Any advice for a first fondue?
August 31, 2010 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me do that fondue voodoo that you do so well!

I want to try having friends over for a fondue dinner for no other reason that it seems like fun, and the sort of dinner that really lends itself to great conversation. Having said that, I could use some advice.

Specifically, are the electric fondue sets comparable or even preferable to the open-flame style? Is there a particular model or brand that you can recommend?

We plan to do both cheese and chocolate, and possibly broth if we have time as well, but I would also appreciate recipes and advice on 'dippers' or whatever you would call them. We are vegetarian though, so no meat, chicken, fish or the like.

posted by WinnipegDragon to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I have the most ridiculous miniature, no-dial-it's-either-plugged-in-and-on-or-it's-not Crock Pot. I got it for Christmas one year, and was all wtf do you make in a crock pot you can barely fit your fist in? The answer is you melt chocolate. It gets to the perfect chocolate-melting temperature without getting so hot as to burn the chocolate. If you come across one for really cheap, I'd consider getting it. (If fondue is something you're going to do often.)
posted by phunniemee at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2010

I like having fruit (strawberries, mostly), marshmallows and pound cake as dippers for chocolate. I think it's pretty important to have the strawberries, as the acid cuts through and makes it a lot better than just a complete sugar rush :P
posted by Madamina at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: for cheese - you'll want an array of breads, nice crackers, apples and pears wedged and dipped in acidulated water to retard browning, and various vegetables: carrots, fennel wedges, sweet peppers, possibly sturdy mushrooms, artichokes, belgian endive, potato chunks, radishes, whatever you like. Make sure to throw a few nice/unexpected items in so it's not just a boring vegetable tray.

Have a salad, something good and light and palate cleansing - frisée or arugula or watercress, simply dressed.

Don't drink cold drinks with cheese fondue; that way lies stomachaches for everyone.

That plus dessert is actually probably plenty.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A cheese fondue is super-heavy as a meal, not to mention quite time consuming. I wouldn't do both cheese and chocolate fondues at the same dinner party.

Apart from the standard swiss/emmenthal mixture for a cheese fondue, you might think about other variations to liven things up a little. Here in Canada, there's a version using Canadian cheddar and another, stronger cheese from Quebec (whose name I have, of course, forgotten right now), with beer in place of the wine.
posted by LN at 12:05 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: Most fondue sets come with six forks. You can buy more separately, but they can be hard to find in stores. Fondue is best with 4-6* people

Cook the fondue on the stove and then transfer to a warming pot - open flame is cheaper than electric, and you can titrate the sterno as needed by covering it more or less. Don't use your hands. A tealight only works well for smallish metal pots.

If you're not cooking meat, don't worry about doing a broth. Some vegetables should be either poached (potatoes, for example) or lightly steamed (my preference for carrots and broccoli) so that they're firm but cooked before dunking in cheese. You can put anything in fondue. Pita, cooked foods (one of my books suggests dunking already fried eggplant and mozz into more cheese!), anything firm enough to survive heat and heavy melty cheese or chocolate. I strongly prefer fruits to dense cake in my chocolate fondue, but YMMV.

Don't be afraid to flavor the chocolate and cheese - spicy or whatever - if that's in the lines of what you and your guests like. I have a number of fondue cookbooks that are all inexplicably sorted into regional themes, especially the older ones, but also the newer. The most interesting one is a 'soul food/Caribbean' theme; if there's a particular kind of cuisine you like, you can adapt it to fondue.

It is nice to have salad around, either before or between courses.

*my vintage fondue cookbooks are strangely hardline about 6 people being the only number to be at dinner - unless you have two pots, and then it's 12.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:05 PM on August 31, 2010

We do broth or oil and meats and vegetables.
posted by eggerspretty at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: We got a fondue pot as a wedding gift. We love it. I would definitely say go with an electric one over a fire one (especially if it's candle powered). I wouldn't use a crock pot.

There are fondue recipe only cookbooks. We have one that we love, memail me if you want the name - I'm at work and I'll forget to look.

Our electric pot surges the apartment just like turning a vacuum or an iron on. Keep that in mind when you plug it in somewhere.

Also, and most importantly, you can taste the difference in quality of the ingredients. If you melt Hershey bars, you're going to have a very waxy and not wonderful chocolate. Go to a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or the like and get actual confection grade chocolate. Same with the cheese. Go to the deli and get real, actual cheese.

For the main course we do a cheese, with grilled chicken, steak, apples, and a loaf of bread from the bakery.

For desert we do a dark chocolate and Bailey's with strawberrys, apples, bananas, pound cake and marshmallows.

Don't for get your Lactose pills either!
posted by phritosan at 12:08 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: We like our electric fondue pot for things like broth and cheese. Although I agree that broth is really best for meat, so I'd skip it. Actually we used sake as our "broth". When you're doing a cheese fondue it really can be a lot easier to cook/melt the mixture on the stovetop and then transfer to the pot to keep warm. Just be sure not to over-stir or things will get stringy. There's something about not stirring in a circle too, but I can't remember.
Go Fondue is a good reference site.
If you do more than one type of fondue in one meal, say cheese and chocolate, please have two separate pots. You don't want to have to take a break for cleaning, and things are hot. My mother-in-law has a bunch so we always borrow a good chocolate one (either a tea light or a tiny crockpot) to use after the main course. Same deal, melt your mixture first then transfer to the pot to stay warm. I like to dip pineapple as well as your other typical fruits. Lady fingers or firm cookies work well too.
We have extra forks and special sectioned plates for various dips (of course the dips usually go with meat, I think).
There are also a couple etiquette basics you might want to review with your guests. Such as, use a regular fork to remove the food from your fondue fork, rather than eating off the long fork and sticking it back in the pot. Germ sharing is not nice.
No sword fighting with the fondue forks, etc.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had very good luck with the Good Eats Cheese Fondue recipe.
posted by mmascolino at 1:38 PM on August 31, 2010

Ha, we found a fondue set in our apartment in France. Good times were had by all. The only tip I picked up was that slightly stale bread is best, as it's slightly harder than fresh bread. Means that you end up with melted cheese around an object with decent structural integrity, rather than a sloppy mess sliding off your fork.
posted by djgh at 1:44 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: My spouse's family is Swiss, so I married into the fondue tradition and we received a fondue pot as a wedding gift from her Swiss cousins. It is not unlike this (ours is white with cows on both the pot and the rechaud. The rechaud is also more closed in to be a little more efficient.

If you do a cheese fondue (and you should), be sure to serve a digestif with it. Mrs. Plinth's family prefers German kirschwasser and warns to avoid the French variety. Pear Williams is also a nice digestif.

The proportions of cheese that they use are a family secret - but we like to play around with it when there are good imported cheeses available (Appenzeller and Vacherin Fribourgeois are nice when added in moderation). Mrs. Plinth's folks like to put chopped mushrooms into their fondue. I found that fresh morels or chanterelles (if your can find them) taste much nicer than the typical button mushrooms. If you can get dried morels, rehydrate them in white wine for several hours before mincing them and putting them in the pot. Use the remaining liquid as part of the wine proportion. of the mix.

When I was a boy, my mom would occasionally make a beef fondue and use clarified butter for the pot and beef stew meat from our local butcher who had a reputation of sneaking in small scraps of beef fillet into the mix.

Mrs. Plinth's family doesn't worry too much about germ-sharing, seeing that the cheese is boiling hot. They have a custom of keeping one fork with bread active in the pot to keep the cheese from sticking until someone else is ready, so I'm pretty sure anything that goes in gets pasteurized. For people on low-carb diets, offer mushrooms instead of bread. Fresh broccoli florets aren't bad either.
posted by plinth at 1:47 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Plinth: now I'm REALLY hungry.

My friend had a chocolate fondue night some time ago. What worked amazingly well? Apricot cheese. Seriously. Dipped in chocolate, it's YUMMY. Everyone else thought I was a weirdo (I yoinked the cheese from the cheese tray) but considering apricots in any other context make me gag, it was awesome.
posted by divabat at 3:47 PM on August 31, 2010

I love fondue! I had a fondue dinner party, and the best thing I did was have lots of fondue pots (and forks!) - I had some electric, some candle. I picked them up from thrift stores and yard sales, people love getting rid of fondue sets. I would not count on using the same pot twice in the same night (ie for cheese and chocolate) because the clean up is annoying and greatly helped by soaking. The electric ones worked better and had a lot less burning/sticking. Green apples are great in the cheese fondue, and rice krispy treats are my favorite for the chocolate fondue.
posted by fermezporte at 6:25 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

appreciate recipes

Do not underestimate the deliciousness of a fondue prepared from apple juice or apple cider. I found myself unintentionally trying some while sharing a fondue dinner with some girls from Palestine, and then being drawn to eat more and more of it. The flavor is refreshingly light and a little sweeter than the wine-based fondue.

Also, consider serving a raclette or tartiflette with the meal. These never made it to kitsch 70's as-seen-on-TV kits, but in my opinion, are even more delicious. Brings the flavor of onion, bacon, potato, and some different cheeses.
posted by whatzit at 9:29 AM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: We just found out that one of our guests is expecting (yay!) and does not wish to eat chocolate because of the caffeine (boo!) so what other options are there for dessert fondue, or should we just skip it entirely?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2010

My copy of 'Great Party Fondues' has several non-chocolate dessert fondues. If you 'look inside' with the Amazon link here and search - raspberry for the one on page 94, caramel page 96, white, page 93 (white 'chocolate') Each recipe is just one page, so if you can see the individual pages, you're clear. If you plan on doing fondue often, it's a decent small book.

You may want to make your menu known to your invitees ahead of time; if I was going to a fondue party I'd expect chocolate and would be disappointed with the ghostly impostor known as white 'chocolate', although that's not related to its lack of delicious caffeine (the white stuff does not contain even the minuscule amounts of caffeine present per ounce of milk chocolate.)
posted by cobaltnine at 2:18 PM on September 1, 2010

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