While I was living and traveling in Europe, one of the best things I ate was fondue in tiny-but-beautiful Switzerland. Thanks to "The Melting Pot," I can now go out and enjoy many kinds of fondue any time I want, however, there are many times I want to make fondue at home. It's terrific for wintertime parties or just an intimate dinner for two. Besides it's wonderful and unique taste, fondue produces a feeling of warmth and contentment and an "all's right with the world" mind set, even if just for an hour or two.
The following recipe is for Fondue Neuchateloise. Enjoy it before warm weather arrives (and despite the snow in the Northeast and Eastern seaboard, spring is just around the corner).
Swiss Fondue (Fondue Neuchateloise)
2 1/2 fl. dry white wine
5 1/2 oz. Emmental and Gruyere cheese (grated and mixed - half and half)
1 t Cornstarch
1/2 fl. Kirsch (this is the legendary Swiss cherry "firewater." It is quite dry. Don't use cherry brandy, which is quite sweet, instead. The best kirsch is Dettling, from Switzerland, but you can find good quality kirsch in any fully stocked liquor store. And fondue is safe for children and people taking medication as all the alcohol burns off.)
Shake of pepper
Ground fresh nutmeg
6 oz. crusty white bread, cubed
Note: The measurements above are "per person." Multiply each by the number of guests you expect to serve.
In Switzerland, fondue is always prepared in a "caquelon," which is an earthenware dish, glazed inside, with a handle, however an enamelled saucepan can be used, or even a not-too-shallow fireproof dish. Just follow the directions below:
1. Rub the inside of the pan with half a cut clove of garlic, and let it dry until the rubbed places feel tacky.
2. Put the wine in the dish and bring it to a boil.
3. Slowly start adding cheese to the boiling wine, and stir constantly until each bit is dissolved, then add more.
4. When all the cheese is in, stir the kirsch into the cornstarch well, then add the mixture to the cheese and keep stirring over the heat until the mixture comes to a boil again.
5. Add freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste.
6. Remove the dish to on top of a small live flame (Sterno or alcohol burner) and keep it bubbling slowly. (Some people do use electric fondue pots.)
7. Bread should have been cubed - about 1-inch cubes - for spearing with fondue forks and stirring around in the cheese. A crusty bread, like French or Italian, needs to be used.
The old custom is that if you accidentally lose the bread into the cheese from the end of your fork, if you're male, you have to buy a round of drinks for the table; if you're female, you have to kiss everyone.
Do not drink water with fondue - it reacts badly in your stomach with the cheese and bread. Dry white wine or tea are the usual accompaniments.
The "coupe d'midi," or "shot in the middle," is taken when you get full before you're "really" done, and consists of a thimbleful of kirsch, knocked straight back in the middle of the meal. This usually magically produces more room if you're feeling too full. Don't ask how this works, just accept the fact that it just does.
The crusty bit that forms at the bottom of the pot as the cheese keeps cooking is called the "crouton," and is very nice peeled off and divided among the guests as a sort of farewell to the fondue - but only for now.