Are you a fondue or a fondon't?
December 22, 2012 6:51 AM   Subscribe

What are some interesting non-beef options for hot oil fondue?

My inlaws have hot oil fondue every Christmas Eve and the menu never varies: beef with various dipping sauces. I don't eat beef and they are totally open to anything we want to add to the menu. So I'm figuring vegetables and tempura batter but which vegetables work best? Is raw chicken or raw pork weird? Could I bread some cheese (in what?) to make cheese balls? I remember as kids making mini donuts with bits of crescent roll dough that we dipped in cinnamon sugar. What else would be good?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Tofu would probably work, and you might try some seitan or tempeh as well. Probably any veggies you like would work in tempura batter; onions of course, peppers, mushrooms things that won't come apart if they inadvertently aren't totally covered in batter. I would think any good basic bread dough recipe would make a satisfactory wrap for cheese in the fondue. Sweet potato cubes or strips might be interesting. I'd experiment; most of the non-meat ingredients can always be eaten raw or saved and cooked in some other fashion if they won't work well in the fondue. As a vegan I can't really address the meat options except to say that raw pork probably isn't a good idea in a situation where you'll be constantly touching the uncooked meat and then the cooked ingredients due to what I understand are various nasties that can live in uncooked pork. Fondue is something my family did back in the day too - I remember it being fun. Good luck!
posted by Death by Ugabooga at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2012

I wonder if tempura batter will work so well (unless you have a separate fondue for that) -- won't it leave a ton of batter residue/little chunks of batter in the oil?

We had a lot of hot oil fondue when I grew up, and here, from memory, are some of the things i remember we had:

Meats: chicken (pre-all-encompassing salmonella scare), pork, beef, bacon-wrapped small (cocktail) sausages, big shrimp. I'd imagine scallops would work, too, and maybe big mussels, as well.

Veggies: broccoli and cauliflower florets, chunks of bell peppers, pearl onions.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:21 AM on December 22, 2012

Chicken and pork would be fine as long as they were kept at a safe temperature prior to eating (i.e. keep them in the fridge until you're ready to dip and eat). You'll just need to make sure you fully cook them before eating, whereas beef can be eaten much closer to fully raw. Keep them sliced thin or chunked very small to ensure they can be cooked quickly in the fondue. I might also consider keeping different fondue pots for each type of meat, if you want to be super safe about it, but I don't know that that's strictly necessary if the oil's being kept hot enough.

I'd also try zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, sweet potato and/or squash, peppers, mushrooms, shrimp or scallops.
posted by asciident at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2012

Chicken and pork are fine, as long as you don't leave them sitting around at over 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If it's a leisurely meal, prepare them and put them in bowls or plates nested in another bowl or plate filled with crushed ice.

For chicken, I recommend thighs cut into thick matchsticks - cooks faster and tastes better than breast, and the small size will keep it from sapping too much heat out of the oil even if you are keeping it on ice. Tip: press the thighs (and/or thin pork loin slices) out as flat as you can on a cutting board, cover in plastic wrap, and put in the freezer for 30-40 minutes before slicing. When it's a little firm, it's easier to get a nice clean cut.

If you're going to batter things, you really want a separate pot, and probably a spider or skimmer and a bunch of towels and napkins. It can get pretty messy (raw batter drips all over the place, burnt bits needing to be retrieved frequently). Deliciously messy, though - if you're going to do it, I recommend artichoke bottoms (canned or thawed from frozen, make sure you get them really dry before trying to batter them), mushrooms, very thinly sliced sweet potato. I'm not sure about breaded cheese, but I'll bet you could use unbreaded haloumi for delicious fried cheese.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:04 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dip cheese cubes in egg, then dip in breadcrumbs to make a breading that will fry up crispy while the cheese inside gets gooey and delicious.
posted by illenion at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2012

The Melting Pot (a chain of fondue restaurants) has an oil-based fondue as one of their choices, and serves a variety of things.
posted by booksherpa at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2012

I love deep-fried tofu, and I don't generally like tofu all that much. Tempura veggies & chicken would be tasty. Here's some inspiration; try the deep fried battered pickles, or some rice balls. Since this is an annual event, I'd look for ideas for some new interesting food to try deep frying every year.
posted by theora55 at 10:57 AM on December 22, 2012

Shrimp might be nice if you like seafood. Big chunks of Portobello mushrooms, sweet potato would be nice too or pretty much any vegetables you like. I'd find it fun to do chicken, I'd probably go thighs because they have more flavour and either marinate them or have a dipping sauce. I'd avoid tempura as batter get's messy and cleaning out a pot of hot oil when other people want to cook things might slow down the flow a little and can mess up the taste of the oil if you only have the one pot.
posted by wwax at 12:48 PM on December 22, 2012

Deep-fried tofu is amazing, but be sure to press it ahead of time and dry it well, otherwise you'll get it into the pot and hot oil will start spitting everywhere.

Tempura would be great, but I'd second the opinion that you'd want a second pot for it. Tempura is one of my family's holiday traditions, and it's a huge damn mess. That said, purchasing pre-battered things from the freezer section of the supermarket is much, much less messy, and is maybe an option for you.

Frying bits of uncooked bread dough makes lovely little doughnuts. Though I've not done it, I bet you could take a tube of biscuits or crescent rolls, flatten them out, and then put cheese in the middle, then sort of form the dough into a ball around the cheese. (I may have to try that this year!) My experience with breading my own cheese has been messy at best--you may want to reconsider that.
posted by MeghanC at 3:42 PM on December 22, 2012

Fresh tuna is delicious in a hot oil fondue, and won't do any harm if it's undercooked.
posted by pont at 2:05 AM on December 23, 2012

Response by poster: I dug out a second fondue pot so we can have a little more room for the 6 of us. So tempura is full-steam ahead and I'll be using broccoli, cauliflower, tiny sweet peppers, onion, and sweet potato. I also found some tiny breaded cheese balls in the freezer section and I'm going to try those. I decided to skip a non-beef meat since it's probably too messy and I'd be too worried about cross-contamination. Thanks for the suggestions.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:48 AM on December 23, 2012

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