Swiss Fondue

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We’re perched in the Swiss Alps looking out over breathtaking peaks.  In an effort to fully get into the spirit of Switzerland I decided to give fondue a try.  Amazingly I’ve never had fondue before and I’ve certainly never made it before.  It turned out to be quite easy, very tasty, and super rich.  I wouldn’t suggest having it as a regular part of your diet, but it was perfect as a special treat.

I made a traditional Swiss preparation using half grated Gruyere and half grated Vacherin cheese.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Vacherin in the states, so I’ll likely use Gruyere and Swiss when I make this again back home (T was a big fan).

Begin by thinly slicing three shallots and sauteing them in olive oil on medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup of white wine while they are cooking and continue stirring until they are translucent and cooked through. Add 1/4 cup of flour  and another 1/4 cup of white wine and make a rue with the cooked shallots.  Stir regularly as you cook down the flour and it coats the shallots.

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Begin adding your grated cheese slowly (about 1/4 cup at a time) and mix constantly (similar to risotto) to melt the cheese and integrate the shallots.  It is important not to skimp on this step — continue to add small batches of cheese and really let them melt before adding the next batch.  Also, keep a close eye on your temperature because you never want the fondue to boil.

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Continue stirring until all the cheese has been added and then add salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and/or more white wine to taste.  Transfer your fondue to a heating stand over a small candle so it stays melted while you eat it.  Luckily our rental in Switzerland came with a fondue set!

There are tons of options about what to dip into your fondue.  We choose cubes of bread, boiled potatoes, steamed white asparagus, and slices of green apple.  They were all delicious, but next time I’ll use broccoli florets instead of asparagus.

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Eating fondue was one of those meals that is also really an experience.  We sat together with friends taking turns dipping our forks into the steaming pot.  Fondue has a fun culture that goes along with it — if you drop the bread from the end of your fork you have to kiss everyone, each person swirls their fork through all the fondue on each bite to keep it nice and melty, and one lucky person gets the last bite of slightly cooked-on cheese at the bottom of the pot.

I like meals that are experiences.  They reinforce that we all need nourishment beyond just the food we consume.  Laughing with friends and family, cooking together, and sharing stories are nourishment for the soul.  Fondue was a perfect meal for this (especially because in traditional nutritional terms it isn’t the best), pair it with a big green salad, eat it in moderation, and enjoy it with friends!

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