Hack my fondue
March 24, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make good fondue with low-fat cheese?

Boyfriend has called Fondue Weekend (something we do on occasion), but he only likes the bread-and-cheese kind and is suspicious of the meat-in-oil kind. I'm trying to lose weight. These things seem mutually exlusive.

I'm more than happy to substitue the bread for crunchy veggies. What can we do to lower calories and fat content while preserving all of the cheesy goodness? I've found in the past that lower fat cheeses don't melt very well, but it's been a while since I've tried it. Has lower-fat cheese technology improved enough to allow good melting? Can we substitute some portion of the regular cheese* for something a bit healthier while (and this is important) maintaining the texture?

*We normally use some variation of the cheddar and beer recipe, but I could probably talk him into branching out and trying something new for the sake of my new hotness. All ideas welcome!

**Note also that I am perfectly aware there is no such thing as low-calorie, low-fat cheese fondue. I'm simply trying to minimize damage here.
posted by Eumachia L F to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In my limited experience this doesn't work; I've only tried it once, but it was a fairly spectacular failure and subsequent related experiments (like low-fat baked brie) have also been spectacular failures. Like half-melted plastic. Blech.

I would therefore suggest not messing up a perfectly good thing by trying to healthify it, but focus instead on portion control. Sorry.
posted by aramaic at 6:44 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't answering your question (partially because I don't think its answerable) but a whole quarter pound of a melting cheese like swiss is only 400 calories.

If I had to do this I would use 50/50 comte (stronger then emmentaler) and fromage frais (w/o added cream). Make the emulsion with the comte, heat, and then add the fromage frais at the last second - it doesn't really like heat - but the cornstarch in the emulsion should keep it from separating.

You might even need to get some older comte, as the fromage frais is very mild.
posted by JPD at 6:45 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never tried this, but off the top of my head, I'd suggest a Mornay sauce or something like it. Make a white roux, moisten it with liquid, then add shredded cheese. It won't be anywhere near as delicious as the full-fat deal, but for someone watching their weight, it might be preferable.

Maybe raclette is something you can look into?

However, can I make some out-there suggestions?

A gaijin variation on Mongolian hotpot; replace the oil with broth, scatter scallions and mushrooms in it, and do your normal fondue. Have some noodles ready for after, and you get to drink soup after the meal!

Or do it dutch style. Find some teeny frying pans you can put over the fondue burner or on a griddle. Cut up meat and veg the same as you would for a fondue, but include some compound butters and some pineapple rings. Fry what you want in your little frypan, and when it gets brown and crusty on the bottom, put the pineapple ring in there to lift up the crunchy bits.

Korean BBQ for westerners. Get yourself a big cast-iron frypan and a hotplate. Slice the meat (rather than chunk it) and marinate it in a Korean marinade (lots of recipes online). When it's time to eat, preheat the cast-iron skillet in the oven, then bring it to table and place on the hotplate. Fry your meat as normal, and have thick slices of Spanish onions ready to deglaze the bottom when it gets brown and crunchy. Do this one with the windows open, it'll throw some smoke.
posted by LN at 6:47 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to make good fondue with low-fat cheese?


However, you can make a low-fat cheese sauce with a passable texture, but it will still taste like low-fat cheese.

The beer-and-cheddar thing is actually a thing called Welsh rabbit,* not fondue. But I'll give you recipes for imitations of both.

Take your beer and divide it in half. Put one half on the stove, with two cloves or garlic and a pinch of salt in. to the other half, mix in a tablespoon of cornstarch. When the beer comes to a boil, remove the garlic cloves. Add the cornstarched beer and the "cheese," cut into cubes (make sure you stir the cornstarch back into the cold beer just before you pour, as it settles to the bottom of whatever you're holding it in. Reduce the heat to low and stir furiously, until combined.

For more traditional fondue, do the same but with white wine instead of beer, and swiss (and low-fat gruyere if such an abomination exists) instead of cheddar. Also, add a spritz of kirschwasser (cherry brandy) to the cornstarched wine.

*Sometimes erroneously spelled "rarebit." The reason the dish got its name was because the english were making fun of the welsh; it was said welshmen were so lazy, the main staple of their rabbit hunters was bread and cheese. The bowdlerized spelling was put forth during the brief period of time that it was unfashionable to denigrate the Welsh.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:51 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

re: things other than bread for cheese dipping: grapes!, brocoli, apple. seriously. Also, I made pita chips at our fondue last weekend and they were great with the cheese.

re: meat in oil... it's perfectly safe. If you are concerned, marinate your meats in fairly acidic marinades to help start them off. Make sure you cook them long enough, and also you could cut things very small to ensure thorough cooking. also, non-raw-meat things to dip in oil: peppers, onions, perogies (seriously), garlic sausage or kolbassa... yer missing out if you only ever do the cheese!

posted by utsutsu at 7:41 AM on March 24, 2011

I have found when I want hot cheesy dip goodness that a combo of equal parts low-fat cream cheese, goat cheese, and cheddar cheese works pretty well. (I nuke it, so I'm not sure if it would work as much in a fondue pot? but I can't see why you couldn't try it.) The cream cheese works as a more-smoothly melting binder and the goat cheese gives it a more pronounced kick of flavor without adding too many calories (1 oz = 80 cal, says the package) - since what I love about cheddar is the strong flavor - but cheddar alone doesn't melt very well, it gets clumpy and oily.
posted by flex at 7:56 AM on March 24, 2011

When our annual Fondue Fest suddenly included a person with a severe dairy allergy, we acquired a raclette grill to go alongside. It's all the fun of fondue, but much easier to tailor to individual dietary requirements -- you grill marinated meat/chicken/veg/tofu on top, and melt cheese below. You can spend a lot or not so much on one of these.
posted by apparently at 8:09 AM on March 24, 2011

What about going Vietnamese, and doing your own Bo Nhung Dam? It uses the meat he's suspicious of, but not oil, so it might be lower-calorie for you?
posted by aramaic at 8:41 AM on March 24, 2011

Best answer: Rather than hack it, you can hack you. Try a healthy snack or salad before hand so you're not as hungry and therefore not likely to over indulge. You can also try a whole wheat or whole grain bread in addition to the veggies.
posted by cestmoi15 at 10:09 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with LN, I would make (on the stove) a bechamel sauce, well-salted and seasoned, out of 1 or 2 percent milk (and some beer? not sure how that would work), then add a not-enormous amount of shredded, very good, flavorful, sharp cheddar (or comte or however you roll). When it's all melted up, you can put it in the fondue pot to stay warm. By using real cheese, just less of it, you'll get a much better flavor and consistency than trying to hack it with the low-fat stuff.
posted by LeeLanded at 10:31 AM on March 24, 2011

Strong cheese and a bechamel is the way to go, and I always make my fondue like this.
Instead of cheddar or comte which lose a lot of flavor in melting, I suggest blue cheese. You don't have to use a lot of it to get a strong cheesy flavor and it goes well with veggies.
Go sharp and smelly and make sure to keep adding milk and wine to thin it out so you aren't eating all cheese.

When I make fondue, I usually have steamed broccoli, steamed cauliflower, sliced red pepper, cherry tomatoes, boiled fingerling potatoes. If you are a pickle person, cornichons and picked carrots are also common.
posted by rmless at 11:14 AM on March 24, 2011

Bechamel is really not much lower in calories than real fondue fondue.

1tbs flour = 50 cals
1 tbs butter = 100 cals
1 cup 2% milk = 122

1/2 oz butter
1/4 oz flour
8 oz milk

= so figure you halve that to get about 4 oz of bechamel @ 136 cals, add two oz of cheese to that and its 336 cals/6oz

If you figure the ratio of wine to cheese to cornstarch in a classic fondue is something like 4 oz cheese + 3.50 oz of wine + 1/4 oz flour = 400 + 85 cals + 50 cals =535 for 8 oz, 400 cals for six oz.
posted by JPD at 11:32 AM on March 24, 2011

my family used to do fondue nights that were broth based instead of cheese - perhaps you could have two dipping pots going?

have the broth simmering, and use it to cook veggies and chunks of meat - you have to skewer the meat firmly, and then leave it in the broth for a little while to cook it to your desired done-ness. We would make a variety of sauces to dip them in as well. For extra fun there was the rule that if your food fell off your fork, you owed something to the person who fished it out, like a kiss on the cheek, or fetch them a drink. (I imagine that this could be way more fun in a non-family setting, if you catch my drift)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:21 PM on March 24, 2011

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