Our assignment for this week’s Spin Cycle is to post a recipe and tell a story about it.
Par for the course around here.
Beloved and I hadn’t been dating for very long when he took me to a restaurant called The Melting Pot. Although I’d heard of it – fondue was very popular in the 70s when I was growing up – I’d never eaten any. It was enjoying something of a renaissance around the turn of the century, and fondue restaurants were popping up all over the place. When he told me that’s where we were going for dinner, I thought, “Oh, cool – we’ll eat some cheese with bread, and maybe get some chocolate fondue with some strawberries and it’ll be fun.”
I was not prepared for the three courses, including a meat course in the middle, and the myriad of foods they gave you to dip – nor was I prepared for a dinner that lasted 3 hours. But I loved it, and me being me, immediately thought about how I could make it myself.
So he bought a fondue pot, and I think we’ve actually been back to a fondue restaurant once in the past 13 years.
Fondue has become something of an event in our household, and there were a few years when I asked Miss J what she would like for her birthday meal that I could count on the answer being “Fondue!” It’s also something that The Young One has always enjoyed (he’s asked for it a couple of times, as well, but usually opts for Pad Thai for his birthday), so when he asked if he could have a birthday party we decided that it would be fun to feed his friends The Birthday Fondue Dinner.
The first course was Classic Cheese Fondue, and met with mixed success. My kids, even the picky ones, have pretty sophisticated palates (Jolly, who is pretty darn picky, has asked for Eggs Benedict for brunch this Sunday). Only one of the friends that showed up had ever had a fondue dinner before, and only a couple of them them really enjoyed the cheese – I think the sharp cheese coupled with the dry wine and garlic was just a little much for them. Next time I make a cheese fondue for neophytes I’ll use a much milder cheese and melt it in a homemade chicken or vegetable stock instead.
That being said, the entire dinner surprised me a bit – I served the cheese course with a crusty bread, cut into cubes, sliced Granny Smith apples and blanched baby carrots and broccoli; while I was pretty sure they’d eat the bread, there wasn’t a scrap of apple, carrot or broccoli left at the end of the course.
For the second course, I brought a good quality vegetable broth to a simmer in the fondue pot and gave them raw steak, chicken and shrimp to skewer on their forks and cook in the broth, plus a variety of sauces (barbecue, cocktail, steak, teriyaki) for them to dip the meats in. They really enjoyed this, but they were pretty full from the first course and I think they got tired of waiting for each bite of meat to cook, because there was plenty of meat leftover, except for the shrimp, which was a huge hit (and didn’t take as long to cook). (Note to self: buy another set of fondue forks.)
Dessert surprised me the most – the fondue consisted of high quality dark chocolate melted in heavy cream, with which I served cheesecake, pound cake, marshmallows, sliced bananas and strawberries. They barely touched the cakes or marshmallows, but absolutely inhaled the fruit.
I’d call that a win.
At any rate, depending on the sources of your meat, cheese, cream and chocolate the entire meal constitutes real food. If you leave out the bread during the cheese course, make the sauces yourself for the meat course and serve fruit with your chocolate course, it is perfectly primal, if not paleo. Nor is it hard, just a tad time-consuming – and it is certainly fun.
Note: I have two fondue pots now – a traditional one that sits over a Sterno can, and an electric pot. I much prefer the electric pot – you can adjust the temperature to suit the fondue within, and it heats evenly and won’t develop a hot spot, reducing the chance that your food will burn.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 3 tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot flour
- 1 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon kirsch, optional
- Toss the cheese with the flour. Place a saucepan over medium heat and add the wine and garlic. Bring to a simmer and add the cheese mixture, one handful at a time. Stir in the nutmeg.
- Stir over low heat until smooth and cheese is melted and bubbling. Add the kirsch, if using, and continue stirring just until it begins to bubble. Transfer the cheese mixture to a heated fondue pot when ready for dipping. Stir frequently.
- Nutrition (per serving): 295 calories, 18.4g total fat, 62.4mg cholesterol, 193.2mg sodium, 84.7mg potassium, 5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 17g protein.