Updated: May 11, 2021
Fondue...paired with a charcuterie board...YES PLEASE!
Your fondue can be as simple or elaborate as you'd like. And don't save fondue for only special occasions! You can't beat the communal fun, the artistry of the accompanying charcuterie board, and the flavor combinations, which are limited only by your imagination.
Here are quick tips and ideas to create a silky, flavor-rich cheese fondue experience!
The Fondue Pot - I have used several styles over the years, and my hands down favorite is this high quality ceramic coated cast iron fondue pot.
Everyone has different opinions on whether to make the fondue in the fondue pot or in a pan on the stove, then pouring it in the fondue pot. I have the best results making the fondue in a heavy bottomed 4 quart+ saucepan that conducts heat effectively and makes it less likely to burn the cheese. I then transfer the mixture to the fondue pot. However, if I'm not serving immediately, I have the ability to refrigerate the fondue in the original saucepan. I prefer this method, to make it a few hours beforehand to ensure it will turn out perfectly. Once it is time to be served, I easily reheat the sauce by placing the saucepan over simmering water, using a whisk, vigorously whisk until smooth, adding more wine if needed. Then, I pour the warmed fondue from the saucepan into the fondue pot. I learned this lesson when I had a dinner party, and one hour before the guests arrived, I was at my stove stirring what was supposed to be fondue, but instead was a huge stringy clump of cheese on the end of my spoon. From that experience I also learned, fondue must be stirred in a figure eight pattern, versus circular, to avoid that pound of stringy cheese at the end of my whisk. See #5 for more on this...
The Cheese - Use high quality cheese, that's a must. There are too many flavor combinations to summarize, but generally speaking, choices for classic fondue reflect cheeses from their respective regions. Traditional Swiss fondue is primarily made with Gruyere, French fondue primarily with Comte. Both cheeses are semi-firm cows milk cheeses with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor profiles that become more earthy with age. Other popular cheeses to use include Gouda, Emmentaler, fontina, cheddar, even mozzarella... Experiment with flavors you enjoy, traditional or not! Part of the beauty of making cheese fondue is it can lead you to further your knowledge of and explore the vast world of cheese. It certainly has for me! Many times, but not always, fondue will contain 2 or 3 cheeses. Try a beer cheese fondue with cheddar...
The Wine in the recipe - don't skimp and buy an inferior wine to save money. This doesn't mean the wine has to be expensive, but it should be a dry white wine you would enjoy by the glass. Makes sense, as you are spending money on one pound of very nice cheese, so don't lessen it with bad tasting wine. Hey, it's only 1 cup!
It is very important that all cheese be freshly grated (don't use pre-grated cheese, it has anti-caking agents in it) and tossed well with cornstarch. This prevents the cheese from clumping together or coagulating. Your heat needs to be on medium low to keep the cheese from burning. Also, you must be patient, add one handful of the grated cheese into the pot at a time, stir with wooden spoon (in a figure eight pattern, not a continuous circle) until it is almost completely melted, THEN add the next handful, following this process until all cheese is dissolved. Don't try to rush it!
The acid in the wine and the lemon juice also keeps the cheese from coagulating.
The guest tools - each guest should have a fondue fork (for dipping), a regular fork (for eating the plated food, never for dipping in hot fondue as the heat can transfer quickly to the fork), a medium sized plate, and a napkin. For the "dippers", a well thought out charcuterie board is a stunning and inviting addition to the fondue.
An effervescent cocktail or sparkling wine or champagne are perfect accompaniments to the rich fondue.
The crusty cheese that remains on the bottom of the fondue pot is considered a delicacy, termed "La religieuse" and "La croute". You'll taste nothing better!
Prep Time: 30 minutes Yield: 6 generous servings
8 ounces Gruyere cheese - coursely grated
4 ounces Gouda cheese - coursely grated
4 ounces fontina cheese - coursely grated
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as Kirsch (or regular brandy if preferred)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
dash of nutmeg (optional)
1 clove of garlic, halved
Box cheese grater
4+ quart heavy saucepan
Sterno, if fondue pot is not electric
In a large bowl, toss the grated cheese with cornstarch, coating evenly. Set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine the wine and lemon juice. Once it begins to lightly simmer, add the grated cheese, one handful at a time, stirring well in a figure eight, after each addition. Once all the cheese is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, stir in the brandy, mustard, white pepper, and nutmeg.
To serve right away, transfer the fondue mixture to a warmed fondue pot that has been rubbed with the split garlic.
I prefer to make the fondue ahead, so I allow the pan to cool slightly, then store the pan, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to reheat. To reheat, place the pan with the cheese on top of a larger pan of simmering hot water, and whisk vigorously until heated and smooth. Transfer the warmed fondue to a heated fondue pot that has been rubbed with the split garlic.
The Charcuterie Board
Ideas for a Fondue Charcuterie Board:
Vegetables, cooked or blanched or raw
Dried fruits and nuts - cherries and walnuts are excellent choices
Cubes of toasted breads
Garnishes - fresh herbs, edible flowers