Thursday, December 28, 2006

Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue

This recipe was shared with me by a fondue angel.


Several garlic cloves, halved
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 heaping coffee spoon cornstarch (approximately one tablespoon)
1 tablespoon kirsch
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups grated Gruyere
1+ cup Emmental
1 scant cup Vacherin Friboureois

French bread, cut into bite-sized cubes, very lightly toasted (just enough to give the bread a little extra substance, not enough to brown the bread)


Mix a slurry of kirsch, cornstarch, and freshly grated nutmeg. (See Cooks Notes below.) Go easy on the nutmeg because a little goes a long way. Set aside to use later.

Rub the inside of a heavy-bottomed fondue pot with the cut side of a garlic clove. Leave the cut garlic in the pot, and add a few more halved cloves in the pot if you like garlic. If you are not a fan, the extra cloves can be omitted.

Mix the three grated cheeses together in a large bowl, and place the bowl near the stove where you will make the fondue.

Add the wine to the fondue pot and place on a low burner. The wine should heat slowly to the point of a very gentle simmer. Once the wine has simmered a few moments, remove the garlic cloves. Slowly add cheese to the pot, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight pattern. Do not stir in a circular motion or there is a risk of the cheese clumping into an unwieldy ball. Gradually add cheese until it is all gone, or until you think it looks just right to you! Do not allow the cheese-wine mixture to boil.

When the cheese has all been incorporated into the wine, and the mixture is almost at the point of boiling, add the kirsch and cornstarch slurry. (It helps if you can take an extra hand to give the slurry a quick stir before adding it to the melted cheese). Continue stirring the cheese in a figure-eight pattern for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Guests should be at the table when you are at the point of adding the cornstarch. Put someone in charge of lighting the flame. Put someone else in charge of pouring wine. Put yourself in charge of transporting the hot fondue pot to the table.

Use long-handled forks or bamboo skewers to dip the bread into the cheese.

Cooks Notes:

Some people recommend mixing the dry cornstarch with the cheeses rather than making a kirsch slurry. I’ve done it both ways, and both have worked well. The recipe here is based on my Swiss angel’s method. Choose the one that works best for you. If you decide to add the cornstarch to the cheese, add a little kirsch to the wine after it comes to a gentle simmer. If you are in a pinch and have no kirsch, use a little brandy (the slight flavor difference might be noticible, but won’t detract terribly).

Regarding the relative proportions of the three cheeses, my Swiss angel said that, for him, the perfect balance is 50% Gruyere, 30% Emmental, and 20% Vacherin. No matter what proportions you choose, strive for approximately a pound or more (4+ cups) of grated cheese. The Gruyere will help make the fondue creamy, and the Ementaler and Vacherin will add flavor depths.

Wine recommendation:

Any good dry white wine, particularly a Savignon Blanc (thank you Swiss angel for that suggestion!)

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