Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Winter Warmers – Fondue

Fondues are in fashion once more and given that they are a winter dish I thought they would make a great comfort food for this time of year. In the past food became scarce in the winter and the cheeses that had been made in the summer were hard and dry so melting them in a Fondue was a way of stretching out the winter rations. The cheese was melted in a earthenware pot called the caquelon. Local wines and seasonings were added and even the stale bread tasted delicious after it was swirled in the creamy cheese sauce.

The word fondue is a derivative of the French word, fondre, which means "to melt" – and there is some debate as to whether fondue originated as a Swiss or a French dish. Most people credit the Swiss for inventing the fondue but in the medieval vineyards of Burgundy meat fondues were cooked when workers had to harvest grapes quickly with no time for a noon meal. They heated oil right there in the countryside and dunked pieces of meat into it for a quick bite.

In Switzerland, fondue emerged as a cooking method in the early 1800s and the French gastronome Brillat-Savarin mentioned fondue in his 19th century writings. Savarin is credited with introducing the dish to America when he left France just ahead of the French Revolution. He wrote three cookbooks that included fondue au fromage, which was slightly different from the Swiss peasant food because it included butter and cream.

Traditional fondue is made with a mixture of Emmenthal and/or Gruyére cheese and wine, melted in a communal pot. Cherry brandy is sometimes added to the melted mixture, which becomes a dip for pieces of stale bread and crusts. Today's Meat fondues have extended to encompass beef, boneless skinless breast of chicken, prawns, scallops, and even salmon. The diner sits at a pot of either oil or broth as the meats are brought out raw, with an assortment of sauces for dipping. Dessert fondues emerged in the 1960s and 70s and involve dipping pieces of cake and fruit into warmed chocolate or caramel sauces.

Fondue Savoyarde

12 oz shredded Emmental cheese
12 oz shredded Gruyére
12 oz Tomme or Beaufort cheese, shredded
6 glasses dry white wine
½ glass of Kirsch liqueur
1 clove garlic peeled and crushed
White pepper
One egg
3 baguettes

Cube the bread the day before you wish to make the fondue and leave to dry.

Rub the sides of a heavy saucepan with the clove of garlic, pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Add the cheese and stir slowly with a wooden spoon. Before the cheese is all melted, remove the pan from the stove and place on a lighted fondue burner. Season with pepper and add the kirsch whilst stirring. Once the cheese has entirely melted, serve with bread and fondue forks. If the cheese bubbles reduce the heat immediately. When the cheese is almost gone (less than a cupful left), break the raw egg into the pot and stir rapidly with cheese. After one minute add the remaining bread into the pot and stir together. Turn off the burner and enjoy what is left!

Fondue Bourguignonne

2 lb beef steak
4 cups of cooking oil
salt and pepper
sauces of your choice

Cut the beef into 1 inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper and arrange in individual serving dishes. Heat oil in the fondue pot, then spear beef cubes using your fondue fork, and cook until done.

Serve with different kinds of dipping sauces on the side. For the sauces, you can use curry, bearnaise, tartar, or cocktail sauces. To make curry sauce, simply mix together some mayonnaise and curry powder. To make Sauce Andalouse, mix together a cup of mayonnaise with a teaspoon of paprika and a tablespoon of tomato paste.

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