a way to use slightly stale bread.
Each Swiss canton has its own variation on the recipe, which generally consists of at least two varieties of cheese, wine and a bit of flour or cornstarch to keep the melted cheese from separating.
Raclette is a related dish, made from a Swiss cheese that is similar to Gruyère. But instead of melting it in a communal pot, the wheel of cheese is brought to the table on a cart, exposed to heat and and scraped onto a plate as it melts (racler is French for “to scrape”). It is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, cornichons and dark bread.
Classic cheese fondue. Photo courtesy Artisanal Restaurant | NYC.
Fonduta is an Italian dish similar to fondue, made with Fontina cheese, milk and egg yolks. Elegant versions top it with shaved white truffle.
Kaas Doop is a fondue-style Dutch dish made with Gouda cheese, milk and brandy, with nutmeg seasoning, that uses brown bread for dipping.
Although it adds to the aesthetic, you don’t need a fondue pot (caquelon) to melt cheese or chocolate or to heat cooking oil. A heavy-bottomed saucepan or ideally, a double boiler, works fine.
But then, to keep the fondue heated after it has been served, you’ll need a hot plate for the table. If you don’t have one, you probably know someone who has one stashed away and will lend it.
To help you decide where to begin: We recommend starting with a classic cheese fondue. Here’s the basic cheese fondue recipe plus 28 variations, from blue cheese and goat cheese variations to Nacho and Philly Cheesesteak fondue. Or consider:
Reduced Fat Cheddar Fondue Recipe
Cheddar Chive Fondue With Tortilla Chips Recipe
How To Melt Cheese Tips
For Valentine’s Day, how about chocolate fondue—your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate? Here’s an even richer Chocolate Fondue with Mascarpone recipe.
You can also spice things up with these Spicy Chocolate Fondue recipe variations.
Chocolate fondue. Photo courtesy Sugardaddy’s.
RECIPE: SEAFOOD FONDUE
This recipe was adapted from GourmetSleuth.com.
Ingredients For 4 People
1 pound* salmon, halibut or other thick-fleshed fish filets
1 pound raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed and dried
Canola or peanut oil
Optional vegetables: bell pepper strips, pearl onions
Dipping sauces (see below)
*Plan for at least 1/3 pound fish/seafood per person.
1. CUT fish into one-inch cubes or 1/4″ w x 2″ long strips, depending on shape of filets. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
2. SET the table with plates, fondue forks and dips. You can provide individual dip portions, or have guests spoon dips onto their plates. (NOTE: Use only metal fondue forks or bamboo skewers, as wooden skewers can burn in hot oil.)
3. FILL the fondue pot with oil and heat on the stove until it reaches 350°F. Place the fondue pot on a brazier stand or hot plate on the table, over moderately high heat. Note that for beef or seafood fondue, you must use a stainless steel pot. Ceramic pots aren’t safe with the hot oil.
4. SPEAR cubes or shrimps and place in the hot oil until cooked.
SEAFOOD FONDUE DIPS
RECIPE: SPICY COCKTAIL SAUCE
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
Dash hot pepper sauce
1. COMBINE ingredients and store refrigerated until use.
RECIPE: TARTAR SAUCE
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions (green part only)
2 tablespoons drained sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon drained small capers (chop if large)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon (or substitute 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles)
1. BLEND all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt.
RECIPE: DILL SAUCE
2/3 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups crème fraîche or whipping cream
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1. COMBINE clam juice and wine in a heavy small non-aluminum saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.
2. WHISK in crème fraîche. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in dill. Season with salt and pepper.