Remember when everybody received at least a couple of Fondue Sets as wedding gifts? If you do, you must be as old as I am. Remember how many folks actually used them more than once? Answer: none. But I believe that the Fondue concept is ripe for a renaissance…
I’ll get into my theory about re-booting Fondue in a minute. But first let’s look at the history of this unique form of participatory cooking.
Credit the crafty Swiss…
Fondue is a form of the French word ‘fondre’, which means to melt. Loosely translated, it means ‘ooey, gooey good’. And so it is! The treat was originally made by simply melting cheese in a small pot over a low flame, such as a votive candle or a caterer’s alcohol burner. Diners dipped their own Bread chunks in the Cheese using long-handled forks.
But in Fondue’s heyday, it was also enjoyed as a dessert dish, dipping various things in melted Chocolate, and as a cooking method in which small pieces of thinly sliced Meat or Vegetables were simmered in steaming Broth. Some folks also added Wine to the Broth, hence the style known as Fondue Bourguignon.
Making classic Fondues…
The classic Fondue Pot, known as a Caquelon, is first rubbed with the cut end of a clove of Garlic. Then, the Pot is heated. Wine is mixed with Cornstarch to make a Slurry and heated in the pot until it coalesces in a simple sauce. The Cornstarch Sauce step ensures that the Cheese won’t curdle when added to the Wine. Then, the grated or finely chopped Cheese is added, and stirred until melted and combined with the Wine Sauce. Some folks garnish with their choice of Herbs and Spices, but that’s over and above the classic preparation.
You can use any kind of Bread that you fancy, but Sourdough, Light Rye and Baguette are extremely popular among Fondue aficionados.
A Fondue Bourguignon is made by heating Red Wine in the Caquelon and adding Stock or Broth reheating the mixture to a nice, bubbly simmer. Most folks add their own (often secret) selection of Herbs and Spices.
A dessert Fondue need not only be the melted Chocolate variety. But if you do use melted Chocolate, be sure to melt it in combination with some whole Milk or Cream, to avoid curdling. You can also use Sabayon or any other warm Custard, depending on the theme of your meal. And you can dip anything you want into a dessert Fondue. Fresh Whole Strawberries and Marshmallows are classic, as are Banana Rounds, Pound Cake, Cookies, Brownies and Macarons. Go nuts!
The collateral benefits of Fondue…
First, the procedure – dipping stuff in a Fondue Pot in small pieces – forces you to slow down your eating, and begs you to really savour and appreciate your meal. That’s not only civilized but healthy.
But there’s also the communal aspect of a Fondue, bringing together your family or guests in a shared experience which encourages conversation and other kinds of sharing. Again, not only civilized, but healthy.
So, why do I think Fondue is due for a come-back?
One development in Western Cuisine since the millennium is the Sauce, or Dip phenomenon. It’s everywhere, especially in the Fast Food sphere, when dipping sides have proliferated into the hundreds. It may have started with Queso and Tortilla Chips, but it’s certainly gone far beyond that. Given our newfound love of Sauces and Dipping, Fondue is perfectly placed for a serious renaissance. And I’m more than ready to take advantage of the health and social benefits Fondue uniquely offers.
So everybody go over to Mom’s today, and get her to dig out that old Fondue set from the attic – the one she got on her wedding day that has sat, unopened and pristine, since then. From there, let your imagination be your muse…
~ Maggie J.