Originating in Switzerland, as a way to use up hardened ends of cheese and day old bread, cheese fondue is a classic peasant dish. For whatever reason it became wildly popular here throughout the 60’s and 70’s and was the star at many a cocktail fueled, lava lamp lit New Year’s Eve bash. As for wine – you can go white, red or sparkling as long as you have a bit of acidity and “oomph” to stand up to all that cheese and your beer can curled coiffure. Sauvignon Blanc is a classic choice , and you can use it in the fondue as well as drink it. Try Les Vignerons de Tutiac Quintet 2008 ($12). It’s a light-bodied, crisp wine with great acidity and the aroma and flavor of grapefruit. You could also try it with any of our Bernard Mante Champagnes (ON SALE till Friday 9AM ET – for delivery to Washington DC addresses in time for New Year’s Eve). The Champagne Bernard Mante Extra-Brut (Sale price $31.50) would be an excellent choice. The Extra Brut is a bit drier and less fruity and floral than the Brut, so it has extra elegance and even a bit of earthiness. Its slight acidity allows it to stand up to all kinds of food — a fabulous aperitif or accompaniment to a meal.
On to the recipe – Like anything else, you will find a variety of different ways to prepare the fondue, but I prefer the traditional method:
Traditional Cheese Fondue
½ lb grated Gruyere cheese (rind removed)
1/2 lb grated Emmentaler cheese (rind removed)
1 clove garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon kirsch (optional – but I like to use it. Kirsch is what gives the fondue its distinctive slightly boozy taste)
pepper and nutmeg to taste
1. Rub the inside of a medium saucepan with the peeled garlic clove. Throw away the garlic. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese with the cornstarch and toss. Stir the cheese mixture into the wine one small handful at a time. Make sure each handful is completely melted before adding another. The fondue can bubble a bit, but don’t let it boil. Season with the nutmeg and pepper. Stir in kirsch .
3. Transfer to a cheese fondue pot and keep warm with burner. Serve right away.
Note: Avoid mixing water into fondue. If the fondue is too thick, add more dry white wine. If it is too thin, more cornstarch and cheese. Keep the heat as low as possible so the cheese doesn’t become rubbery.
What to Dip
- Crusty cubes of French or Italian bread (leave a piece of crust on each cube)
- Rye or sourdough bread cubes
- Cooked ham (bite sized cubes)
- Cooked Sausage (garlic sausage is a great choice)
- Potatoes (boiled, baby potatoes work best)
- Broccoli florets (boil for two minutes)
- Cauliflower florets (boil for two minutes)
- Apple slices