Fondue is back

Fondue is back

Slow food with a heart

  • Dec. 20, 2019 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Jane Zatlyny Photography by Don Denton

I first experienced the communal cooking ritual known as fondue some 20 years ago. Six of us gathered around an avocado-coloured pot, a hand-me-down from the host’s parents. We pierced cubes of raw meat with our fondue forks and then lowered them into bubbling hot oil.

I remember the sizzle of the oil as it met the meat, the fragrant cloud of steam that rose from the pot and how the experience warmed my senses on that cold winter’s night. We chatted and turned our forks with anticipation until our morsels of meat were ready to eat, then dabbed the meat into special sauces prepared by our host. Intrigued, I would go on to discover cheese fondue, hot broth fondue and, eventually, chocolate fondue.

Although most of us think of fondue as a retro North American cuisine, it actually has its roots in Europe. The word itself is a derivative of the French verb “fondre,” which means “to melt.” The Swiss staked their claim to the gooey goodness that is cheese fondue, naming it their national dish in 1930. As the story goes, fondue was invented in a French-speaking region of Switzerland in the 18th century as a way to use up stale bread and aged cheese during the winter months, when fresh food was scarce.

Oil fondues trace their beginnings to French vineyards. Workers who couldn’t break for their meals fried small pieces of meat in a communal pot of oil while working in the fields. A Swiss restaurateur, Konrad “Konni” Egli, is credited for popularizing the oil fondue, or fondue bourguignonne, in the 1960s in his Manhattan restaurant, Chalet Suisse. Egli is also said to be responsible for creating the chocolate fondue.

Though fondue is trendy now, it has gone in and out of fashion over the decades. But it really does have an enduring appeal, particularly at this time of year.

“It amazes me that it stays so popular, but I think it’s a lot like Monopoly,” says Jed Grieve, owner of Cook Culture stores in Victoria and Vancouver. “It’s a fun and familiar thing that generations can actively do together at the holidays. We sell very few sets from January to November, but we can’t keep them in stock in December.”

Fondue how-tos

Follow these simple steps when serving fondue at home for better results as well as safety.

Cheese fondue

Choose a sturdy enamelled cast iron pot (Staub and Le Creuset are both excellent options) for even heat distribution and safer handling. A large variety of cheese fondue recipes can be found via a quick Google, or turn to a trusted cookbook for a recipe that suits your preferences.

Most recipes call for a mixture of about 600 grams each of hard and semi-hard cheeses, up to two cups of beer or dry white wine, two tablespoons of traditional kirsch and a teaspoon of flour or cornstarch.

Begin by rubbing the inside of your pot with a cut clove of garlic. Mix the grated cheeses and warm the wine or beer on your stove-top over low heat. Heat the kirsch separately and stir in the flour or cornstarch. Gradually add the cheese mixture to the wine or beer. Stir constantly until the cheese melts. Add the kirsch/starch mixture and more warm liquid if mixture becomes too thick. Do not boil. Light the fuel (most fondue sets use Sterno or a gel fondue fuel; follow manufacturers’ instructions), and shift pot to its stand using oven mitts.

Cheese combinations to try:

• The classic Swiss blend: Emmentaler and Gruyère

• Dubliner and havarti

• Stilton and aged Canadian cheddar

• Fontina and brie

Dippers:

The sky’s the limit, but always avoid raw meats and seafood with cheese fondues.

• Day-old baguette, pumpernickel or rye bread

• Granny Smith apple chunks, seedless grapes and pear slices

• Par-boiled potato cubes

• Vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and zucchini

• French gherkins and pickled onions

• Cooked meats, such as sliced chorizo or chunks of grilled beef tenderloin

Good to know:

• Don’t discard the delicious crust of cheese on the bottom of the pot. It can be easily pried out of the pot with a fondue fork and is worth fighting over with your dinner companions.

Hot oil fondue

Stainless steel pots transfer the heat from oils evenly, but be sure to choose a good-quality model for safety’s sake.

Fill your pot no more than one-third full with your chosen oil (peanut and vegetable oils work well). Carefully heat over low to medium until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown in 30 seconds; do not let the oil smoke. (The correct temperature should be about 190 C or 375 F.) Move the pot to the fondue stand in the middle of a large table; maintain the heat to safely cook raw meat and seafood. (A thinly sliced piece of meat should cook to rare in 30 seconds, medium in 45 seconds and well done in 60 seconds.)

Sauces to try:

• Serve beef filet slices with a classic Béarnaise or Hollandaise sauce

• Top chicken pieces with a dollop of pesto and sundried tomato slices

• Dip pork chunks into a spicy Thai peanut sauce

• Partner chunks of vegetables with Dijon or sriracha mayonnaise

Good to know:

• Thinly sliver beef, chicken or seafood for faster cooking times

• Separate raw meats from vegetables and refrigerate prior to serving

• Discourage double dippers by setting the table with extra fondue forks, spoons, knives and forks and side plates

• For a lighter option, try a chicken, beef or vegetable broth instead of an oil

Chocolate fondue

Small ceramic pots work best for chocolate fondues; they ensure that their sweet, rich contents remain at a low simmer. Make a ganache on your stovetop by mixing chocolate and hot cream together in a bowl over a saucepan filled with water.

You can vary the proportions and types of chocolate and cream. Add flavourings such as vanilla, nuts, fruits and liqueurs to taste. Transfer the mixture to your fondue pot and place over a low heat, typically a candle, to avoid burning the chocolate.

Flavourings to try:

• Kahlua

• Grand Marnier

• Sea salt

• Candy cane

Dippers

• Chunks of firm fruit, such as pineapple, strawberries, pitted cherries, dried apricots and mandarin orange sections

• Bread, fruit cake or biscotti pieces

• Marshmallows, angel food cake pieces, pretzels and potato chips

Toppings

• Whipped cream

• Slivered almonds

• Chocolate shavings

• Ground nuts

Try before you buy

In Victoria, beginning in early November, Hotel Grand Pacific offers a special fondue menu with traditional cheese, broth and chocolate fondues. Choose a three-course fondue menu for $85 for two, or just try one of the following fondues with your meal:

Roasted Garlic Cheese Fondue: Raclette and Emmental cheese blend with kirsch and roasted garlic served with baguette, pears, Granny Smith apples, cornichons, grilled zucchini, and wine chorizo.

Chicken Hot Broth Fondue: A chicken stock broth, served with pieces of broccoli, baby Yukon Gold potatoes, prawns, seared sirloin, carrots, baby bok choy, chili onion sauce and charred green onion mayo.

Grand Marnier 70% Dark Chocolate Fondue: A rich dessert fondue, served with fresh fruit, house-made marshmallows, banana cake and whipped cream.

Where to buy

Fondue pots were ubiquitous in the 1960s and ‘70s, but they are a specialty item now, so it’s a good idea to call ahead before visiting a store to pick one up. Here are some options for in-person and online shopping in Victoria:

The Bay:

1150 Douglas Street, Victoria (250-385-1311)

3125 Douglas Street, Victoria (250-386-3322)

thebay.com

Cook Culture:

1317 Blanshard Street, Victoria (250-590-8161)

cookculture.com

The Fabulous Find Midcentury Furnishings:

538 Herald Street, Victoria (250-590-2550)

thefabulousfind.ca

Penna & Company Kitchen and Giftwares:

Broadmead Village Shopping Centre

777 Royal Oak Drive, Victoria, (250-727-2110)

pennakitchen.com

Trig Vintage:

546 Herald Street, Victoria (250-384-8084)

trigvintage.com

A huge thank you to Roshan Vickery for hosting our fondue party.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Arts and EntertainmentFoodFood and WineRecipe

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers’ group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. (THE CANADIAN PRESS - Jesse Johnston)
Poll: Care to spread your feelings on butter?

Reports of hard butter have rattled the Canadian dairy industry

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

Decorative snowboards provided by Off The Wall. (Claire Palmer photo)
Wildsight Golden contest wraps up

Two decorative snowboards were awarded

Youth from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays were able to dig into two evenings of online learning and connection through United Way Southern Interior B.C.’s <CODE>anagan program. (Submitted)<code> </code>
CODEanagan gives youth a chance to learn about technology

The youth, aged 12 to 21, built their own WordPress sites and developed blogging ideas

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Most Read