Fond Of Fondue
Kaviraj Khialani speaks about the origins of and different ways to enjoy
the mouth-watering Swiss cheese-wine concoction
Tired of working in the kitchen? Then bring fondue to the table. You need not
wait for a party, or for family guests to arrive. Any time is the right time
to cook at the table with fondue.
Fondues give menus seemingly new and exciting twists. When the idea originated
long ago out of a desire to use hardened cheese and bread, the Swiss concocted
a mouth-watering cheese-wine mixture. The cheese was melted in wine and the
bread cubes were then dunked in the mixture. The name fondue came from the French
word fondue, which means 'to melt'. Learning the how, why and what of cooking
fondue is essential to produce exquisite fondue meals.
Types Of Fondue Pots
There are many fondue units available in the market today. Each includes a fondue
pot, a stand on which the pot rests, and a burner for cooking or keeping the
fondue mixture hot. Of the many shapes, sizes and colours available, fondue
units may be grouped into three basic types: metal cookers, ceramic pots and
If you are seeking an all-purpose piece of equipment, the metal cooker is the
most versatile fondue container because so many foods can be cooked in it. The
materials most frequently used are stainless steel, plain and coloured aluminium,
copper and sterling silver. Since metal can withstand very high temperatures,
this container is best suited for fondues that must be cooked in hot oil - meat
fondue, for example - and by turning the heat down, it is also appropriate for
cheese or dessert fondue. Allow one fondue cooker for every four persons when
serving a hot-oil fondue. The oil will not stay hot enough to cook the food
when more than four people cook in the same container.
The attractively decorated ceramic, pottery, or earthenware pots most closely
duplicate the original Swiss caquelon used for cheese fondue. Shaped like a
shallow casserole dish with a handle, the pot's added surface area provides
the room needed for swirling a cheese or sauce-type dessert fondue. The ceramic
pot, however, should never be used for a hot-oil fondue, as the intensive heat
will cause the pot to crack. A fondue pot of this style can efficiently serve
six to eight at sit-down dinners and more at buffets since no actual tabletop
cooking is involved.
Types Of Burners
canned heat and candles are the most common heat sources used in fondue units.
However, the popularity of a thermostatically controlled electric burner is
ever increasing. Candle warmers are applicable only to sauce-type dessert fondues
as the heat is not sufficient to cook meat or cheese. Most burners provide some
means of regulating the amount of heat released.
In addition to the fondue unit, fondue forks or sturdy bamboo skewers are the
only other necessity. Fondue plates are an added convenience but not indispensable.
The fondue fork consists of a long metal shaft with two or three tines at one
end for spearing the food and a handle at the other end.
By providing separate compartments for each food, fondue plates eliminate the
inter-mingling of various sauces. Whether china, pottery or plastic, these plates,
available in a wide colour assortment, can add a stunning touch to the table
Cooking It Up
The traditional fondue recipe in this section is Beef Fondue. Although also
called Fondue Bourguignonne (Fondue Burgundian), its connection with Burgundy,
a region of France, or Burgundy wine is obscure. Beef Fondue consists of beef
cubes cooked in hot oil and then dipped in a zesty sauce. Similar fondues substitute
other meat, fish, or seafood for beef.
When planning a fondue meal, allow one eight-pound trimmed, uncooked meat per
person and a fondue cooker for every four people. Provide each person with a
fondue fork, plate, dinner fork, napkin, and any other appointments needed for
the rest of the meal. Simple accompaniments include a tossed salad, a light
dessert and a beverage. For a heartier meal, add breads or cooked vegetables.
One to two hours before the meal, cut meat into bite-size pieces and allow them
to come to room temperature. At serving time, heat the oil-filled pot over the
range add salt to reduce spattering and transfer to the fondue burner. Salad
oil is most frequently used for meat fondue. It is easy to use for cooking and
does not flavour the food. Though less popular, peanut oil, a blend of about
three parts oil to one part clarified butter, can also be used. Olive oil is
sometimes used as well. Like salad oil, peanut oil does not flavour the meat.
Olive oil's characteristic flavour carries over to the meat and it smokes more
readily than the other oils.
Dipping Into The Cheese Pot
Originally a natural Swiss cheese melted in dry white wine it is essentially
a Swiss concoction. The dish can introduce a multi-course meal of meat, vegetable,
bread, salad and dessert, or stand as a main dish itself, by the addition of
simple accompaniments, like relishes or salads, a beverage and a light dessert.
cheese fondue is prepared right before serving. Wine and lemon juice is warmed
in a heavy saucepan just below boiling point. Vigorous and constant stirring
begins when the shredded cheeses, coated with cornstarch, are added a handful
at a time. Apply enough heat to melt the cheeses, but not enough to boil them.
Should separation occur, re-blend a separated mixture by combining one-tablespoon
cornstarch with two tablespoons wine and stir into the fondue. The cheese-wine
mixture is quickly transferred to the fondue pot.
Cheese Fondue Dippers
All dippers should be bite-sized. Cut bread cubes so that each has one crust.
To estimate how many dippers are needed, consider appetites and accompanying
dishes. Generally, one large loaf of French bread serves six to eight. Cooked
meat and vegetable dippers are best served warm; raw vegetables best at room
temperature. Other bite sized dippers include French bread, hard rolls, Italian
bread, bread sticks, toasted rye or whole wheat bread, English muffins, cooked
shrimp, chicken, or ham, cherry tomatoes, cooked artichokes, carrot slices,
cooked mushrooms, celery or green pepper pieces, fried potato nuggets, french-fried
potatoes, boiled potatoes etc.
(The author is the head of department, food production,
Kohinoor College of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Mumbai. He can
be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)