Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Classic Cheese Fondue

Yesterday a LiveJournal friend asked for ideas about what to do with apples. I suggested cheese fondue, because when Jade and I were in NY not too long ago we went to Artisinal and got cheese fondue, and our server recommended apples for dipping. We were both rather skeptical (maybe because our last experience with dipping fruit with cheese was on our Oregon trip when Amdoch was dipping fruit and cookies on a dare into the pot of Velveeta Rotel that Krim had made), but we were pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was.

So I've been thinking about delicious, gooey cheese fondue, and how easy it is to make. Artisinal is known for its fondue, but what we had tasted exactly like what I myself have made a number of times from a recipe I got at the NY Times. If you have the desire for fondue, make it! You don't even need a fondue pot as long as you have a container that retains heat well, such as a cast-iron skillet. You can get one for like $10-20 new (depending on size), or perhaps even better, find one at a yard sale, sold by someone who doesn't appreciate the years of food memories that have gone into seasoning the skillet. And once you have it, it's good for sooooo much more (traditional Southern cornbread, for instance!).

Many people might say that you can't really have cheese fondue if you don't have a fondue pot, because one of the keys to fondue is keeping the cheese hot and runny to make dipping easy. But you don't need a fondue pot as long as the cheese has a constant heat source -- which you can get from a cast-iron skillet or a small Dutch oven. Since those retain heat very well (and distributes it evenly), the cheese will likely be gobbled up before the heat wears off and the cheese starts to congeal. And even if that happens, it's an easy matter to put the skillet/oven back on the stove, stirring until the cheese is back to a liquid consistency.

Another note is that you want the wine you use to be good. Not good as in expensive, but good as in good. I'm no wine connoisseur, but even I was able to taste the difference when using 'bad' wine in this recipe. Good wine for drinking and good wine for cooking are different things -- so you don't need to get an expensive bottle of wine. I recommend Charles Shaw, which you can get at Trader Joe's. It is a run off of Napa Valley so it is still good, but it is very inexpensive. Depending on where you live, it may cost up to $4/bottle. It's $2.99/bottle where I live, and in California it's $1.99/bottle. And you won't even use the whole bottle in this recipe, so really, it's perfect imo.

Originally posted at The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 small garlic clove, halved

  • 1 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)

  • 3/4 pound Gruy√®re cheese, grated

  • 3/4 pound Emmenthaler, raclette or Appenzeller cheese, grated

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons kirsch (optional)

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (optional)

  • Crusty bread cubes; steamed broccoli or cauliflower; carrot, celery or fennel sticks; cubed apple; seedless grapes; clementine sections; cubed salami, soppressata or kielbasa; roasted chestnuts and/or dried apricots, for serving.
Method

1. Rub cut side of garlic on inside of large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, preferably cast iron, rubbing the bottom and halfway up the sides. Add wine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss cheeses with cornstarch. Add a handful at a time to simmering wine, stirring until first handful melts before adding next. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until cheese is completely melted. Add kirsch, if using, and heat until bubbling, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, if desired. Serve with crusty bread and other accompaniments.

Yield: 6 main course servings or 10 appetizer servings.

If you don't have kirsch, don't worry about it. I personally don't think it adds that much, just a hint of sweetness. Also I love garlic, so after step #1 I sometimes will mince the halves and throw them into the melted cheese for extra garlicky flavor.

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