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It's that time of year again. The Swiss cheeses are arriving, and my heart turns to Fondue.
When I lived in Switzerland, I learned to prepare and enjoy Cheese Fondue, and, of course, this is a recipe for B's only. I like to use the "stinkiest" Fondue cheeses, but feel free to go for the milder Emmenthal, maybe 50%. At least 50% of your cheese should be Gruyère or stronger. I generally use 1/3 strong Gruyère, 1/3 Vacherin Fribourgeois, and 1/3 Appenzell. I'm told we like our cheeses stinkier and stinkier the older we get...
Also, let's touch upon the equipment. In Switzerland, one uses the so-called caquelon, a nice deep pot that is enamelled inside and out. But any pot will do, as long as you can stick long fondue forks in it and bring it to the table. You'll also need a heat source AT the table, electric or canned, so that the Fondue will be warm and simmering "on location".
OK. Here goes:
1 French baguette
1 clove garlic, halved
1 glass dry white wine
1/4 lemon, juiced
3/4 lb. cheese to feed 4 people
1/2 Tbs. kuzu*
1 small glass Kirschwasser
sprinkle grated nutmeg
water as needed
*(kuzu replaces the more typical cornstarch, for obvious reasons)
First, cube the baguette and fill a basket with the cubes. Set it on the table. Turn on your table's heat source, if electric, so it warms up in time.
Rub the sides of the pan with the cut sides of the garlic.
Over medium heat, place the pan and pour in the wine and lemon juice. When warmed, grate your cheeses into the pot and stir as it warms/melts. Keep stirring. Add water if necessary, about 1/2 wine glass usually is enough.
When bubbling, add the small glass of Kirschwasser with the kuzu mashed/dissolved in it. Stir this around in the fondue. Add grated nutmeg. Bring the pot to your table's heat source, where you should keep it on low, with just enough heat to maintain a simmer to the very end.
Now: A bit of etiquette. Don't seat more than 5 people around one pot of Fondue (it causes "traffic jams"). Also: Be careful not to drop your bread cube into the pot. If you do so and you're male, you must buy a round of drinks. If you drop it in and you're female, you must kiss the man to your right. Figure out your strategy, ladies, when creating your seating arrangement...
The crusty stuff at the bottom is called "La Réligieuse", i.e., the Nun. It's dang-good.
When I, "La Californienne", lived in Switzerland, my friends there made fun of me for my (then) low-fat, salad-y way of eating. I was also warned that one must drink wine with Fondue (they drink Fendant there, but any dry white will do, or, if you must, a light-to-medium-bodied red is fine...) and follow it with fruit.
One day I went up into the alpine country with a (Chinese) friend, and we stopped for lunch at a very quaint chalet/inn, where we ordered the Fondue and watched the farmer stir a huge kettle of Fondue inside the fireplace (which was the size of a small garage, though not as deep!). He also oversaw the Raclette's melting. A whole HALF of a Raclette wheel, dripping down, which he'd scrape ("racler"=to scrape) over plates of pearl onions and cornichons. I digress.
I didn't listen to my friends. For some reason I didn't have wine or fruit, and when I went to sleep that night, I had a horrible dream: I was in some torture chamber where my head was being stuffed with cheese. I woke up and told my friends, which they thought was a real hoot: The California Girl couldn't take the Cheese. But I was sick the whole next day. Take my advice: Enjoy the wine!
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