When I moved to Texas, one of my apartment warming presents was a fondue set from my mom. Up till now, I’ve only done chocolate fondue because in my mind, cheese fondue would insanely complicated, with tons of ingredients, and the perfect cheeses and whatnot and whatnot. But the other day I saw a cooking show interview a guy whose restaurant is famous for its fondue. Though he didn’t reveal any secrets, from what he did say, I gathered that it wouldn’t be too hard to do. There is a lot of simultaneous action happening, though. But don’t worry, it’s manageable.
No matter which is your fondue containment field, it’s going to have to be warm before the fondue goes in, otherwise it’ll reharden and be less fun to eat. So I’d recommend getting that started right away. Mine is a really simple one; all I had to do was light a candle underneath.
I also put in a little water (abut 1/8 tsp) to prep the sides to stop the cheese from sticking, then I put the lid on. Next comes the preparation of the cheese and whatever you plan on dipping. I recommend bread and apples. But steer away from your plain old white or wheat and honey. This is fondue! Be creative! I used poppy seed and hazelnut bread and fuji apples. Fruit and cheese work really well, and apples are sturdy enough to withstand the heat and hold the cheese.
As for the cheese, shredding it takes for ever, but lets it melt faster, while cubing it is the happy medium. I did both, just to show you. I also wanted to show you the two types of cheese I used–Emmenthaler and Gruyere. Emmenthaler has a lighter, almost sweeter taste, and it’s what I wanted for the dominant flavor. Therefore I put more of it in.
Next you need to set up a double boiler system so that you avoid burning the cheese when it comes time to add it. This kind of thing is also good for melting chocolate. If you don’t have a double boiler (I don’t), then you can easily rig one up with two equally sized pans and one or two dishcloths. The cloths need to be wet so as to avoid getting overheated, and also make extra sure that they’re not near the bottom of the pan–near the heat source. Kitchen fires are a terrible thing.
Keep them separate for now because in one pan you’ll be reducing some white wine (I used Barefoot Chardonnay) and in the other you’ll be boiling some water for when the wine is reduced. That way it’ll be hot and you can add the cheese right away instead of waiting for it. I used about a 3.5 to 4 cups of water and a cup of wine for about a pound of cheese. Reducing is, unfortunately, a process you can’t speed up. It’s best to add the wine with the head at about medium high and wait, every once in a while swishing the wine around. If you leave it on high, like I did the first time, it’ll burn and you’ll have to throw it away. You’ll want to wait until there’s very little left in the pan before you put it on the boiling water; there should be such a small amount that it doesn’t even reach the sides of the pan. Once you get there, you can transfer to the double boiler and start adding cheese.
Like with French fries, you want some test cheese. At first only throw in a little bit, to make sure that the heat is good–not too hot and not too cold. It should take about a minute for it to melt, maybe less. But it shouldn’t be bubbling either. Once you’re sure it’s good, you can throw it all in.
I kind of like adding the cheese little by little, because it looks nicer as I’m doing it, but it takes longer and doesn’t affect the flavor, so feel free to dump it all in. Make sure to stir as you do all this, because you don’t want it to burn, plus it’ll help the cheese melt. By the time it’s done it should be fairly easy to manipulate, not too thick, but still stretchy. Also, before you add too much cheese, you can add some nutmeg to add a nice extra flavor. Don’t add too much though–you can always add more but most of the time you can’t take it out.
When it’s the consistency you like, it’s time to put it in the fondue containment field. You’re going to want to pour it all in in one go, keeping the cheese whole. It avoids a lot of mess by doing it this way. Now it’s time to eat!
Sometimes it’s a little hard to get it to stick to your apple/bread/whatever, and for that i recommend a dip-and-twist technique. You’ll find that with that, you’ll be able to get some on, but you might now be able to break it off where you want. Fondue can be super stretchy, which is part of what makes it fun. Last night, more than once was I able to stretch it out at arms length and still it didn’t break on its own. This is really good for friends or for couples. It’s a very social food–you’ll be surprised at how many people start to squeal when their cheese breaks too soon and how many battles happen as others try to steal somebodies stretchiness. You may not get full, but you’ll have a good time.