Few things taste better than melted cheese or melted chocolate, but it’s the whole experience of fondue that makes us love it so much. The cute pots! The long, skinny spears! The array of delicious dippers! The après-ski vibes! Throw on your coziest sweater, invite your comfiest friends, and gather ’round the melting pot to partake in some serious dunking.
The first time I tried cheese fondue was in a theme-park restaurant in the ’70s. It was fun dipping bread cubes with tiny, long forks into a pot of melted cheese, but the taste was too sophisticated for my palate. As an adult, I started looking for ways to bring it down to my level. Rather than the Gruyère, Edam, Havarti, or fontina of a classic fondue, I go for a little fun with Monterey Jack, cheddar, smoked gouda (with the outer skin removed), and provolone.
3 heaping handfuls of your preferred grated cheeses
1 coffee cup of white wine (and another for drinking while you stir)
2 smidgens of cornstarch
1 cut clove of garlic
1 drizzle of lemon juice
2 drizzles of booze (kirsch, whiskey, or cognac)
1 smidgen of ground nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
1 pinch dry ground mustard
For dipping: Day-old baguettes cut into cubes; soft pretzels; blanched or steamed carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus spears; apple or pear slices; cubes of ham or slices of sausage; tortilla chips; breadsticks.
- Lightly dust your grated cheese with cornstarch (this will keep your fondue from getting clumpy). Then rub a clove of cut garlic around the inside of your fondue pot for extra flavor.
- In a heavy-bottom pot, add a coffee cup of dry white wine (I go for a nice dry, acidic sauvignon blanc—you want a vino that makes you talk like Katharine Hepburn after you drink it) and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice; heat until simmering, not boiling.
- Very slowly, stir in your grated cheese a little at a time over medium-low heat. I keep myself in check by sipping the extra cup of wine slowly while I stir until all the cheese is melted.
- If you want to be traditional, stir in a drizzle of kirsch (that’s cherry brandy); I prefer whiskey or cognac. Season with ground nutmeg, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of ground dry mustard. Pour into your fondue pot to keep warm and serve with your favorite dippers.
Beer Me: For an even lower-brow version, swap the wine for your favorite beer, lager, or ale and use a mix of grated cheddar, Swiss cheese, and pepper jack. Replace the nutmeg and mustard with a shot of Frank’s RedHot hot sauce and a drizzle of Worcestershire and serve with mini hot dogs and tater tots.
Dark Chocolate Fondue
When I started cooking professionally, women were not welcome in commercial kitchens. My first chef boss tried to make me quit by banishing me to a corner to dip 3,000 strawberries in chocolate. I vowed two things: 1) I’d show him how good I was before telling him to screw off and 2) I’d never dip another strawberry. I achieved both. When I started my own catering company I opted for this deliciousness: dip-your-own strawberries in chocolate fondue.
3 coffee cups good semi-sweet dark chocolate chips or wafers (like Guittard, Valrhona, or Ghirardelli)
2 coffee cups heavy cream
Two drizzles of dark rum or cognac
Pinch of salt
Drizzle of vanilla extract
Strawberries; marshmallows; graham crackers; firm cake cut into cubes; banana slices.
- Put your dark chocolate wafers or chips in a mixing bowl. Heat your heavy cream in a saucepan until simmering, not boiling. Then slowly stir your hot cream into the chocolate until it’s well melted. Feel it out. If you like your fondue creamier, add more cream; if you like it less creamy, add more chocolate.
- At this point you could be done, but why settle for good when you can have fabulous? Stir in a drizzle of dark rum or cognac. Feel free to balance the sweet with a pinch of salt. Or add a drizzle of vanilla extract. Float your own fondue boat!