Fondue It Right: 4 Tips On Preparing Perfect Fondue

Fondue refers to a communal pot full of either melted cheese or chocolate {should you add “and other ingredients” or something? Or is fondue limited to just chocolate and cheese?} in which bread, meat and various sweets – like marshmallows and fruit pieces – are dipped. Originally popular in homes and restaurants across France and Switzerland, this tradition emigrated to the U.S. sometime in the 1930s. It’s a unique culinary experience, one that places emphasis on sharing and, by extension, a greater sense of communication between dinner-goers. Fondue isn’t just some quaint experience for patrons, either; preparing fondue takes special insight and considerations from the chef. Feel free to refer to the following as a list of fondues and fondon’ts.

Consider your gear
Like any other cooking endeavor, fondue requires its own set of tools. The more specific items include:

  • Fondue pot.
  • Heat sources
  • Long forks or skewers.
  • Plates for uncooked food.

There are three kinds of pots available, and your choice usually depends on what you’re cooking. Ceramic pots are usually best when cooking a fondue that requires low heat, like chocolate. Meanwhile, a metal pot is ideal for any high-heat fondues, usually a cheese in which  meat and seafood are dipped. Finally, enamel pots can handle both low- and high-heat fondues. As for heating elements, the most common varieties are electric heaters, candles, liquid fuel and gel fuel. Neither option really impact flavor, and instead each have different cook times.

Cheese please
Fondue isn’t simply about melting one block of cheese and dipping away. Instead, most fondues will involve the use of several different cheeses. The most widely used type are mountain cheeses, those that have been aged and hardened for some time. Popular examples of mountain cheeses include vacherin fribourgeois, hoch ybrig, raclette, gruyere, comte, fontina, emmenthaler and appenzeller. No matter what cheese you end up picking, though, you’ll always want to ensure that each one is complementary. In order to bolster this collaboration, it’s a good idea to always use plenty of herbs with your fondue. Additions like thyme, chives, raw garlic, paprika, sweet pimenton and nutmeg are great ways to tie certain cheese flavors together. Finally, you always need to give the cheese plenty of time to cook. Cook larger blocks over low heat for at least an hour, which will result in smoother, more creamy fondue.

Don’t skimp on bread
When it comes to fondue, cheese or chocolate are always the primary focus. However, that doesn’t mean that, especially with cheese, the bread isn’t important either. You always want to emphasize two components: freshness and size. Bread that isn’t stale is thus more absorbent, which makes for a much more pleasant taste experience. As well, you want to try and work with smaller pieces. Bread slices that are too large are not only harder to work with but take away from the cheese’s focus. Some of the more popular bread choices include:

  • Nut breads.
  • Grainy loaves.
  • Plain baguettes.

Chocolaty goodness
Like cheese, making fondue with chocolate has a number of considerations. You’ll always want to opt for the best chocolate possible, as the quality can have a significant impact on both how well it melts and the overall taste. As an extension of that, try and keep any water or other moisture outside the fondue pot. Either of which can throw off the integrity of the chocolate itself. If the chocolate becomes too lumpy, just add some vegetable oil to the mix, which can help make it creamier and easy to stir. It might also be worth exploring the addition of various spices. Add-ins like cayenne, cinnamon and vanilla bean lend new life to the chocolate itself. Finally, it’s important to consider what you’re dipping in the chocolate. Popular options include dried fruit, crisp rice squares and cookies.

Practice your fondue skills when you enroll in the culinary arts programs.

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