Friday, March 7, 2008

A Swiss fulfilled

Up until two weeks ago, despite my intense, undying love of cheese, I'd never had fondue. Oh, I'd fantasized about it for years, mentally drooling over the idea of dipping crusty bread and other tasty morsels into a large pot of melted cheese as a meal. And I'd contemplated having a fondue party many times. But I could never seem to find someone willing to seek out the dish in a restaurant with me, and it seemed like too many of my friends were lactose intolerant for a party to be feasible.

But after successfully convincing DL, AT, and RA to take a Cheese 101 class at Murray's with me, I began suspecting that I had more curd-enthusiast friends than I realized. And after another friend unexpectedly agreed to accompany me on a tour of Murray's underground caves, I was sure of it. In fact, the more I talked about cheese, the more cheese-lovers seemed to come out of the (caves).

The idea of hosting a dinner began ripening again. I knew it was time for me to lose my fondue innocence.
Once I chose the date and invited a few friends, I picked a basic recipe from this article, serendipitously published several weeks after I decided to have the dinner. From there I also learned that there was no need to use a specialized fondue set, when an enamel-lined cast-iron pot worked perfectly well. As I already had the pot, I had to only purchase a few sets of forks and I was set.

There's about two and a half pounds of cheese in the picture above: a little more than a pound of cave-aged gruyere, and the rest emmental.
For appetizers, I laid out red grapes, cornichons, pickled herring, country pâté, and some thin slices of toasted bread.
After everyone had arrived, I brought out the rest of the spread: apple chunks; cubes of toasted bread; steamed and quartered red potatoes; lightly steamed broccoli and cauliflower; sliced sun-dried tomato sausage and chicken-apple sausage; roasted red pepper meatballs. The fondue itself took only about fifteen minutes on the stove, and was surprisingly adaptable—when I decided that the cheese was too thick, I simply added several more glugs of white wine and it was fine. Once the sauce was smooth and melted, I brought the pot out to the table.

It was time to dig in!
Sausage chunk Under this cheese hides a chunk o' potato
Sausage chunk, and underneath that cheese hides a potato. Yum.
Melty pot o' cheez
My first bite of fondue, after so many years of expectation, was everything I'd hoped it to be. My cube of bread emerged from the pot wrapped in creamy, nutty cheese and the combination, once deposited in my mouth, was divine. It was rich, funky, chewy, savory, delicious. As I tried out the other dipping options, I came to the happy conclusion that almost everything can be improved by a coat of melted cheese.

Fondue is a surprisingly stress-free meal to put together. Almost all of the accompaniments can be prepped in advance, leaving only the fondue to heat on the stove once guests have arrived. And if you're not baking your own bread, as I did, it gets even easier. With "grate" friends and conversation as the final ingredients, there's no better "whey" to throw a party. :)

"Classic Fondue," The New York Times


  1. It was darn yummy!

    ...and suitable "cheesy" ending.

  2. lc and i were watching a fondue show on foodtv earlier this week.

    you really need to let us know when you are planning these "cheesy" food excursions!

  3. I really really need to get me some of that cheese action. Holy crap that looks delicious!

  4. why are we not friends, and why was i not invited to this party?

    last time i made fondue - that prince among dishes - it was with a beer base and some cheddar and cheshire cheeses suggested by the fine people at murray's.

    and it was damn good.

  5. whoa! i haven't had fondue in such a long time! you have inspired me to dust off my pot and throw a fondue party soon :)

  6. linberg judging by the title i thought this was gonna be about me!

  7. B, you'll always be my favorite Swiss.