I got a craving this afternoon...a BIG BREAD craving. It's been a while since I've made fresh bread, and crusty homemade french bread sounded amazing. So I threw the flour, yeast, salt and water into the breadmaker and sat back and relaxed, trying to think of what I could make for dinner to compliment the wonderful bread that would be done in 3 hours and 45 minutes......
Then I thought....hmmm...cheeeeeese. We have pepperjack in the fridge....
but I used that last night for tofu tacos.
Goat cheese crumbles?
....eh. Too sharp for tonight. Not feeling it.
I got some feta, but I'm saving that for the St. Patties Day Greek Food Rebellion.
Fuck it- let's go to the store.
On the way over the Safeway (across the street), I brainstormed. I wanted something snacky. Something fresh with flavor. And that's when it hit me- let's try a fondue! What could be better than a wine and cheese mixture with fruit, veggies, and FRESH BREAD!
I got really excited. This was going to be an endeavor. I remembered that I had aquired a fondue set at some thrift store eons ago, and I've never made use of it...and now's the perfect time! And I wasn't going to make this simple on myself...oh no, I was going to do. this. RIGHT. Some veggies roasted, some fresh. Two kinds of cheese-friendly meat for Ty. A crisp, sweet, cheese-dippable fruit...apples or pears or apples or pears....why is that decision so difficult? (Apples won- they were on sale.)
Then I spent about 20 minutes in the deli section trying to figure out what combination of cheese to get. This was the most important decision of all, because the type of cheeses would set the rest of the fondue ingredients in motion- sharp cheddar and beer? mozzarella and marinara? classic french swiss and wine?
I sat there for way. way. way too long. I probably circled the cheese stand about 10 times before making my choices.
The determining factor, ironically enough, was the italian sausage in my cart. But I didn't want to go TOO italian, so I settled for a french/italian combo: fontina, swiss, gouda and parm...subtle, yet complimentary, with a sharp little kick. I was so excited.
When I got home I had to do a little research on how exactly to prep the fondue- I knew you couldn't just throw stuff into a pot and expect it to turn out any reasonable consistency- so after reading multiple recipes online (some good, others just plain revolting), I came up with my own version, and I am very, VERY happy with it.
The great thing about fondue is the process is the same, but the ingredients can change drastically. You can have a lot of fun with it, and it's wide open to experimentation. If anyone reading comes up with another great recipe, let me know! I'd love to try it out.
*Final note- I realized when I got home that I no longer had the fondue set I remembered. I had given it back to the goodwill during one of those crazy cleaning days...oh well. (You don't really need it anyway, trust me. Forks work just fine.)
8 oz grated gouda
6 oz grated fontina
6 oz grated swiss
4 oz parmesan
3 Tbsp cornstarch
a dash of herbs de provence
1 tsp pepper
2 cups dry white wine
1 lg shallot
1 clove garlic
2 glugs of dry sherry
red bell pepper
whole button mushrooms
chicken breast, chopped
1 tsp butter
Preheat the oven to 450.
First, prep your dippers. Chop the fresh bell pepper, apples, and bread into 1 inch pieces and set aside. In a non-stick skillet, add butter and olive oil (two turns around the pan) and bring to med-high heat. Add whole mushrooms stirring occasionally until they are nicely browned. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
Bring the same skillet to medium heat and add chopped chicken breast. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and there is no pink in the middle- The smaller pieces make the cook time much faster, and you get more of the crispy browned goodness in each bite. Season with a bit of herbs de provence and lemon juice, then transfer to a small bowl.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cover with broccoli and cauliflower florets. sprinkle with a healthy helping of olive oil and place in the oven, roasting for about 15 minutes. Once the veggies are slightly wilted and toasty but still crisp, remove from oven and set aside.
Place the italian sausage on the same baking sheet. Poke a few holes in the casing so it doesn't explode, and roast for about 10 minutes (until the casing is crispy). Remove from oven and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Now for the best part.....
Mince the shallots into tiny pieces. Add shallots and white wine to a small saucepan and bring to a low boil for about 4-5 minutes. While the alcohol is cooking out, combine grated fontina, grouda and swiss cheeses (not the parmesan- that comes later) with cornstarch in a large ziplock. Seal the baggie and shake until the cheese is coated. Reduce heat to low and SLOWLY add cheese mixture into the saucepan. I found that separating it into three sections works well. Stir in carefully with a wooden spoon, allowing the cheese to slowly melt. Repeat with the next two batches of cheese, then add the parmesan. It should take about 7-10 minutes to really incorporate all the cheese to make a nice, smooth fondue. Add a few generous glugs of dry sherry and allow to cook for about a minute more. Season with pepper and a little herbs de provence, then transfer to a fondue pot (if you like) to keep the mixture warm.
However, since it's just me and Ty (and Kitten) here, I find it easier to plop the saucepan directly on the table (or coffeetable)...make sure you have a towel or cozy underneath.....that way if the cheese starts to thicken or get clumpy, you can easily transfer it back to the stove, pour yourself a little more wine, then bring it back to the table (or coffeetable) refreshed and ready for dippage. Some may call it uncouth....I say it's "rustic." Whatever. It's delicious, either way.