By Heny Sison
“Fondue” comes from the French word fondre, meaning to melt. Swiss cheeses, melted Emmenthaler and Gruyere cheeses are combined because either cheese alone would produce a mixture that is either too sharp or too bland. The cheeses are most commonly melted in a dry white wine which helps to keep the cheese from the direct heat as it melts as well as to add flavor. The Kirsch (a clear cherry brandy) is added if the cheese itself is too young, to produce the desired tartness. The garlic is for additional flavoring while the flour or cornstarch help in keeping the cheese from separating.
When creating your own fondue,
• Use the right pot. A variety of cookware suits different types. Use a large ceramic pot preferably. For cheese and large batches of dessert fondue, a metal-lined pot for oil-based or fried fondues. Small ceramic pots are perfect for desserts. The new-generation fondue pots are sturdier and more versatile, like those by Calphalon and Le Creuset, or practical and multi-purpose like Princess Mini Deep Fryer and Fondue Set.
• Do the two-step. Cook the fondue in a pan on your stove, then transfer it to the fondue pot for serving.
Always make the cooking liquid a little acidic. Use a dry or semi-dry wine. The acids help the proteins in the cheese melt smoothly. You may use flavorful liquids and seasonings — beer or broth, not water.
• Go beyond bread cubes for dipping. Why not dip smoked salmon into a fondue of cream cheese or chunks of cooked chicken or shrimp in a traditional Swiss fondue?
• Work in families of cheeses. Not all cheeses make good fondue. You might mix a Swiss and a cheddar, but I wouldn’t mix Swiss, cheddar, and Gorgonzola.
• When multiplying fondue recipes for larger crowds, remember there is less surface area to evaporate liquids, so you will not need as much as double the liquid of the original recipe.
• Sparkling cider, apple juice, or champagne may be substituted for white wine in fondue recipes.
• Fresh herbs, roasted garlic, sauteed minced onions, tomato paste, and mustard make great flavorings for cheese fondues.
• To thin, increase the heat, add a little wine, and stir vigorously.
• For fondue that is too thin, combine 1/2 teaspoon with an equal amount of wine. Stir into fondue until thickened.
• A crockpot may be used to keep cooked fondue warm.
• Wine or hot black tea are recommended accompanying beverages for fondue. Some diners claim that drinking water with fondue makes the cheese congeal in the stomach, causing digestion problems.
• Leftover fondue may be used as a topping for potatoes or vegetables.
• Refrigerate, chop, and add to omelets, frittatas, or scrambled eggs.
• For the dessert fanatic, why not try a concoction of peanut butter and milk chocolate to be enjoyed with bananas or brownies. Or how about dipping a cookie or two in a coffee-based fondue?