Love and Fondue
Fondue seems like a pretty easy way to seduce a mate. I know, I know, how will you be able to make your move when you can hardly button your pants? That's where the generous pouring of kirsch comes in handy.
In my university days, I was convinced that two of my friends needed a push in the love direction. What better way than a fondue? Candlelight, sweaty faces grinning at each other over a steaming pot of cheese, lots of wine and a meal consisting of only dairy and carbohydrates—what could go wrong?
It was a frigid Ottawa night. We set up the pot in the middle of the room, cracked some windows, poured some kirsch, and I explained the only rule.
"Rule number one, if your bread falls off your fork, you have to kiss the person next to you."
My friends blushed.
Although the fondue itself was enjoyed, my matchmaking skills were less successful. I was the only one who lost a piece of bread off my fork.
Science and Fondue
"Fondue is real science in the kitchen," my friend Mary remarked as we prepared the fondue pictured here.
She's right—all the elements have to come together correctly to produce a perfect pot of melted cheese. The fondue pot, caquelon, absorbs some of the direct heat and lets the cheese melt at the correct temperature. The more aged the cheese, the better it melts, and the addition of acid in the form of wine and lemon juice keeps the proteins apart and helps the cheese melt evenly. Finally, the cornstarch is essential to help bind the cheese and liquid together to produce the perfect consistency.
When you get to the end of the fondue, you will probably find la religieuse, the delicious bit of hardened cheese fixed to the bottom of the pot. Scrape this up and enjoy.
To serve four people
400 g Gruyère cheese, grated
400 g Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese, grated
1 shot kirsch
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 squeeze lemon
300 mL white wine
pepper and nutmeg
Bread, cubed, for dipping
Set up your fondue stand and make sure you have enough fuel for your heating element.
Cut the garlic into slices and use this to rub your fondue pot. Leave the slices of garlic in the pot and grate the cheese in on top. Add the wine and lemon juice.
In a small dish, whisk together the kirsch and cornstarch.
Put the fondue pot directly on the stove and start slowly melting the cheese over medium heat. Raise the heat a little and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the kirsch and cornstarch mixture then bring back to a boil.
Keep stirring until it all melts together and is bubbling.
Season with a pepper and nutmeg to taste, then place it on your heated fondue stand, immediately beginning to stir with bread-skewered forks.
- The recipe above calculates about 200g of cheese per person, 800g total, which is pretty standard in Switzerland for enthusiastic fondue eaters. However, if you've never had fondue before, it can be quite rich and this amount could probably feed up to six people.
- If you can't get your hands on Vacherin, use Emmental cheese instead.
- Use real Swiss cheeses, whether Gruyère, Vacherin, or Emmental. They are all protected with an AOC designation, which means that all parts of the cheese must come from their particular place of origin in Switzerland.
- DO NOT use a generic 'Swiss cheese', you will not get the same result.
- It will take a little while for everything to melt together. At first it will probably look like the photo here, but it should eventually come together into a smooth, melted mass. However, if your fondue splits completely and won't come back together, just whisk together about a tablespoon each wine, lemon juice, cornstarch, and add to the pot, stirring until it smooths out.
- You can dip other things in the fondue, but bread is the traditional accompaniment. Sometimes we dip fruit, which is quite delicious, and in certain regions of Switzerland it is normal to dip small boiled potatoes.
- Traditionally, fondue is served with black tea and white wine. The warm tea supposedly helps to prevent the mythic boule, or ball of cheese that can form in your stomach and cause discomfort. The British Medical Journal published a paper on which drinks aided digestion during a fondue. Tea or water produced a quicker 'gastric emptying', but alcohol managed to suppress appetite. See full article here.