Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saving Money By Making Your Own Fondue

Chewy, stringy, gooey, springy -- these are all words we associate with cheese, but they are not words we should associate with fondue. Preparing fondue is not difficult – preparing a fondue “correctly” though, can take some a little and the proper ingredients.

Going out for fondue with friends or family can get a little pricey, but with the right tools and the proper know how, you might be able to enjoy delicious fondue in the privacy and comfort of your own home and for a heck of lot less money.

A Brief Overview
Over the years fondue making has evolved from a process formed largely from necessity, involving cheese and breads as its main ingredients, to a form of entertainment whose ingredients can include, meat, vegetables, fruit, chocolate, even marshmallows.

Traditional fondue originated in Switzerland where alpine farmers and herders looked to make the best of their available food stores, which consisted largely of cheese and bread. The tools, recipes and ingredients have changed over the years, but the resulting product remains the same -- a delightfully delicious meal that can be both satisfying and fun.

A Few Tools
There are several necessary tools needed for properly preparing fondue. Whether cooking with wine, beer, broth or chocolate, the first and most vital tool is the pot, also referred to as the “caquelon”. While there are a variety of pots available, including those that rely on an outside fuel source, electric pots are probably the easiest and safest to use, especially for the fondue novice. Pots may be stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron or copper and can be found at places like Target or Walmart (often with skewers included in a set), typically for between $20 and $40, but fancier pots can easily range well into the $100 range or more. (In all honesty, I’ve made fondue in a regular pot on the stovetop before, but if you’re going to have regular parties or friends over, this may not make for the fanciest of presentations and it doesn’t keep the mixture heated for very long).

It is also handy to have fondue “skewers” or “forks”. These, long, thin utensils typically have a two pronged end used for “spearing” food pieces. The end of the skewer is usually formed from a heat resistant material for added safety and may be color coated to assist in identifying whose food is actually cooking. (Believe me, it can become confusing with multiple skewers all in the pot at the same time!)

The Basics
Let’s begin with the basic cheese fondue. In most cases this is a cheese and wine (beer can be substituted) mixture, made from Emmenthaler and/or Gruyere cheese, melted in a (dry) white wine. The cheese should be added slowly to already hot wine in the pot, ensuring the mixture is melted but never boiling. The amounts can vary depending on the size of your group or party, but generally, a cup of white wine for every half pound of cheese is a good rule of thumb. French or Italian bread, with a good crust can make the perfect dipping option, but let’s be honest, just about any bread covered in steamy hot cheese is going to taste delicious.

There have been many adaptations to the original recipe throughout the years and now fondue fanatics have branched out. Once cheese fondue has been mastered, consider trying meat or veggies cooked in a vegetable or beef broth. Beef, steak, pork, chicken, and seafood, as well as just about any vegetable can be boiled on a skewer.

We finish up with dessert. The most recent trend in fondue relies on using a dark, white or milk chocolate base. Now comes the good part! As with other forms of fondue, you will also use skewers to dip your food, but instead of bread, meat or vegetables, you may choose from marshmallows, pretzels, strawberries, pastries, and many other delectable desserts that will support being dipped in melted heaven.

Since fondue is now more of a social gathering than just a meal, here are several helpful tips and rules of etiquette:

• As with any communal food source, try to avoid double dipping your food once it has been tasted or applying your lips to the skewer since it’s going back into the pot.

• To avoid mix-ups, use color-coded skewers.

• Make up a fun rule or challenge to complete should someone’s food fall off in the pot.

• It can be fun and easy to try concoctions and mixtures of your own when it comes to various fondue combinations, and being open to new ideas could make your event even more interesting.

These tips can make your dining experience relaxing, more entertaining, and completely fonduelicious!

This article is for informational purposes only. The author is not a culinary or food professional. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is at the reader’s discretion. Making fondue involves heat and high temperatures, and caution is advised.

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