What could be better than dipping already delicious desserts, namely chocolate ones, in more chocolate? Fondue gives us an excellent excuse to cheat on our diets and to celebrate foods in exciting new ways. Do you now have visions of chocolate-covered pineapple chunks and chocolate-drizzled Rice Krispie treats dancing in your head?
The truth is, while most people think of fondue as centering on chocolate and scrumptious cookies, marshmallows, and treats, the full scope of fondue encompasses cheeses, broth, hot oil, dips, sauces, and more. If you have ever been to a fondue-focused restaurant, you know a thing or two about this. If you have enough fondue pots on hand, you can make a three-course meal out of your favorite things dipped in more of your favorite things. It’s amazing, really. Have you ever tried cheese with apple slices? It may seem like an unlikely combination, but in fact, it’s delicious. Cook some of your favorite meats, poultry, and seafood with broth, but keep that molten cheese at arm’s reach. You’ll love the way flavors play together, but you might love experimenting what you can dip where even more. Especially when it comes to dessert!
In a similar theme as fondue, a raclette table-top grill offers families and friends a fun way to enjoy a traditional Swiss dish by the same name. Raclette involves melting cheese (“Raclette” cheese in Switzerland and parts of Europe) and enjoying it with firm potatoes, vegetables, and meats grilled to perfection. Some favorite combinations in our part of the world may call for potatoes, chicken, bacon, broccoli and cheddar cheese, but you can let your imagination and your taste buds be your guide. Consider shrimp and scallops with bacon and cheese or any grilled vegetables you may enjoy. For best results, gather with a group of six to eight friends and feast to your heart’s content. Raclette makes for a wonderful dinner party idea, but you can also enjoy this dipping-style dinner in the comforts of home with your immediate family for a change on the usual dinner rotations.
Main course: fondue preparation tips
As much fun as it is, and no matter how delicious, fondue is usually a lot of work to set up and clean up, not to mention shopping for just the right cheeses (like Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Fontina, Gruyere, and Emmentaler), chocolates, breads, entrees, sides and desserts. Putting together a platter with a nice variety of items for dipping adds to the fun ambiance of a fondue dinner party.
Typically, fondue involves mixing wine with the cheese, but you can still use your favorite fondue recipes without wine if your guests will involve minors. A dry white wine usually works best, such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Dry Vermouth, to name a few. You can also create a nonalcoholic fondue using an acidic liquid such as lemon juice, blended with a bit of milk.
Getting your family members or friends involved in the preparation and cleanup can make the entire experience more enjoyable. If your kids are old enough, assign someone the task of cutting the bread into cubes and someone else the job of washing and slicing the fruit.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHEESE FONDUE
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
• 1 pound of shredded cheese (can blend two varieties if desired)
• 2 T cornstarch
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1 T lemon juice
• 1 T cherry brandy, optional
• 1/2 – 2 tsp. dry mustard (to taste)
1. Rub garlic clove over the inside of pot.
2. In a plastic freezer bag, combine shredded cheese and cornstarch and then shake to coat. Set aside.
3. In the pot, combine wine and lemon juice and bring to a low simmer.
4. Gradually add cheese to the pot, melting a bit at a time. Stir cheese in zigzags to keep the mixture smooth.
5. Consider adding brandy and dry mustard to taste.
6. Transfer cheese mixture to fondue pot and serve with a platter of cut and prepared meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables and breads.
A fondue party is a wonderful option for a fun dinner event in almost any circle. Enjoy fondue (or raclette) with your immediate family for someone’s birthday or to celebrate the end to a good week. Plan a romantic night of fondue and wine with your sweetheart, complete champagne or wine, three courses of favorite foods, and lots of desserts to enjoy at the end. If you are due for a get-together with some friends, an evening of fondue and wine could be the perfect social activity.
Chocolate fondue is hard to beat, but other delightful flavors of dessert fondue may be nice options to add variety. Consider dipping your favorite treats in molten caramel, marshmallow or honey.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHOCOLATE FONDUE
• 12 oz. of dark chocolate
• 8 oz. of heavy cream
• Pinch of salt
1. Warm the cream on the stovetop until tiny bubbles form and it comes to a gentle boil.
2. Add chocolate chips or pieces and stir with a whisk until fully incorporated.
3. Once fully melted and smooth, transfer the chocolate mixture to a fondue pot on low heat.
4. Serve immediately with your platter of delicious fruits and treats.
Some fun variations can make your fondue party even more fun if you are using numerous fondue pots. Consider white chocolate as another option or even milk chocolate fondue. Tiny pieces of toffee or hazelnuts or other small chopped or sliced nuts can add texture and flavor to your desserts. You can also add flavored baking oils like orange or raspberry oils to give a pop of fruity flavor to your chocolate – a nice treat for dipping pretzels, cookies and baked goods. Liquors like Baileys Irish Cream, Amaretto or Grand Marnier can give a fun twist to your chocolate fondue.
Once your tummies are full, you might wonder what to do with any leftover molten chocolate. It would be a shame to let any chocolate go to waste. For a treat that lasts beyond your dinner party, you can dip fresh strawberries or pretzels and pretzel sticks into the chocolate and place them on wax paper to cool. Pop them into a plastic container, layering them between wax paper if you have a lot, and then put them in the fridge to set so the chocolate doesn’t melt onto your hands when you go snacking later. (No judgments made on any fondue parties not having any leftover chocolate!)