Fondue— A Swiss Tradition
By Bob Lipinski
As the weather turns colder and days become shorter, thoughts of sitting around a roaring fire come to mind. Although freshly roasted chestnuts and large mugs of mulled wine or even hot chocolate satisfies, I enjoy dipping some crusty bread into a pot of melted cheese. Not just any cheese, but one that is flavored with kirsch (cherry brandy), garlic, white wine, and seasonings. I’m talking fondue, a true Swiss tradition.
The word fondue comes from the French fondre, meaning “to melt.” There are several kinds of fondue including the traditional cheese one. Also, a meat fondue known as fondue bourguignonne from Burgundy, France, where cubes of raw beef are threaded on skewers, then dipped in bubbling hot oil for several minutes prior to being eaten with various dipping sauces. Then there is a dessert fondue featuring chocolate, cream, and liqueurs heated until melted, then used to coat pieces of cake or fruit.
When selecting wines to pair with fondue, choose fairly neutral dry white wines with good acidity, while avoiding oaky ones. My recommended white wines include a Swiss Fendant (Chasselas grape) or Neuchâtel; French Chablis or Muscadet; Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling. Choose red wines with little tannin and oak in favor of wines like Beaujolais, Grenache, Grignolino, and Pinot Noir.
The following fondue recipe is a modification of the original I enjoyed while in Switzerland. Although the recipe calls for the traditional Emmental or Gruyère cheese, you can also try Appenzeller, Beaufort, or Comté, and any combination of these cheeses.
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1-pound Emmental or Gruyère cheese, grated (not chopped)
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (see above recommendations)
- 1/3 cup kirsch (cherry brandy, NOT “flavored” brandy)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Nutmeg for dusting
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
In an earthenware pot, rub the sides and bottom with garlic (add to pot), then add cheese, butter, white wine, kirsch (in which the corn starch has been dissolved), and nutmeg. Place the pot over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon. If the cheese forms into a thick mass, continue to stir and it will be re-absorbed. As the mixture continues to bubble, adjust flavor with salt and pepper, then add the bicarbonate of soda, which will make the fondue lighter. Now the fondue is ready to enjoy.
Take cubes of crusty French or Italian bread; fasten onto foot-long, three-pronged, metal fondue forks and dip into the fondue for a moment or so before popping it into your mouth.
Now enjoy a glass of some good Swiss wine!
“Cheese complements a good meal and supplements a bad one.” (E. Briffault, French gastronome)
Bob Lipinski, author of 10 books; writes, consults, and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org.