Friday, December 18, 2009
Christmas Eve, New Year's Day, a Swiss Chalet? Perfect Cheese Fondue
Our family enjoyed a cheese fondue every Christmas eve when I was growing up. Each year, as we stood around the fondue pot, we would comment on how “that was the best one yet”. Except for the one year when my father decided to follow a recipe that called for putting flour in it. We did NOT like that one! So when I was recently asked how to make it – that was the first thing I told them… don’t toss the cheese with flour. ALL the recipes tell you to do it and you shouldn’t, it makes the fondue grainy…and it doesn’t soak into the bread like it should…I like mine to be a homogeneous creamy gooey cheesy pot of yum.
So here are the basics of making an excellent cheese fondue, the proper way (or at least the LindySez way).
Use good cheese, I use half Emmental Swiss and gruyere, grate them up and toss them with some salt and fair amount of pepper. Let them sit out at room temp so they melt better . Cut your bread (good french bread, but not sourdough) into bite sized pieces making sure to have crust on each piece. Let those sit out for a while too so they aren’t too soft.
To each pound of cheese that you use, you are going to use 1 3/4 cups of a dry white wine, such as a Fume Blanc, a California Sauv Blanc (don’t use a New Zealand one as most are too grassy) or a Pouilly-Fume. When you are ready to make the fondue, rub the pot with a clove of garlic (we like garlic, so we leave the clove in, but you don’t need to); then place over a medium heat and add the wine. When the wine comes to a simmer, start slowly adding the cheese, sprinkling in a handful at a time, allowing each addition to melt (my dad said you always have to stir in the same direction, in a figure 8 motion, don't stir in a circle or the cheese will just turn into a big glop in the middle of a pot of wine, figure 8 is key); keep adding until you have a nice thick sauce, then add a splash of Kirsch and a pinch of nutmeg. Put over a burner to keep it bubbling, and stir often when you dip your bread.
A pound of cheese is enough for 4 people; or more if you are serving other things. And the amounts are guesstimates. I almost always grate too much cheese, so only add as much as you need to get the right consistency ; when you dip a piece of bread into the fondue, you want a nice coating of cheese and for the bread to absorb the wine. That’s what it’s all about, cheese, wine and bread. So use the best you can of each ingredient. And any left over cheese makes for a mighty good ham and cheese omelet.