It is winter. Constantly dark, grey and cold. You can hardly get yourself to go outside since the humidity and wind make everything even more unbearable. But after a couple of weeks bingeing one Netflix show after another, you feel that you could really need some social interaction again. Does that sound familiar? Well, what you need right now is a long and relaxed night of slow and endless feasting with friends. The ultimate remedy against winter blues. Lots of delicious, preferably unhealthy, food paired with chatter and entertaining gossip. And this is exactly what Fondue brings to the table – quite literally.
Fondue is a traditional dish from the Swiss Alps. Fondue means “melted”, from the French word “fondre”. In particular, it is about melted cheese. While the basic ingredient is the same, the concept is yet quite a different one to another traditional Swiss cheese specialty: the Raclette. For Fondue, a ceramic pot, the so-called Caquelon, holds a mix of hot cheese, white wine and cherry brandy. While a réchaud keeps the viscous deliciousness warm and liquid, the hungry crowd sits around the pot using long forks to skewer pieces of bread or boiled potato and dip them into the cheese.
Cheese Fondue Is The Mother Of All Fondues
The reputation of Cheese Fondue as a Swiss national dish only evolved during the 1950s. Back then, the meal had been introduced in the military. Soldiers spread the popularity as they brought the recipe home to their wives. However, the concept of Fondue had been around for many centuries before. And thus, its real origin is unclear.
Rumor has it that Swiss monks came up with the delicious dish. As they weren’t allowed to eat any solid food during the fasting period, the monks allegedly melted the cheese to fill up their stomachs without breaking the rule. If this was really the case, is debatable. Many sources rather see the origin of Fondue in a milk soup that people consumed during the peace agreement of the first major religious war in Europe. But also the French claim to be the inventors of the Fondue, in particular the Alpine region of Savoyen.
For one pot of Fondue: Fill 300 ml white wine into the pot and heat it up. Then slowly add 300 g of Gruyère cheese and 300 g of Swiss Emmental cheese in little pieces. Let it melt while stirring continuously. Add half a clove of pressed garlic. Finally mix 2 table spoons of starch with 2 table spoons of cherry brandy and blend it into the cheese. Let it boil until you get a smooth texture and then keep it hot on the réchaud. Of course, you can also use other cheeses for different flavors. Fondue Savoyarde, a regional specialty, makes use of Emmental, Comté and Beaufort cheese, for instance.
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Meat Lovers, This Is For You
Today, Fondue doesn’t necessarily involve cheese anymore, although the classic is still hugely popular. But the term now has a more general meaning and is basically used for any kind of dish in which bite-size foods are dunked into hot liquids. Thus, variations in which boiling oil or broth serve to fry meats have gained in popularity. In the proper meaning of the dish’s name, it is actually wrong to call these versions Fondue since they don’t involve melting anything. But who cares as long as it is that delicious, right? And after all, the concept of people sitting around a table and dunking sticks with foods into a hot pot stays intact.
The version using broth for cooking evolved through Asian influences. Known as Fondue Chinoise, it has its origins in the traditional Chinese Hot Pot where meats, fish, vegetables and dumplings are boiled in a seasoned stock. While the Chinese make use of tiny metal baskets to pick out the foods from the hot liquid, the Swiss rely on the long forks that are also used for the original Cheese Fondue. For Fondue Chinoise and Fondue Bourguignonne – the one with oil, a metal pot replaces the ceramic one. In this case, it is not only about keeping the liquid warm and runny. The oil or broth rather have to be boiling in order to actually cook the foods.
For one pot of Fondue: Heat up around 1.2 liters of oil in a pot at 180°C. Use a pot large enough so that it is only filled half with oil in order to prevent too much splatter. Use oils that withstand high temperatures and are as neutral in taste as possible. Most suitable are sunflower oil or colza oil. As you dip a wooden stick into the oil, little bubbles will indicate that the temperature is right. Keep the oil boiling over the réchaud to cook the meat and vegetables.
For Gourmets, Sommeliers & People With A Sweet Tooth
Although the plain versions with cheese and broth or oil are still the most popular ones, there are a couple of specials that are definitely worth some attention. Fonduta Valdostana from the northwestern Italian region of Piemont is also cheese-based but with a hint of luxe. The regional Fontina cheese is refined with butter, egg yolks, milk, and most importantly, white truffels. A way of pimping meat-based Fondues is by replacing the ordinary oil or broth with wine. For the so-called Fondue Vigneron – also Fondue Bacchus – both red and white wine can be used to add an extra flavor to the meat. We haven’t tried it ourselves, but we are extremely intrigued – and wine is always a good idea!
In keeping with the original definition of the word “Fondue”, a version with melted chocolate will also satisfy your cravings for something sweet. It is a great way to bring the social aspect of the original dish to the dessert. For Chocolate Fondue, fruits such as strawberries, bananas or grapes are simply dipped into hot chocolate.
Now, that you know all about this amazing traditional dish, we have a little goodie for you. Especially when using meats, seafood and vegetables, some sides of salad and delicious dips will take your Fondue to the next level. And to make it extra special, you can find our family recipe for four delicious Fondue sauces just below. We hope you will love them!
Huo Guo (Hot Pot) from China
Shabu Shabu from Japan
Want to share your knowledge on any of these? Let us know!
Photo by MichaelWu