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Cheese, Meat, and Chocolate Fondue for Christmas Eve

2

This was our holiday table yesterday for the annual family gift opening gathering.  It is roughly around Christmastime, I have to add, because we try to have our big meal when the maximum number of people are in town.  This is a bit of a challenge when you come from a family that includes 6 children, 5 in-laws (or S.O.s), 7 grandchildren (and counting), parents, aunt, and adopted family.  Last year’s dinner had us trying to fit 13 people around a table made originally for about 8-10.  This year, we had 8 adults, a toddler, and a newborn, so it was less of a squeeze to bring everyone together.

When the emails started going around after Thanksgiving about how to coordinate this year’s get-together several ideas were suggested.  Due to scheduling, we were going to be having a lunch rather than the usual dinner, so no one wanted to fix or eat something as complex and heavy as the Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce, although I would happily eat that for breakfast, if faced that dilemma.   My brother’s best friend’s wife (they joined the family drawing years ago) suggested having fondue, which wasn’t voted down by anyone when I asked them.

As a child of 70′s era parents, I remember fondue night fondly.  The dark red pot would be put in the middle of the dining room table bubbling away with a sea of molten golden yellow liquid inside of it.  We would each be assigned a different color wooden-handled fondue fork and have to wait our turn to load up cubes of French bread on our plates.  Spearing a piece of the bread and then dunking it carefully into the cheese, making sure not to knock off anyone else’s bread while pulling your fork out of the pot, twirling it just so to make sure to have maximum gooey dairy coverage in each bite, made dinner a fun and interactive evening.

Once in a while, we’d have a meat fondue, too, but I don’t remember eating it that many times.  It might have had to do with the fact that it involves very hot oil being put on the table and, having lots of smaller children around, my mom realized the safety factor wasn’t in her favor with that dish.  We did, however, usually have chocolate fondue, in addition to the cheese.  This meant that we also got to eat Entenmann’s butter pound cake, a special, special treat, as my mother baked all of our sweets and we rarely got to eat anything store-bought or processed, unlike my schoolmates.  My mother served this fondue with cut-up bananas as well, which might have made her feel better as we were ostensibly eating fruit for dessert in addition to all the chocolate and cake.

Everyone enjoyed the lunch and was, I think, a bit surprised at how well it worked out to have a meal as low-stress and quick to throw together as this one was.  After the present-swap and exchanges of good cheer, about half of the group left to continue their holiday celebrations at their next destinations.  Clean up was a snap as well, which as cook-in-chief made this meal a winner for me, too.  The two main dish fondues (meat and cheese) as well as the dessert fondue (chocolate) and a green salad, which not everyone touched, amply fed the assembled mass.  It even got me thinking that maybe next year I should ask Santa for my own fondue pot and start inviting folks to come over to dinner for some spearing and dunking fun.*

Swiss Cheese Fondue

(after a recipe from BBC Good Food from March 2000)

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Serving Size: 6-8 people as part of main course

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
2 Tbsp. Kirsch
1 large Garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1 2/3 c. dry White Wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 tsp. fresh Lemon Juice
12 oz. Gruyère cheese, freshly grated
12 oz. Emmental cheese, freshly grated
1 pinch freshly ground Black Pepper
1 pinch freshly ground Nutmeg
1 Baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces

Assembly:
Prep all ingredients and set out before putting everything together. Combine cornstarch and Kirsch and set aside.

With the fondue pot turned off, rub cut side of garlic along side the base and sides. Discard garlic clove. Pour the wine and the lemon juice into the fondue pot and turn on heat.

Bring mixture to a simmer over low heat and then start adding in cheese by the handful, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Stir until all the cheese is melted completely and the mixture bubbles slightly. Pour the cornstarch/Kirsch mixture into the fondue pot and add pepper and nutmeg.

Continue to stir so that the cheese does not stick to the bottom of the pot while the mixture is thickening. Once the mixture has become thick, which takes about 5 minutes or less, turn the heat to low and call everyone to the table. Dish up the bread cubes and start dunking them into the cheese fondue.

Meat Fondue

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Serving Size: 6-8 people as part of main course

Ingredients:
1 c. Vegetable Oil
1 ½-ish lb. Top Sirloin of Beef, sliced into thin pieces across the grain
¼ Yellow or White Onion, sliced (optional)

Assembly:
Heat oil in fondue pot until it is very hot, which takes about 2-3 minutes. Test by putting a piece of meat on a fondue fork and letting it cook. Let oil continue to heat up if it is not cooking the meat fast enough.

When ready, call everyone to the table. Let everyone put one or two slices of meat onto fondue fork. Place in pot and cook 15-20 seconds for rare and around 45 seconds to a minute for well-done. If desired, place a piece of onion on the fork with the meat for additional flavor.

Chocolate Fondue

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Serving Size: 6-8 people

Ingredients:
2/3 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
2 4-oz. Chocolate bars, 60% cocoa (bittersweet)
1 Tsp. Chambord, Cognac or Brandy
2 Bananas, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 Apple, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 Pound Cake cut into 1-inch cubes

Assembly:
Heat cream and chocolate together in fondue pot over low heat.  When thoroughly combined, add in Chambord, Cognac or Brandy.  Round up everyone and tell them to start digging in by dipping slices of banana, apple and pound cake into the chocolate.

*As compensation for allowing me to take photographs during the family meal, I was told that I needed to give an acknowledgement to my sister for her fabulous hand-modeling in the various dipping pictures.  Thank you, too, to the fondue equipment suppliers for the meal, including said sister as well as my brother’s best friend’s family.  Also, thank you to my father for chauffeuring me around to pick up all the ingredients for the meal, but that was mostly because he didn’t trust me with his car.  As he pointed out, “You drive, what, maybe once a year?”

Buon appetito e buona festa a tutti!

2 Comments

  1. Mary
    Mary12-25-2011

    Forgot to add in that your advance need to plan gave you the nickname nanny mcplanny. I will not share the other one Jonathan came up with while preparations were being made. Love you sis! :)

  2. The Experimental Gourmand
    The Experimental Gourmand12-26-2011

    Thanks, Mary! I did give your fondue pot honorable mention, though. That large Cuisinart one that you have was the trick to feeding a big group.