Updated January 2022.
When our kids were young, we wanted to involve them in our Valentine’s Day celebrations but it’s tough to take a teething, whiny baby to a fancy restaurant (you’re welcome). So, we decided our Johnson Family Valentine’s Day tradition should be to fondue. Not only is it something out of the ordinary but it is a delicious way to 1) bond with our loved ones or 2) say “put a fork in it” and not get in trouble.
Over the years I have been really picky about great fondue but the problem is it has taken me a while to get there. Growing up in Canada, my parents always had the best meat fondues with plenty of delicious dipping sauces. In my early 20s I served a mission in Switzerland where cheese fondues reign supreme but I wasn’t a big fan because the cheeses and alcohol were too pungent for my taste. Eating Raclette, on the other hand, was an event (I am salivating over this glorious Swissmar Raclette Table Grill.)
My family finally nailed it with the perfect fondue party that had delicious oil and broth for the meats and my new favorite recipe for cheese. Here are some tips:
- Buy quality ingredients. We spent a minor fortune on top sirloin from the butcher and cheese from a local cheese shop but it was so worth it.
- Go electric. Electric fondue pots are a must; my sterno pot just doesn’t maintain enough heat for the meats but was OK with the cheese. Not all fondue pots are created equally; I have two Cuisinart Electric Fondue Makers because they hold the heat well and cook evenly.
- Metal pots are better for oil-fried fondues or hot pots, while ceramic is good for cheese and chocolate.
- Have a lot of sides. We went a bit crazy with the bread, potatoes and vegetables we dipped in the cheese fondue. The good news is we were able to use all our leftovers to make frittatas and omelets the next day.
- Apple juice or sparkling cider may be substituted for white wine in most fondue recipes.
Another winning combination for our most recent fondue party? A snowy day, Harry Potter marathon and PJs. Mostly because jammies are best when you need some extra space around the waistband.
We had two pots for the meats–one with oil and the other with Roasted Garlic and Onion Broth (see the recipe below). Our third fondue pot was dedicated to cheese. I’m not a huge fan of really strong fondues with pungent cheese and alcohol but this cheese recipe was over-the-top yummy. Even my daughter who claims to not like cheese loved it.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the main ingredient was, welp, cheese.
St. Kilian’s Classic Fondue
2 garlic cloves, halved crosswise
1 cup white wine
1 Tbsp cornstarch or 2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp kirsch (optional)
1/2 pound Gruyere, shredded
1/2 pound Comte, shredded
1/4-1/2 pound Appenzeller, shredded
- Rub the inside of your fondue pot (or heavy pot on a stove) with the cloves of garlic, add wine and bring to a simmer at medium-low heat.
- Mix cornstarch in a bowl with shredded cheeses.
- Gradually add shredded cheese to the pot in small amounts, whisk cheese with a spoon and wait until cheese is completely melted and incorporated before adding more cheese.
- When all cheese has been added, add kirsch to finish (if fondue is too thin you can add some additional cornstarch to the kirsch before adding).
- Lower heat on fondue pot or place regular pot over a sterno to keep warm.
Our favorite items for serving are high-quality cubed baguettes, tart apples, pre-cooked roasted potatoes or fresh veggies.
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