January 30, 2007

Do you do fondue?

If you don't, you really should! It's fun for one thing. It's casual and incredibly simple. It is also a highly rewarding experience. Less time is spent in the kitchen, and more on the table with your friends or family. And instead of having just one or two main courses, you can have as many as your heart desires what with the variety of meat choices and dipping sauces available.

The best part about it though is the bonding experience. We are all familiar with the joy of breaking bread with family and friends but sitting together and cooking our food from a communal vessel can take that experience to a whole new level.

During a recent family picnic in the park, we reminisced old family traditions and the meals that were always the focal point of every gathering. After waxing nostalgic for a while, we began to talk about reviving ancestral recipes. I'm not exactly sure how this led to the fondue party idea but it did. My dad, whose Swiss heritage is most evident in his diet of soup, cheese and bread, cheered the idea on.

So it was that we planned Fondue Friday, which is what I insisted on calling the event. As we were handing out assignments, I called dibs on the cheese fondue. My sister took on the seemingly daunting task of putting together the meat and seafood fondue. She was eager to try out the recipes from Jean Pare's fondue recipe book from her Company's Coming series. My Tita offered to be in charge of the dessert fondue in the form of a chocolate fountain, while another relative pledged the chocolate dippers.

The chocolate fountain and dippers: mangos, bananas, apples, strawberries and marshmallows

The wheels were set in motion. Lists were drawn and checked as ingredients were bought throughout the week. My sister busied herself with marinating duties the night before while I bought everything I needed 2 hours before dinner time. I picked-up the cheese from Santi's, freshly baked bread from Le Coeur de France and veggies from Rustan's, all conveniently located next to each other.

Good thing the kitchen was big enough to accomodate the happy chaos that ensued. We opened a bottle of wine, rolled up our sleeves and went to work. Everyone lent a helping hand in the prep work, even some of the kids. They were like Santa's elves; grating cheese, cutting up the bread, sneaking a bread stick or marshmallow here and there.

Out in the garden, the rest of the gang was busy with the table settings. Long, color-coded forks were arranged neatly side by side fondue plates on the main dining table. In the center we lined up the 5 fondue pots: 4 contained boiling broth or oil and the 5th was my cheese fondue (which turned out fabulous if I do say so myself ;-) ). The dippers and dipping sauces were laid out buffet-style on a separate table, except for the bread which we passed around in a basket. Beside this table was the chocolate fountain station, where gooey delicious chocolate flowed invitingly.

What happened next was a blur of spearing, dunking, dipping, scooping and guzzling. Everything was delicious and as expected, the chocolate fountain was the perfect sweet ending to the night. I enjoy long meals but I enjoy long meals under the stars even more. It was truly an enjoyable experience that left many of us wondering why we didn't do this more often. Now I'm sure we will. :)

Swiss Cheese Fondue

This is adapted from 3 different cheese fondue recipes which I've had on file for years. Next time I'd like to try it with Appenzeller or Gorgonzola, another 2 of my favorite cheeses.

3 cups shredded Gruyere (about 12 oz.)
2 cups shredded Emmenthaler (8 oz.)
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup milk
2 cloves garlic; 1 to rub on the inside of the pot, & the other minced and to be added to the cheese
2 tbsp. cream sherry (or kirsch)
freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)
ground white pepper to taste

Sprinkle the combined cheeses with flour, toss and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic.

Heat the wine in the fondue pot over medium heat. Just before it boils, reduce heat to low and slowly stir in the cheese mixture, stirring constantly. Make sure the cheese is melted before adding more. Keep stirring until mixture bubbles gently.

Stir in milk, sherry, nutmeg, and pepper. If mixture becomes too thick, add a little more warm milk. Serves 12.

Dippers: Cubes of French bread and Farmers bread toasted just right, steamed broccoli, boiled potato wedges, apples and garlic bread sticks.

Fondue Bourguignon (or Hot Oil Fondue)

My sister bought beef tenderloin, rib-eye, pork tenderloin, chicken, shrimp, scallops, ham and sausages. Everything except the seafood was marinated overnight in different marinades. My favorite was the Teriyaki marinade she used on the beef. It had just the right amount of sweetness to it. She then prepared 8 different kinds of dipping sauces. Here are some of the recipes she used.

Teriyaki Marinade
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp finely grated gingerroot (0r 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
1/3 cup sherry
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
Makes 2/3 cup, enough to marinade 1 1/2 lbs of meat.

Cracked Pepper Sauce
8 oz. cream cheese softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp cracked whole peppercorns
1 tsp finely chopped shallots
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp finely chopped pecans (optional)
Beat cream cheese and butter together in a small bown until smooth. Add garlic, peppercorns, shallots and salt. Beat until well combined then beat in milk and pecans until well mixed. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

Orange Sauce
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cloves
Combine all 5 ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat & stir on medium-low until thickened. Makes 1 cup.

Raisin Honey Sauce
1 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chili sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Process raisins and apple juice in blender or food processor until pureed. Put into a small bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir and serve at room temperature. Makes 1 cup.

Bearnaise Sauce
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp dried tarragon, finely crushed
1 tbsp shallots
3/4 cup butter
3 large egg yolks
freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat wine, tarragon and shallots in a small saucepan on medium until reduced by half. Cool then strain into blender.
Heat butter in saucepan to bubbling point but do not brown. Cool.
Add egg yolks and pepper to wine mixture and process for 3 seconds. With motor running, add butter in a steady stream through hole in lid. Process for about 3o seconds until smooth. Serve warm. Makes 1 cup.

Spicy Cocktail Sauce:
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
sprinkle of pepper
Measure all 8 ingredients into a small bowl. Stir then let stand for at least 3 hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature. Makes 3/4 cup.
Ready to cook: Fill fondue pot to no more than 2/3 full with a cooking oil of your choice. Heat the oil on the stove to 375F before transferring it to the stand. Make sure the heat underneath is high enough to mainintain the temperature.

~ ~ ~

This is my mom's old fondue pot. It's so retro I love it. It was always such a treat when she took it down from it's proud place on the shelf, usually for a special occasion. I remember how to my young eyes it looked like a decorative centerpiece instead of functional cookware. :)

Here are some tips that could help make your fondue party more enjoyable:
* Don't double-dip. That means, don't take a bite off what it is you're dunking and then return it to the pot.
* Use fondue forks for dipping only especially when having cheese fondue. Using a table fork, pry the morself into your own plate
* Variety is the spice of life. Have at least 2 dipping sauces for your meats.
* Have one fondue pot for every 4 or 5 people. When there is too much food in one pot at the same time, the temperature will drop below recommended levels. Not to mention, if there are too many forks in there at the same time, sometimes the food gets tangled and lost in the pot.


Sue (coffeepot) said...

looks so fun!

what great information you have here on fondue.

Mila Tan said...

I've done a chocolate fondue, nothing fancy and we didn't even have the chocolate fountain in those days. Just melted a lot of chocolate in a crockpot and dipped whatever we had at hand. The only thing close to a cheese fondue we attempted was trying to combine cheezwiz and velveeta with white wine, and looking at the mess at the bottom of the pot! Chinese/Japanese hot pot (shabu-shabu) is sort of the oriental version of fondue. Great on cold nights.

tutubi said...

saw one fondue sold in SM supermarket for quite a sum not suitable for average homes

nice info and pics btw

my first comment here after some time of lurking :)

christine said...

Hi Sue, it was indeed fun. From prepping to dessert. :) And so comforting. It's something I would like to do more often.

Mila, velveeta and cheez whiz! haha :) While that actually sounds good, I think they would curdle in the pot or would end up too stringy. You know, I actually prefer the chocolate fondue in the pot than the one on the fountain. It's thicker and really clings to your dippers.

Hi tutubi,thanks. I'm glad you came out of hiding. :) They sell nice fondue pots in Santi's but I imagine they're more expensive than the ones in SM. If I find a good source, I'll let you know.

joey said...

Nice dinner Nens! Love your family get-together stories :) And I do fondue! Although I haven't in a long time. Your mom's fondue pot is so retro and cool! :)

Mila, C and I (and mum-in-law) are major shabu-shabu addicts! :)

rowena said...

What a great idea for a Fondue Friday! I have a fondue set but haven't used it in awhile. And the last time that I had anything of the sort was a beef vigneronne where everything was cooked in simmering red wine!

Your fondue is definitely UBER...gotta love that chocolate fountain!

Socky said...

I've been eyeing the chocolate fountain in Rustans. And I still have to use my fondue set. Thanks for the recipe and making fondue dinners look so easy and a lot of fun. I am inspired...

Senor Enrique said...

I tip my hat off to you, Christine. You really know how to throw a party.

Strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue I've always loved.

christine said...

Hi Jo, I have fond fondue memories with you and Cathy in Zurich! And that waiter/homeboy with his bling, he stuck out like a sore thumb in that place. haha. He was funny.

Rowena, what a fantastic idea! I think I'm having the next fondue meal sooner than later just so I could try cooking it in red wine. Thanks for the idea! :)

Socky, my pleasure. I didn't post all the recipes anymore because it would have been too long but I've got my sister's fondue book with me still so if there was a particular sauce/marinade you're looking for let me know. :)

Hi Eric, thanks! But I can't take all the credit. My sister did more work than any of us, and it was a team effort. :)

The Knittymommy said...

Yes I do. But haven't in way too long. I remember recieving a fondue set as a wedding gift, but decided it was not one of the things we were going to ship to the US. Hmmmmm... maybe I should re-think that and have it brought when my parents come for a visit.

I loved the fondue plates. That's a definite must buy. That was a great post. I would have loved to have been there. What a great gimmick for the family.

wysgal said...

Fondue parties are always a lot of fun (there's a myth that if you drop a piece of fruit, bread, etc in the pot you're in for a run in with bad luck). For cheese fondue I think they sell a ready mix of cheeses in Santis.

christine said...

Mieke, good idea, have it sent over. Sayang. I think your kids would really get a kick out of it! The fondue plates were really so cool. It made it easy to separate the sauces, and the cooked food from the raw food. I'm definitely getting myself some when I have my own place. :)

Wysgal, I haven't heard that myth yet! What I did hear of is the old tradition that if women dropped their piece in the pot, they have to kiss the men in the table. And if the men were to drop their piece, they give the host/hostess a bottle of wine. Something like that. Hmmm, quite sexist don't you think? ;)

grumpyurbanslacker said...

wow, looks so tempting it made me hungry!! Nakaka-inggit!!

too bad only Old Swiss Inn (i think) offers fondues here in mla., and their fondue festivals are infrequent.


christine said...

Hi GUS! There's gotta be other places that have fondue! Well at least I hope there is. But you're right I think it may just be Swiss Inn. I don't recall seeing it on the menu anywhere else. Maybe some hotels would have it. :)