Fondue, one of our favorite meals to do together. For those of you unfamiliar with Cheese Fondue, it is a Swiss dish that is basically a big pot over a small flame full of melted cheese, into which you dip various things that taste good when covered in melted cheese like bread, apples, carrots etc. Fondue can also be done with a wine or oil base and enjoyed with meat and seafood or with melted chocolate for desert. We've always found that the best parts are the cheese and chocolate fondue, so we tend to skip the meat dish (more room for chocolate!).
Unlike most other meals that take all the work beforehand and then you can sit and eat at your leisure, Fondue requires constant adjustment and tinkering, and the eating can last for hours. For a cheese fondue there are two equally important phases, melting and maintaining. Not paying attention, or not being prepared at either stage and ruin the fondue. Before you start, make sure you have your Sterno can, and that it is ready to go, because once the cheese is melted, it needs to stay that way, any attempt to remelt the cheese will ruin it.
The basics of Fondue are so simple, most people don't think twice about how to do it. Heat up the pot, toss in some cheese, eat. Of course most people have also had bad Fondue before too. Eric's family has been doing Fondue for decades, and he's really invested a lot of time figuring out how to do it right, and he's never shared this with anyone, so hit the break for a bona fide top secret recipe.
What you will need:
2 -3 lb of Extra Sharp Chedder Cheese
3-4 ounces of flavorful beer (no bud light here, you need something with rich heavy flavors like a Sam Adams. experiment with local micro brews!)
4-5 finely minced garlic cloves
Fondue pot and Sterno
Best served with:
French Bread, cubed
Sliced green apples
A good Cheese Fondue consists of only a few basic ingredients and while you can dress it up with a few things here and there, keep in mind that your accentuating the cheese flavor, not accentuating a spice or other ingredient.
Cube the cheese into small cubes, at most 1 in to a side. The smaller the better as it melts faster. Start by added a few (2-3 oz) of beer to a pot and bringing the heat up to a low-medium. Add enough cheese to cover the bottom of the pot, and start pushing the cubes around with a big wooden spoon. Once the cheese starts to melt, begin adding more cubes. When half the cheese is melted in, add garlic. Continue adding cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is all melted. During the process you may need to add a little more beer here or there to keep the consistency, but remember, if you add too much, the cheese will be too liquidy to stick to the things you are dipping.
Pour the now liquid cheese into your Fondue Pot and light your sterno can. Usually, keeping the lid half over the top of the can gives you a good temperature, but you will need to adjust it as you go. A proper temperature keeps the cheese melted but does not bring the cheese to a boil. If the cheese starts to bubble, your temperature is too high, if the cheese starts to set up, it is too low. If you let the cheese solidify again, it is ruined, so make sure you pay attention to it.