Fondue is a warm cheese dish that originated in Switzerland in the 18th century. It is made by melting at least two different varieties of cheese in a pot, with wine and a little bit of flour. This cheese mixture is usually served in a communal pot, called a calquelon.
This traditional cookware is typically made from a heavy earthenware, but it can also be found in ceramic or enameled iron. These heavy pots are designed to evenly distribute the heat.
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If you are using sterno or another open flame heat source, it is recommended that you cook your cheese fondue on the stovetop and then transfer it to a fondue pot placed over a heating unit at the table. That way the fondue will be kept at an even temperature without overcooking. Electric versions are another option, and they typically heat more evenly.
Each person dining at the table is given a long fork, which they then use to pierce chunks of bread, cooked meat, or cooked vegetables. Then, the food is dipped into the cheese and eaten. Yum!
Most fondue recipes consist of a combination of two cheeses, Gruyere and Emmenthaler, otherwise known as Swiss cheese. The mixture of these two cheeses, along with the addition of wine, makes for a very appealing taste experience.
The wine helps to keep the cheese from sticking to the pot as it melts, and it also adds flavor. Garlic helps to season the dish while the addition of flour prevents the cheese from separating.
As with any communal meal, there is some basic etiquette that needs to be followed. Each person will use their fondue fork to spear their food before dipping into the pot. Gently dip the fork into the cheese to coat your food, allowing excess cheese to drip back into the pot and not onto the table.
This will also allow the cheese to cool a bit before you consume it. Do not allow your mouth to come into contact with the fork, since you will be dipping it back into the communal cheese again.
You can opt to use separate forks for eating and dipping. Simply slide your food off of the fondue fork and eat with the second fork.
When dipping bread into the cheese fondue, any crusty variety will work. It is best to cut the bread so that a bit of crust remains on each piece. This will help the bread to stay on the fork after it is dipped into the cheese.
When preparing meat fondue, try piercing a chunk of meat with your fork and place it in a pot of hot oil or broth. Allow the meat to sit in the pot until it is cooked to your liking.
Place the meat on your plate and allow to cool for a moment before you dip the meat into the cheese or other dipping sauce. Pre-cooked meat can be used as well.
Vegetables should be steamed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they are slightly tender.
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