You have one. I know you do. Tucked high up on a closet shelf. Forgotten. Possibly dusty. Unused and abandoned. What? The fondue pot, of course!
Don’t think you have to wait until fires are crackling and the urge to cocoon has you bundled in multi layers of sweaters. Fondue can be for anytime. Even during summer. In fact, it may be one of the simplest meals you can prepare for an outdoor fete -- just one simple pot, baskets of chunks of crusty bread, some tart pickles to accompany or maybe a salad, and a nice dry white wine. Simple, easy and filled to the brim of the fondue pot with “gemutlichkeit” Swiss style.
Legend has it that fondue came into being when two warring tribes called a truce when one side had only bread left in its larder, and the other cheese. Their “pot luck treaty” resulted in a swiss tradition that combines simple foods and the spirit of conviviality.
Fondue can be made from a variety of cheeses produced not just in Switzerland, but in many parts of the world. The most popular choices are Emmentaler and Gruyere, used separately or combined with local cheeses. The cheese is mixed with a dry white wine, such as a Swiss Neuchatel. Whatever your wine choice you want to add a dry and delicate wine to the cheese mixture. Traditional seasonings in the fondue include freshly ground pepper, paprika and Swiss kirsch (a liquer).
The ideal way to indulge in fondue would, of course, be on location in a mountain village in Switzerland, such as Rougemont, a mere six kilometers west of Gstaad in the heart of the Bernese Oberland, at the Cafe du Cerf. This green-shuttered chalet-style restaurant is truly an authentic Swiss experience. From the tables covered in red-checked tablecloths and topped with vases of wild flowers, to the live music from the accordian or musical saw, this is a quaint, but not kitsch, evening experience. The restaurant was filled with couples, families with both children and dogs, soldiers, seniors and even a handful of tourists. The Cafe du Cerf is one of my favorite restaurants in the world and I’m certain you won’t be disappointed with an evening of their famous fondue or raclette.
If you can’t depart immediately for Switzerland, don’t despair too much. You can still conjure up that Swiss cuisine by resurrecting the fondue pot from the back of the closet, firing up some accordian music on your sound system, and head to the kitchen to create the following recipe:
Traditional Cheese Fondue
1 1/2 pounds of Emmentaler cheese, shredded
4 Tablespoons of flour
3 Cups of dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and split
1/2 Teaspoon of salt
Pinch of white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons of Kirsch, Cognac or Brandy
Bite size pieces of French bread.
Dredge the cheese with flour.
In a large saucepan warm the wine over low heat, do not allow the wine to boil.
Add the cheese little by little, stirring continually with a fork. Be sure each batch is melted before adding the next. Keep stirring until the mixture is bubbling lightly.
Now, take the garlic cloves and rub the inside of the fondue pot, bottom and sides.
Add seasoning and kirsch to the cheese mixture, blend thoroughly an pour into the fondue pot.
Light the candle or heat source beneath the fondue pot and watch carefully not to overheat the mixture.
Spear a chunk of bread on your fondue fork and dunk into the cheese mix, stirring an swirling the bread. Don’t forget, if you lose your bread from your fork you must kiss the one to your right.
There you have it. Fondue. Simple, elegant and best enjoyed with good friends, preferably in an Alpine location.