08 March 2009
One of my absolute favorite meals is cheese fondu, more particularly fondu savoyarde. Cheese fondu is one of the national foods of Switzerland but found also in Savoie and Franche-Comté (oh, and everywhere else of course, but those regions claim it for their own patrimoine).
According to Wikipedia (yes, I'm citing Wikipedia; the scholar in me doesn't want to, but hard to avoid these days), a dish of melted cheese, the ancestor of fondu if you will, even appears in Homer's Iliad. Though I have to say I don't quite remember that part amidst all the spears launched, arrows shot, people dragged around city walls and the like.
I used to have cheese fondu every year on my birthday, and I still try to have at least one fondu party in the year. For a while I was using a small, light, cherry red fondu pot that I got for $5 (stand and forks included, though some were missing) at a yard sale when I was in high school. I have many fond memories of that pot, notably lighting a bunch of candles under it during a winter blackout in college to boil water for tea, with all my housemates crammed into my smallest-room-in-the-house for body heat. Still, it's seen better days and when I moved this past spring and got a induction heat stove, for which the pot was not compatible, I decided it was a good excuse to get a new one. With a choice between black and red, it was an easy decision!
Traditionally fondu savoyarde is made with a combination of emmenthal, comté and beaufort cheeses. Beaufort is a rather strong cheese so I put less of it than the other two, but if you like your fondu stinky (and I admit that has a certain appeal), you could put equal amounts of each.
For 4 (hungry) people
1 garlic clove
3/4-1 bottle dry white wine
375g (13.2oz) emmenthal
375g (13.2oz) comté (or gruyère if you can't find comté)
150g (5.2oz) Beaufort
2 Tbsp flour or cornstarch
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (traditionally kirsch, but I'm a big fan of Grand Marnier and I think it works well)
French bread, cut into cubes
cubes of apples, slices of mushrooms and anything else you'd like to dip in
Take the rinds off the cheese and cut into slices.
Cut the garlic clove in half and rub the inside of the fondu pot with the cut sides. Pour the wine into the pot and bring to a boil. Add the cheese and stir constantly until the cheese is melted. Add a pinch of pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, to taste.
Whisk the flour or cornstarch into the Grand Marnier and add the mixture to the fondu. Stir another 5 minutes, until you obtain a smooth consistency. Bring the fondu pot to the table and keep warm over a flame while you enjoy!
Tip: Encourage your guests to stir the fondu all the way to the bottom as they dip to keep the cheese from congealing or sticking.
Tip 2: By all means, serve an aperitif and wine or beer with the meal, but don't forget you're drinking a whole bottle in the dish. You might get drunker than you think! (Er, speaking from experience? I have no idea what you mean...)