Whether made with cheese or chocolate, fondue has a kind of cheesy, finicky reputation. But in spite of its kitsch, dipping bits of food in gooey, melted fromage or dark, liquid chocolate makes for a fun, flirty, surprisingly low-effort meal.
Photos by Claire Lower
There are two ways I like to make the cheesy iteration: Classically and molecularly. When making cheese fondue, the main concern is a lumpy, uneven melt. Just as with our one-pot macaroni and cheese, cornflour helps us out with our classic preparation.
I like this recipe from Epicurious, which features 450g of cheese, a healthy serving of wine, and a bit of cherry brandy. I decrease the wine by a quarter cup to speed things up, and then I drink the difference. If you don't have any cherry brandy, that's OK, just use a little more wine. To make it, you will need:
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 1/4 cups white wine (something dry and cheap)
- 225g of Gruyere, grated
- 225g of Swiss cheese, grated
- 2 teaspoons cherry brandy (or more wine)
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- Whole nutmeg
Cut the garlic clove in half, and rub it around a fairly large stock pot. Set the clove aside for something else. (I'm sure you can think of something.) Add the wine to the pot and bring it to a simmer. Gradually add handfuls of the cheese, stirring continuously until it's all in there and just melted. Make a slurry with the brandy and cornflour, add it to the mess of cheese, and stir to incorporate. Let it simmer for a few more minutes, until it's nice and thick, and then transfer it to a fondue pot or little slow cooker set on low. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and serve with bread cubes, apple and pear slices, and blanched broccoli.
That's a pretty good fondue, but let's say you're a cheddar person, and you want a melty pot of super sharp, but still creamy, cheesy goodness. Due to cheddar's low pH, we can't just swap it out with the above cheeses, but we can use melting salts to realise this dairy dream.
Melting salts, such as sodium citrate (which you can buy here), act as an emulsifier by increasing the pH of the cheese and making the proteins more soluble. This prevents the cheese from separating into a greasy mess, rendering it perfectly fondue-able. This works not only with cheddar, but with pretty much any cheese that isn't prone to melting. To transform these fon-don'ts into for-dos, you will need:
- 1/2 teaspoon sodium citrate
- 1/2 cup of white wine or beer
- 225g of any damn cheese you like, grated
Add the sodium citrate and alcoholic liquid to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Slowly add in the cheese, stir until it's nice and gooey, and transfer to a fondue pot (complete with little candle) or small slow cooker set on low. Serve with whatever things you like to dip cheese in.
Once you've gorged on liquid cheese, it's time to punctuate the evening with liquid chocolate. Assuming you have been enjoying wine with your cheese, you're going to want an easy recipe that's nearly impossible to mess up. I am a sucker for anything with condensed milk, and have been relying on this super creamy, luscious and easy dip for years. It never seizes, it somehow enhances (rather than obscures) the natural sweetness of the fruit, and it has the perfect texture. (One tweak: I swap out the vanilla extract for some sort of booze.) To make it, you will need:
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup of very dark chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon liqueur, whiskey, rum or brandy (or, if you must, vanilla extract)
Add everything except the bit of alcohol or extract to a pot and warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, until your chocolate is fully liquefied. Remove from heat, stir in your bit of booze, and transfer to a fondue pot (make sure the little candle is lit) or a small slow cooker set to low. Serve it with a variety of fruits for dipping - strawberries and pineapple are my favourites - or just eat it with a spoon. There are no wrong ways to consume creamy, liquid chocolate.
This is part of The Grown-Up Kitchen, Lifehacker's series designed to answer your most basic culinary questions and fill in any gaps that may be missing in your home chef education.