Cheese fondue…a great romantic dinner for two.
Warning: this story encourages the consumption of cheese. And why shouldn’t it? If the USDA, the dairy industry, and Domino’s are all cool with the 30-plus pounds of mozzarella, cheddar, and cream cheese we’re now eating every year (nearly triple the amount in 1970), why can’t we Cheater Chefs at home get behind the cheese wheel momentum?
As usual, we’re way behind Europe. By the 1930’s the Swiss Cheese Union was pushing cheese consumption with its national dish, fondue, and its ultimate cheese accessory, the Sterno-powered fondue set for six. Makes perfect sense coming from the inventors of the Swiss Army knife.
Rather than get sidetracked by the equipment portion of the dish, however, let’s remember that fondue represents unity and, as the Swiss Cheese Union’s slogan proclaimed, “fondue creates a good mood.” Which is why fondue is well-timed for a romantic Valentine’s Day, or any cold weather dinner at home in front of the fire. “Fondue,” after all, derives from the French “fondre” which means “to melt.”
Feel that good mood coming on? We sure do.
Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue: You’ll need to make three shopping stops.
The equipment: Fondue pots go for about $30 at Walmart, $50 at Bed Bath & Beyond, $80 at Target and even more at Williams-Sonoma. It’s like a turkey fryer, except easier to store and easier to score.
The Groceries: One baguette or other good crusty bread (day old is better–holds up better under melted cheese), 8 ounces Gruyere Swiss cheese, 8 ounces Emmentaler Swiss cheese, a head of of garlic, one lemon, Cornstarch, Cornischons or sour pickles (no hamburger chips) or cocktail onions, white pepper, ground nutmeg, canned heat cooking fuel (Sterno), fresh strawberries, candles for romantic mood lighting, and seasoned firewood.
The Wine: Call your wine folks and tell them with your menu and price range. You’ll need one small bottle of Kirschwasser (cherry brandy), a nice dry, white wine (a crisp, acidic sauvignon blanc), and a bottle champagne or sparkling wine for dessert.
For dessert, fresh strawberries and Champagne. You’ll be too full to eat much chocolate.
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Emmentaler cheese
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons kirschwasser
- Dash white pepper
- Pinch grated nutmeg
- French bread, cut in cubes
- Prepare the fondue on the stove top (unless your pot is electric) and then move it to the Sterno.
- Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic clove and leave in the pot.
- Stir in white wine and squeeze a quarter of a lemon into the wine.
- Bring to a simmer. Remove the garlic clove.
- Turn the heat to low and very, very gradually stir in cheese a small handful at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, allowing the cheese to melt between each addition.
- If you add the cheese too quickly it will turn into a big rubber ball floating in hot white wine.
- We know this from experience.
- In a small bowl blend cornstarch with Kirschwasser. Pour into cheese and continue to cook, stirring 2 to 3 minutes or until the fondue is thick and smooth. Do not allow to boil.
- Season with white pepper and nutmeg.
- Serve with bread cubes, pickles and shot glasses of Kirschwasser for dipping the bread before the cheese.