If you come visit, expect to eat fondue. Fondue restaurants are pervasive and even a non-cook like me can make fondue at home. Our friends Pitbull and TNT came to visit and we had a fondue extravagaza. Here’s how we made it:
- Cut the bread into cubes of less than an inch. Some people like the bread a bit dry (to better absorb the cheese) and will use day old bread and/or cut it a few hours ahead.
- Split a piece of garlic in two. Rub the inside of the fondue pot it.
- Pour a bit of white wine (preferably Swiss, it should be dry not sweet) in the bottom of the pot.
- Pour the shredded cheese (see below for which ones) in the pot and stir.
- Add more wine, bit by bit to ensure a smooth texture. I find it helpful to leave a bit of cheese in reserve to add if the mixture becomes a bit thin and/or runny.
- Stir the mixture so that the cheese melts and cooks evenly.
- While you want the cheese to melt, you don’t want it to burn. Check the temperature to make sure that it is not too hot.
- Raise your glass, toast and begin eating.
- While eating, adjust the heat so that the cheese stays at a constant temperature and does not overcook.
Eating fondue is easy. The largest problem associated with eating fondue is overeating. Put a small piece of bread on the fork/dipper/fondue skewer, stir it in the cheese and enjoy. Although I can’t help you with the overeating part, here are some tips and etiquette for eating fondue:
- Even though you will want to pop the cheesy goodness right into your mouth, try to be patient and let the cheese drip/cool for a second.
- To avoid sharing too many germs, people avoid touching their mouths to the fork/dipper/fondue skewer.
- Drink only white wine or room temperature water while eating fondue to avoid indigestion. You will thank yourself if you do this and curse yourself if you don’t.
- If you lose your bread in the cheese, custom dictates that you buy the next round of drinks or be thrown in the lake (Lac Leman/Lake Geneva). Given Geneva’s expensive prices, you may be in for a dunking in Geneva’s approximately 5 degree waters (41 Fahrenheit). You were warned.
- La religieuse (French for the nun) refers to the well-cooked remnants of cheese that stick to the bottom of the pot. They are scraped out and eaten. Yum.
The Swiss debate the best type of cheese fondue. The most popular types include (in order of popularity):
- Moitié-moitié (or half ‘n half): a 50/50 mixture of Gruyère and Fribourg vacherin cheeses.
- Neuchâteloise: a mixture of Gruyère and Emmental cheeses.
- Vaudoise: Gruyère.
- Fribourgeoise: This uses Fribourg vacherin cheese, and often potatoes are dipped instead of bread.
- Innerschweiz: Gruyère, Emmental and sbrinz.
- Appenzeller: Appenzeller cheese with cream added.
Sometimes, a shot of Kirsh, tomatoes, peppers (red and green), or mushrooms will be placed in the cheese. Of course, the French (Comté savoyard, Beaufort, and Emmental or just different types of Comté) and Italians (Fontina, milk, eggs and truffles) have their own versions.
There is, apparently, a much larger world of fondue out there, just waiting to be discovered (and eaten). Other types of fondue include:
- Chocolate fondue, where pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture,
- Fondue bourguignonne, where pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil
- Fondue chinoise, a hot pot, where pieces of meat are cooked in broth.
Although it will be burdensome, we will do the research and report back.
For the “fondue bourguignonne”, I use to dip pieces of meat in white wine in place of oil, which has a better taste, leaves a better aroma souvenir in the apartment, and of course is a bit more digest.
Here’s another tip that we just learnt… when the cheese is almost finishing, crack an egg and let the cheese cook together with the egg. Scrape and have the remnants of the cheese together with the egg. YUMMY!
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A friend of mine claims she got tipsy off of cheese fondue in Gevena, Switzerland. Does the alcohol evaporate out, or does some remain?
You are supposed to almost bring the wine to a boil before mixing in the cheese. It continues at that high temperature while the (significant amount of cheese) melts. Most (if not all) the alcohol should cook off. After a long day of hiking or skiing and at altitude, it might take less so to speak.
Ehh – correction to the basic recipe: you need to stir in some maizena to obtain the right consistency of the cheese. Take 2 tablespoons of maizena, stir with 2 teaspoons of kirsch (cherry brandy), and pour into the cheese when it reaches cooking level and stir well. Often Swiss will put in some grated nutmeg, some black ground pepper or powdered white pepper. Note that Swiss pharmacies will sell you special enzymes to help digestion, in case you have experienced difficulties. Don’t hesitate to ask, as it is a very common problem that gets solved with a smile.
We have not been adding maizena. I didn’t think it was possible to taste any better. We will try it and report back. Thanks.
The rationale for adding the maizena with Kirsch is to improve the taste: more wine and kirsch flavor remains, less fat, and better consistency. It is a matter of the right balance. Without maizena cum kirsch the fondue has a higher fat content (harder to digest) and less alcohol, and less consistency, more fluid. I consider the maizena as essential to a good fondue as the garlic to start off with flavoring the fondue pan.
Thanks. That makes sense. We just made Fondue Chinoise for the first time. It turned out well and I will be posting about it. Do you have any suggestions for how to cook it? I am not skilled in the kitchen (I’m horrible) but am trying to learn as many Swiss dishes as possible.
Frankly, i don’t think fondue ‘chinoise’ has anything to do with Swiss fondue. You just put a piece of meat on a fork and you cook it in sunflower oil in the fondue pan. I am a vegetarian, so the idea does not appeal to me. Besides the oily meat often gets doused with fatty sauces to make it palatable… Only for the seriously underweight eaters, i’d say.
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