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Sunday, January 1, 2012

[Cheese Fondue] Great cheesy meal during the colder months

First of all,
Happy new year!
Bonne année, Grande année! (in Quebec style)

Hope you welcomed the new year in style!

  Mr. D and I had a new year's eve toast with Veuve Clicquot.

And it was awesome :)

By the way, I didn't know until last night that the widow(veuve) Clicquot-Ponsardin dropped her maiden name Ponsardin.

There was time when we were so fond of the widow and her champagne as the photo shows.

When did the Champagne house change its name from 'Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin' to "Veuve Clicquot"?
I understand that madame Clicquot had wanted to add Ponsardin to the brand name to leave her footage to the Clicquot family business (about 250 years ago :)) after her. Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin was too long anyway, wasn't it?
In short, I like the new name.
We had a last glass this morning, just like Princess Anne(Audrey Hepburn) in Roman holiday. :)

I'd like to share one of my favorite winter food on this very first day of 2012.
It's la fondue au fromage or "Cheese fondue."

If you like cheese, I'm sure you'd love cheese fondue.
My first encounter with cheese fondue was when I was freshman.

I was reading Astérix and there was an episode about cheese fondue.
(My major was French literature)

The cartoon was so impressive that the first real meal I had in Annecy, a tiny french city near the Swiss border, the following winter, was nothing but la fondue au fromage!

Cheese fondue is a swiss-french dish served in a "caquelon" which is a french name for a shared pot over a spirit burner, and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese.
The name "fondue" is a past participle of the french verb fondre which means melt.
Cheese fondue originated as a way to use up old cheese and bread.
I don't think the dish existed at the Astérix era, i.e. Iron age and Roman era.
As I searched on web, the first time Fondue was mentioned was in 1699 in a swiss book, Kochbuch der Anna Margaretha Gessner, 1699 (cited by Albert Hauser, Vom Essen und Trinken im alten Zürich)
It's so easy to make,
but you need a caquelon, a communal vessel that has a thick bottom to sustain the heat of spirit burner.
The fondue vessel is usually made of stoneware, enamelled cast iron or porcelain.
I usually make Neuchâteloise fondue which needs only two cheeses: gruyère and emmental.
For french alpine style fondue savoyarde, you use comté, beaufort, and emmental.
Here goes a traditional Neuchâteloise cheese fondue recipe:
Ingredients( 4 servings)
** In general, you gauge +-150g (about 5 ounces) of cheese per person(serving) **
300g (10 oz) Emmentaler cheese
300g (10 oz) Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-2 cloves garlic, halved
1 + 1/2 cups dry white wine, French Savoie region wine preferred
3 tablespoons kirsch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper (optional)
1-2 baguettes bread, cut into bite-sized cubes, with crust on
How to make:
1. You can either dice cheese into small cubes or grate them. I find grated cheese is mixed more quickly.
2. Rub the insides of a fondue pot with the garlic.
3. Pour the wine into the pot and simmer over low heat until bubbles rise.

4. Add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern to prevent the cheese from clumping, until the cheese is completely melted. Dont stir in a circular motion.It will clump cheese.
Don't let let the mixture come to a boil.

5. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, nutmeg and the kirsch.

6. Stir cornstarch mixture into fondue. 
Bring fondue to a simmer and stirring occasionally , until thickened, about 8-10 minutes.

You need to simmer enough to let all the alcohol of kirsch and wine evaporate.

 6. Add nutmeg and cornstarch and season to taste with salt and white pepper, if using.
If it looks somewhat liquid, don't worry. It's gets slightly thicker as you eat.

Serve with a basket of crusty bread cubes and simple salad.

Cheese fondue should be kept warm enough to keep the fondue smooth and liquid but not so hot.

When the fondue is all finished, there will be a toasted cheese crust at the bottom of the caquelon(shared pot), which is called la religieuse (in french) or "the nun" in English.

It's really tasty.

It is easily lifted with the long-stemmed fork what you just used to poke bread cubes.

Please don't fight over it though.

Mr. D and I shared it as a nice couple should. :) Thank God(?), Remi and Pablo don't have their eyes on "la religieuse" yet.

Bon Appétit!
Cheese Fondue


  1. La Veuve, c'est mon champagne préféré... And the cheese fondue is to die for. Humm, when can I make this?

    1. Hi Megan,
      You too? I love Veuve Clicquot!
      My absolute is Krug, but it is seriously so expensive that we drink it every other year :(
      You are lucky. Wine & champagne prices are much affordable in the States. We drink a bottle a day when we drive down there.
      Same with cheese. I'm jealous. How about having a pot of cheese fondue before it gets warmer? :)