I have no idea how the idea came up, but while we were commiserating over a frustrating work situation, Kanchana (coworker/ friend) and I thought "We should do a fondue night." I'd never made fondue before, but I'd experienced a 4-course dinner at the Melting Pot once and knew that we could do cheese fondues, beef fondues, and chocolate fondues. After searching around on allrecipes.com, I came up with three highly-rated recipes that I wanted to try. We picked an evening (Sunday night before President's Day, which is a Federal Holiday), split a grocery list, and got busy.
Fondue #1: Parmesan Fondue
For an appetizer, we decided to do a cheese fondue. My mom makes very good Swiss Fondue and I thought about asking her for the recipe, but in the end I decided that I wanted something with a more subtle flavor. Swiss is delicious, but it has a strong flavor and I wasn't sure if everyone would really like it. I was looking at several recipes, but when Kanchana saw this one, she was smitten and we decided to make it.
In a saucepan, I put 2% milk (which I'd accidentally purchased instead of my normal skim), 2 packages of cream cheese (one of which was reduced fat, but don't tell my husband), grated Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder.
The original recipe stopped here, but many reviewers complained that it was not a "true" fondue without Swiss cheese and dry white wine, and because so many insisted that their fondues were improved with these additions, I decided to do the same.
This is what it looked like as the pot was just starting to warm up:
And this is what it looked like after continuous heating and stirring:
I had already cut up a loaf each of white and wheat baguettes that I'd picked up from my grocery store's bakery, so at this point Course #1 was served!
And mmmmm it was yummy. It had the Swiss/ wine flavors that were familiar from Mom's fondue, but with an additional creaminess from the other cheeses that was pretty appealing.
Fondue #2: Wine Fondue
There were a lot of complicated recipes online for a main course fondue, but I finally settled on this one after seeing that it was both simple and highly rated.
First, in a saucepan I combined a whole bottle of dry white wine (luckily Kanchana found some chardonnay for $3.99), a cinnamon stick, ground coriander, whole cloves, sugar, salt, celery salt, and garlic powder. I would have added whole peppercorns but those got forgotten when we'd split up the grocery list, so I just shook in some ground black pepper.
The recipe said to "let sit for one hour," before bringing to a boil, but didn't mention if the burner should be on or not. Figuring that the flavors wouldn't meld without heat, I turned it on low and covered it.
After an hour, I brought it to a boil and then strained it through a sieve. Ideally, the mixture would have gone into a fondue pot at this point to keep it boiling, but since neither of us owned one, we made due with my crock pot on "high."
Hmmm. With such a wide pot, there was very little depth! Uh oh, time to improvise. Many reviewers said that they added chicken or beef stock as wine evaporated, so in a pot over the stove, I combined 2 cups of water with 2 chicken bouillon cubes and some more wine. I also shook in some more spices: cinnamon (ground) coriander, pepper, cloves (ground), celery salt, and garlic powder in an attempt to match the flavors to the first batch. Once it was boiling, I poured it into the crockpot with the original mixture. It smelled so good at this point!
At this point, I became aware of an angry yipping noise. Turns out, the puppy was barking at the raw meat waiting on the counter.
Too bad it didn't work. She was banished from the kitchen at that point.
For dippers we had raw beef, chicken, and shrimp (which I will call "prawns" because Kanchana is from New Zealand and insists that that's what they're called), as well as broccoli, mushrooms, green peppers, carrots, and potatoes.
We all dug into the prawns first. We couldn't wait for the pot to boil because it smelled so good, and we figured they'd cook the fastest in the hot broth.
They were delicious! We also tried the beef and a few veggies, and it was all delicious. Unfortunately, it was just taking far too long to cook. Andy and Kanchana were itching to play Rock Band on the PS3 anyway, so we just dumped a little of everything in the crock pot and took a brief intermission to let it all simmer.
When we finally came back and fished out our food, it had absorbed the delicious wine and spice flavors and plumped up nicely. The meat was still tender and everything was juicy and flavorful, albeit not quite a fondue anymore.
Fondue #3: Chocolate Bar Fondue
I think we all probably looked forward to this the most! It was the perfect opportunity to use the giant bar of Ghiradelli chocolate that we'd received for Christmas from my Aunt Nancy.
Using my food processor, I grated half of it.
Then, I combined the chocolate with heavy cream, vanilla extract, and white sugar in a saucepan.
The original recipe said to include instant coffee granules with hot water, but I followed the advice of reviewers who suggested substituting a shot of Kalua instead.
And I just let it melt on the stove, stirring constantly, until it was nice and hot.
To dip in the chocolate, we had strawberries, moist pound cake, and blackberries.
Halfway through dessert, someone said "Hey, didn't you buy marshmallows?," prompting me to remember that I had marshmallows, as well as sliced apple, bananas, and mangoes. I decided not to serve the apple, as it had already started to turn brown despite being in a zip-lock baggie, and at that point I couldn't be buggered to cut up the banana and mango (that's a little bit of New Zealand slang for you), so I just opened the bag of marshmallows and put the whole thing on the table.
And that concluded our fondue night!
In the future, I think I would add less cream to the chocolate fondue because it was somewhat runny. I do plan on using the leftover chocolate for truffles, though, as reviewers suggested that it would be perfect. For the main fondue, I will either keep the pot on the stove and have everyone crowd around it, or else splurge on a fondue pot that will keep the mixture boiling so that the meat and veggies will cook thoroughly. And I will double the recipe, not because we ran out but because it just wasn't deep enough to submerge many large chunks! I'm not sure that I would change anything about the cheese fondue, though. It was delicious and creamy.
If you would like any of these recipes, leave a comment on this post and I will share!