Just as in fashion, culinary trends come and go. Hanging around since the 1970s is the fondue trend. This fun, hands-on food was all the rage in those days, often the centerpiece at dinner parties. Throwing a fondue party today is still a hip way to gather with friends for a casual dinner party.
Tina Windett has been having fondue parties for about 30 years, ever since the craze began. She is carrying on the tradition from when her mother used to make chocolate, cheese and steak fondue. She has her parties around the holidays as a simple way to get the family together.
Columbia has all the tools you need to host a party of your own.
Start by making a guest list. Windett says she usually invites about 10 or 12 people. She has two fondue pots at her parties to keep things simple and to ensure there will be adequate space.
Drakeshallmark.com sells a “fondue ingredients” invitation that can be sent to the invitees through the mail, or keep things casual by calling or sending e-mail to invite your family and friends. Be sure to send the invitations at least two weeks in advance.
Before shopping for your ingredients, it is important to decide what you will be serving at your party. Will there be a meat, cheese and a dessert dish? What kind of cheese will you want to use? What will you use for dipping? Carlene Cullimore, a chef at Columbia’s Upper Crust Bakery and Café, says she hasn’t made her own fondue in a while, but has a recipe that she has kept for years for a Swiss fondue. She also recommends using Gruyère cheese.
For dipping, she says she would buy freshly-baked baguettes and cut them into bite-sized cubes.
When Windett hosts her annual party, she likes to cook her meat in peanut oil because it is less smoky. She chooses a good sirloin, and her favorite dipping sauce is a mix of horseradish and Heinz 57 sauce.
The recipe is unvarying: She buys French bread, butters and broils it, cuts it into cubes for the cheese fondue, and has bananas, strawberries and marshmallows with the chocolate fondue.
Darla Ford, who works at Form and Function, a gourmet kitchenware and accessories store in Columbia, prefers to mix things up a bit, saying there are so many different possibilities when it comes to fondue.
She says fondue parties can be fun in the summer when you can buy fresh berries to dip in your chocolate sauce.
If you will be serving multiple courses at your fondue party, Ford suggests buying a Chantal fondue set. It comes with both a stainless steel pot for cooking meat and a ceramic pot that can be used for cheeses and dessert fondues. It costs $80.
Another option is the Chantal Fun Fondue sets, available in bright colors like yellow, purple and red. They make a great gift and are wonderful for cooking cheese and chocolate, Ford says. The cost is about $25.
If you don’t have a fondue pot and don’t want to buy one, you can also melt the ingredients in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave and then transfer them to fancy serving bowls. Fondue forks can be bought separately.
When it comes time for the party, you can make the decision about whether you want your guests to mingle or to have a sit-down meal.
If you want to convey a restaurant feel, white tablecloths are relatively easy to find and inexpensive, and a few candles and mellow music will set the mood.
An alternative is to have a separate cooking station for the pots, on a counter or at the center of a table with dishes and utensils. Provide a few seats around the room for some of your guests to sit down. The idea is not to have enough seats for everyone so people will keep moving and mingling.
Before guests arrive, be sure the fondue pots, forks and plates are set out and the seating arrangements have been thought through.
It would be nice to have some music playing and wine and whatever other beverages your guests might request ready for them. Cullimore says a pinot grigio, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc goes nicely with most fondue.
Ford says fondue pots have been selling well for the past five to 10 years. “I keep thinking they’re going to go out again,” she says, but they never do. Though it doesn’t have the widespread popularity it had during its heyday, it looks like fondue has found its niche and is here to stay.
3 cups light cream
7½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 chicken bouillon cubes
2¼ cups Gruyere cheese, grated
1½ cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3/4 cup white wine (more or less depending on taste)
In a medium bowl, combine cream, flour and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
In a large heavy saucepan, saute onion in butter with bouillon cubes over high heat, stirring until cubes are completely dissolved.
Reduce heat to medium. Add cream mixture, whisking constantly until thickened.
Gradually add cheeses and stir until melted and smooth. Mixture will become very thick.
Add wine a little at a time and mix well. Wine tends to thin out mixture, so add as much as needed to reach desired consistency and flavor.
Transfer the fondue to a heated fondue pot and keep warm over low heat.
Makes four to six servings.
1 cup premium cocoa powder (Valrohna or Scharffen Berger), sifted
1¼ cups spring water
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
½ cup plus 5 tablespoons heavy cream
5 ounces 62 percent Scharffen Berger (premium semi-sweet chocolate), chopped
Pound cake and fruit (such as bananas, apples, strawberries and plums), cut into bite-sized pieces
Sift the cocoa into mixing bowl and set aside. Place the water, sugar and corn syrup into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until sugar solution has reduced by about 30 percent. Pour the cocoa powder into the solution and blend with a whisk until smooth. Return the chocolate mixture to the stove and continue cooking over medium heat. Add heavy cream, bring to boil and allow to simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into fondue pot and keep warm.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
How To cook fondue
Source: Darla Ford