Part 1 of 3
A cold winter night after a clear winter day.
Gaudy knitted jumpers.
A crackling open fireplace before an inviting wool rug.
The smell of wine and cheese.
One warm room and a few close friends.
This is how I imagine a traditional fondue party and the inspiration for our fondue party last week. I’m not sure exactly when fondue parties fell out of fashion, sometime in the early 90s? I’ve never had fondue before but melted cheese as the basis of a meal? Hell yeah!
The Koala and I rearranged our lounge, downloaded a crackling fireplace video for the TV, put tunes on shuffle, cut up and arranged food in little bowls and waited for our guests to arrive. Coco was the only one in the group that had eaten a fondue before. She had it in Switzerland so I made her my fondue expert (even if her experience was over 10 years ago). For some reason I always thought that the cheese was melted in the fondue pot. But after lighting the tealight candle and waiting for the bowl to to get hot (it wouldn’t), we realised that fondue is cooked on the stovetop and then transfered to the fondue pot for eating at the table.
As always, I worried there wouldn’t be enough food. I don’t know why I worry when there’s ALWAYS too much food. Apparently, my mum once told The Koala (only half jokingly) that she always prepares too much food because she would rather die than to have guests to go home hungry. Explains a lot. We had two blocks of cheese, half a loaf of ciabatta (a white Italian bread), two and a half servings of tortellini, half a broccoli, two carrots, a tray of popcorn chicken, a packet of salami, a can of stuffed green olives, a jar of pitted black olives, a small bowl of pickles for dinner. A bag of chocolate, a bunch of fruits, a box of mini donuts, and a bag of marshmallows for dessert. We ate about 70% of the food between five of us. I really needn’t have worried.
We used two pots, a ceramic pot with a tealight candle for the cheese fondue and an electric version that looks like a tiny rice cooker for the chocolate fondue. The tealight version didn’t stay hot enough for the cheese but may be OK for chocolate fondue. Two courses of fondue later, stuffed with melted cheese and chocolate and wine, with the fake crackling fireplace beside us, we ready to sleep.
General Fondue Tips
Fondue Pot: Ask around for a fondue pot before buying one. It often arrives home as random gift only to live in a cupboard for years.
Tools: Fondue sets usually come with four fondue forks. But you can use bamboo skewers in a pinch. You’ll also need a wooden spoon and a sieve.
Getting ready: have everything cut up into bite sized pieces and pre-arranged in bowls or platters on the table before your guests arrive. The fondue mixture takes 10 to 15 minutes to cook on the stove and requires constant attention so I would cook the fondue before you are ready to eat.
Table: A full size dining table may be too large to comfortably reach the fondue. We opted instead for our coffee table with two couches pushed up beside it. Perfectly cosy.
Number of guests: There were five of us and I wouldn’t recommend more than six per fondue pot. Fondue sets usually come with four forks so that’s a probably a good guide. A fondue for one is too lonely to bear. Depending on the company you’ll either dip one at a time, waiting patiently for the pot or have a free for all. We had a mixture of both.
Sharing too much: You’re not supposed to allow the fork to touch your lips or mouth and double dipping is generally frowned upon. At our place, it elicits fits of giggles.
Nibbles: Have some nibbles that guests can graze on that don’t need to go in the fondue. Nibbles for grazing (although you can try and fondue these too if you like) include salami, olives, pickles, marinated mussels
Vegetables: Blanch vegetables instead of serving them raw. Blanching is when you boil something for a short amount of time (usually a minute or less) and then quickly drain and put into ice or cold water to halt the cooking process. This results in bright coloured vegetables that semi-crisp and cooked that do not brown while standing. Perfect for making ahead of time.
Napkins: Fondues can get messy. Have napkins on hand!
Title is direct quote from The Koala.
Next post: Cheese Fondue!