KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: For Whom the Cheese Melts
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Thursday, January 12, 2006
For Whom the Cheese Melts


Given that I've been reciting a variant of my mother-in-law's classic fondue recipe at least seven times at day at Ye Olde Stanke Cheese Shoppe, I thought it made sense to share it here. With the current rains and the penetrating damp, it is exuberantly fondue season in the Bay Area and nothing keeps the chill off more deliciously than a tangy pot of hot melted cheese.

For the following recipe, I couldn't find Emmenthaler, but Mezzo Secco, Shelburne Cheddar, and Manchego are all perfectly acceptable subs.

Classic Fondue
Serves 4

12 ounces Gruyère, grated
12 ounces Emmenthaler, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1 large clove garlic, minced
12 ounces dry white wine
1 dash freshly grated nutmeg
1 dash cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Kirsch
Bread and assorted dipping objects, such as apple and pear slices, celery, carrot sticks, walnuts, raw fennel, grapes, bacon, popcorn, fingers, an old boot...

1. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the minced garlic and the wine. While you wait for the wine to heat up, combine the grated cheeses in a large bowl and toss with the flour. Heat the wine until bubbles start to break the surface of the liquid. Toss in the first handful of floured cheese and whisk it into the wine. Continue whisking the cheese until it melts completely before adding the next handful.

2. Repeat the process until you've added all the cheese. Continue whisking the cheese until cheesy bubbles pop out on the surface of the molten mass. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, and Kirsch and whisk until they are fully combined.

3. Now for the true test. You don't want the cheese gloppy and wet, you want it thickened enough to form a string when you pull the whisk up from the saucepan. If, while you've been futzing and fiddling with the fondue, your guests haven't impatiently eaten all your carefully cubed bread, poke a cube in the saucepan. It should evenly coat the bread with a smooth, silky layer of cheese. Now taste it. Is it good? Do you need a few more tests? Test away then.

4. When you're finally ready to share your creamy creation, pour the fondue into a heated fondue pot and get ready to select your fondue skewers. In my considerable experience, the green-tipped skewer is the coolest color. The green is followed by the light blue, followed by the yellow, followed by the dark blue, orange, and red. The black, white, and grey tend to be bottom of the fondue corporate ladder and generally get used only by default. You learn these things when you have an older sister.



The second time I made fondue this year, I was short on Mezzo Secco, but had some Clisson ripening stinkily in the fridge. Clisson is an aged, semi-soft goat cheese from Bordeaux with an orangeish rind that has been lovingly rubbed down with Sauternes during the ageing process. Is it a traditional fondue cheese? Probably not. Was I setting myself up for a potential cheesetastrophe? Oh, yeah, but life is so much more interesting when you experiment and mix things up a bit. Plus, kitchen disaster stories? Always hysterical and humbling to share.

When I went to measure out my wine, I discovered that I was all out of my ubiquitous jug of cheap white stuff. I vamped by using some of the dry sparkling white wine (Bonny Doon's Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante) that I was going to be serving alongside the fondue. So now I had done two things that messed with a classic recipe: a weird cheese and bubbly wine. Not that Clisson is weird in and of itself, mind you, I just wasn't entirely sure how it would react to the Gruèyre. It could lump, it could separate, it could...taste really foul. But it didn't, it tasted divine. The combined sharpness of the cheeses brought out a hidden fruitiness in the otherwise bone-dry spumante and I'll tell you what, there wasn't any leftover fondue that night.

There's a lesson in all of that, I think. Variety is the spice of life, and unless you mix things up a bit, life could get pretty flavorless.

Check out Amy and Laura's past posts for more variations on a melted cheese theme.
 
 

1 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer Maiser said...

I was the older sister -- so I would have gotten the green and convinced my little sister that gray was the best color. ;)

1/12/2006 9:34 PM

 

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