Fondue for the Masses

Chances are if you’re an average middle-class sort, somewhere tucked away in a cabinet or closet you have a fondue pot. It’s likely you’ve never used the damn thing and never will because you’d rather order out than make anything as baffling as fondue.

In the middle of the last century,, trendy America embraced fondue . The early recipes were startlingly elaborate—as were the fondue sets themselves—and included prescribed serving rituals as well as a warning that drinking cold beverages while eating causes constipation. (It doesn’t.)

Fashionable authors recommended using long two-tined forks to skewer the bread cubes, which is why colorful glazed fondue pots with matching spears were standard gifts at weddings. Many of you likely remember your mother’s fondue set in harvest gold and avocado green., with a little wire rack beneath for canned heat.

Fondues became quite popular because the ingredients were inexpensive and familiar; the equipment, however novel, was within reach, and while most of us consider a fondue about the gayest thing you can serve at a party, it ‘s actually quite good, and makes for a novel holiday dish (particularly New Year’s).

The following basic recipe is from Betty Crocker’s Dinner Parties: A Contemporary Guide to Easy Entertaining, [Golden Books: New York] 1970, 1974 (p. 55). Let me recommend you lightly toast the bread cubes.

Cut a French loaf into 1-inch cubes, and a pound of Swiss cheese into 1/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups). Sprinkle about two tablespoons AP flour over cheese and toss until is coated. Rub cut clove of garlic on bottom and side of quart ceramic fondue pot, heavy saucepan or chafing dish. Add 1 cup dry white wine (Rhine, Reisling, Chablis, Neuchatel); heat over medium until bubbles rise to surface (do not allow to boil). Gradually stir in cheese, adding only 1/2 cup at a time and stirring after each addition until cheese is melted and blended. (Do not allow mixture to become too hot.) Stir in 2 tablespoons kirsch or sherry liqueur and seasoning. If fondue has been prepared on range, transfer fondue pot to source of heat at table and adjust heat to keep fondue just bubbling. Guests spear cubes of bread with long-handled forks and dip into cheese mixture. Stir fondue occasionally. (If fondue becomes too thick, mix in more warm white wine.) 4 servings.

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