Fondue has become one of those words that refers to a specific dish and is also loosely used as catch-all for a method of communal cooking.
Although there’s some debate about its exact origins, fondue is generally considered an invention of the Swiss. A peasant dish born of frugality, it was a way to use up cheese that had hardened. But Swiss fondue is not so much cooking as coating, usually in a Kirsch-laced, melted Emmenthaler, Gruyere, or comté cheese and white-wine mixture.
And of course, there’s dessert fondue—chocolate fondue in which bite-sized treats get a seductive bath in molten semisweet. Chocolate fondue is wonderful with strawberries, but is equally delicious with other berries and fruits, marshmallows, pretzels, brownie or cheesecake bites, cookies, pound cake cubes, graham crackers, or doughnut holes.
But we’re talking about cooking cubes of meat or poultry and an assortment of vegetables in hot oil or stock at table.
Playing with Your Food
It’s a technique that’s old as the hills, as fresh as today’s headlines, and as fun as the dickens.
You don’t have to look too far to get a boat load of results about fondue from your favorite search engine—just type in: fondue recipe. If you’re interested in its history, try: fondue origins.
Besides fondue, you’ll find this technique under a range of names and cultures, from Italian bagna caulda and Mongolian or Szechwan hot pot and Japanese shabu shabu.
You can make it into a romantic dinner for two or feed a hungry horde. It’s perfect for entertaining on a buffet.
For cooking in hot oil or stock, the preferred cuts of beef are tenderloin or center-cut sirloin. Cubes of pork tenderloin, butterflied leg of lamb, or boneless chicken breast or thigh meat work well, also.
So what do you do after you’ve dipped and cooked your selection in the hot liquid?
You dip again into a robust sauce. For parties, serve a range of sauces from rich to spicy to earthy—give your guests a trip around the world right from your table.
Here are a few dipping sauces to get you started.
What’s your favorite style of fondue? What’s your favorite fondue recipe? Do you prefer “fondue for two” or party-style?