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Do you fondue?
If you've never had the opportunity to "have fondue" now may be the perfect time. The weather, the economy, and the general mood of the nation are leading us to seek warmth and comfort with those we know and love. What better way to share and celebrate our family ties and friendships than with sharing a meal and, as in days of yore, sharing the cooking? What perfect way than to have fondue?
For baby-boomers, fondue brings back memories of the seventies, for generation X and Y, it's trendy and fun; but wasn't that what it was in the seventies? The thing about fondue today is that, as in all other foods, it's become so adaptable. A melange of cheeses, different flavoring liquids, and a host of dipping ingredients have certainly expanded fondue's audience.
Fondue is actually a French term for a chopped vegetable mixture that has been cooked into a thick sauce and served to compliment meat and fish. It's also the French word for melt. Somehow, fondue branched out to include three separate types, related only by the fact that food is dipped into a heated pot placed on the table. The classic cheese fondue, with Swiss origins, calls for French bread cubes to be dipped in a mixture of Emmentaler cheese and Gruyère cheese, white wine, a touch of garlic, and a shot of kirsch (a clear cherry brandy). Fondue bourguignonne takes its name from the Burgundy area of France, and is a variation of cooking the cubes of beef. Rather than braising in wine, the cubes are cooked in hot oil and then dipped into various savory sauces. Pieces of cake and fruit can be dipped into chocolate fondue, a mixture of melted chocolate and heavy cream that is sometimes flavored with liqueur.
So that's the basics; but today, anything goes. Cheese fondue can be made with goat cheese, blue cheese, Brie, or any other cheese; and broth can be substituted for the wine. Broth can also be substituted for the oil in fondue bourguignonne; and chicken, shrimp, salmon, and tuna can be cooked along with or instead of the beef. For both of these main dish fondues, a plethora of other ingredients can be added to season the fondue or can be used as dipping and cooking ingredients. Apple slices, cooked sausage, cooked seafood, artisan breads, assorted vegetables, and fried potatoes can be dipped into cheese fondue; and all types of vegetables can be cooked in the fondue bourguignonne. As for seasonings, different herbs and spices can change a fondue from Mexican to Italian in the time it takes to shake in the ingredients.
When it comes to chocolate fondue, the ingredients get even more interesting. After all, what doesn't taste good dipped in chocolate? All types of cakes, most fruits, marshmallows, caramels, nuts, cookies, brownies, even pieces of shortcake and scones taste yummy with a coating of chocolate. The chocolate choices are many - bittersweet, semisweet, milk chocolate, white chocolate, gianduja (hazelnut chocolate), and toffee; and flavors such as mint, caramel, espresso, peanut butter, and raspberry. The recipes below provide the basic ingredients and instructions to get you started. The recipe for fondue bourguignonne has been updated to a court bouillon recipe.
The equipment needed for fondue is simple - a pot, a burner, and long forks. The equipment available, however, is quite sophisticated. Fondue pots range from anodized aluminum to ceramic with many types of materials in between. Some manufacturers offer different types of fondue pots for cheese, oil or broth, and chocolate dipping. A variety of colors, styles, and fanciful nesting racks for forks are other factors to consider. Burners are available in metal, ceramic and even glass and hold tea light candles or Sterno® canned heat (a cooking fuel). All fondue pots are sold in sets that include at least four forks, and some sets also include a stand with small bowls that hold various sauces for dipping the cooked ingredients.
Fondue is best cooked on the stovetop. It can be cooked in the fondue pot and carried to the table or cooked in another pot and transferred to the fondue pot. Either way, care must be taken to insure that the cheese or chocolate doesn't burn. (You'll have more leeway with the oil or broth.) You'll also need to keep an eye on the cooking fuel. Those candles and even the Sterno® sometimes have a tendency to lose their flames.
Once you have the fondue set and decide on the recipe, gather family and friends and enjoy a communal meal.
Janice Therese Mancuso is the author of Herbed-Wine Cuisine. She develops recipes, writes about food, conducts cooking classes, and thoroughly enjoys a well-prepared meal. Visit her Web site at www.jtmancuso.com. ©1998-2001 by Janice Therese Mancuso. All rights reserved.
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Basic Cheese Fondue
Milk Chocolate Fondue
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