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)
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.
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.
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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.