Fun With Fondue

When you're craving comfort food, fondue is always a favorite. Popular in America in the 1970's, fondue is back with an urban twist that tempts the palate with much more than the plain cheese, hot oil and simple chocolate pots of yore.

Originating in Switzerland many centuries ago, Fondue (Fawn-DOO) is French for the word "melt" and is considered their national dish. The harsh winters of the Alpine mountains mean isolation from the outside world for months at a time with limited food supplies. The only readily available ingredients in the villages were cheese, bread and wine. As the winter dragged on, the cheeses made the previous summer began to dry out and spilled the villagers to melt them and create a tasty, fulfilling meal.

You do not have to be an Alpine villager to enjoy these simple concoctions. A fondue party just might be just the thing you've been searching for to enjoy with family and friends.

Most any food can be "cooked" in a fondue pot and fondue parties are a great way to enrapt your guests for an endless evening with good food, good wine, mingling and great conversation.

The party can be set up in stations or the guests can be appointed at tables in small groupings. If your knees are still in good shape, it is fun to sit on pillows on the floor around the coffee table. As long as the pots are easily accessible without a long reach for anyone, the set up can be most anywhere. Follow the tips below to create a perfect fondue that will amaze and satisfy your hungry party guests.

Fondue Pots and Utensils

  • Broth pots should be a heavy, stable metal over a hot flame that keeps the contents bubbling.
  • The traditional earthenware fondue pot is called a "caklon."
  • Ceramic pots are best for cheese and chocolate fondues.
  • Sterno, alcohol, and gelled fuel capsules are designed to keep the pots boiling vigorously.
  • Tea lights or diffusers on the bases of the pots may be used to keep the pots warm.
  • Fondue forks and bamboo sticks are best for sparing bread, meat, vegetables, fruit and confections.
  • Bamboo skewers allow more than one piece of meat at a time to be cooked on them. Soak them in water to prevent burning while touching the pot.
  • Small Asian baskets work well for dipping delicate fish in broths. These can be purchased at Asian markets.
  • Fondue plates, dinner forks and plenty of colorful, festive napkins are essential for gracefully eating the cooked fondue.

Cheese Fondue

  • Prevent cheese fondue from burning by using a heavy metal pot with an enamel or cast iron base or a heavy glazed earthenware pot.
  • Melt the cheese slowly on the stovetop and then transfer it to a pot with an alcohol burner. Allow it to gently bubble, not boil, to keep the cheese from becoming stringy.
  • If it does, lower the heat and continue warming until the cheese re-melts and the mixture becomes smooth once again.
  • Increase the heat slowly and keep stirring if the cheese forms a lump.
  • Keep the cheese creamy by swirling the dippers in a figure eight.
  • Considered a delicacy, the crust that is formed on the bottom of the cheese fondue is to be shared by all.
  • Bread for dipping should not be too fresh or it will crumble in the pot.

Fondue Secrets

  • Cut all ingredients for dipping into one or two-bite sizes, about 1-inch cubes.
  • Double skewer the items or place them past the very tip of the skewer to avoid losing the food in the pot.
  • Use flavorful liquids only.
  • Use a dry or semi-dry wine in the cheese to help the proteins melt smoothly.
  • Keep cheese and dessert fondue at about 130 degrees Fahrenheit with a diffuser on the flame, a very low flame or a twilight candle.
  • Chocolate should be eaten warm, not hot.
  • Chill the fruit dippers before serving so the chocolate will coat them better.