i’m alex harland
and i have my husband mark to thank for introducing me to the fabulous appreciator!
before i launch into an account of why i chose my recipe, i feel i must come clean: i am about the furthest thing from a gourmet chef there is. back in the day when i had only myself to feed, dinner would usually consist of cereal, soups from cartons or packages of pasta i could drop in boiling water for 5 minutes. to this day, cooking for me is about ease and simplicity. if a recipe calls for more ingredients than i have fingers, i won’t go anywhere near it. ditto for tons of slicing and dicing.
ok, so clearly i’m no ina garten-
though how awesome would that be! but over the last decade my gastronomical confidence has increased exponentially. it helps that the aforementioned husband has always been an enthusiastic guinea pig with my experiments in the kitchen (he never was very keen on cereal dinners). i really started cooking when i took a leap of faith and left my job, flat and life in london to move in with mark in zurich, switzerland. and my all time favourite recipe from our sojourn in zurich has to be the one we proudly inherited from our swiss friends for fondue. it brings back so many great memories of beautiful wintry landscapes, days shusshing down the slopes of the alps and lazy evenings of long dinners with good friends by the warm glow of a chalet fire.
a quick lesson in geography:
there are 26 different swiss cantons (basically their equivalent of states). each canton has its own take on the making of perfect fondue. for instance, in the canton of vaud, fondue is prepared with gruyere cheese only but at varying degrees of ripeness. in the canton of jura, on the other hand, fondue is made up with half jura cheese and enhanced with shallots. and in geneva, 3 kinds of cheese are used: gruyere, emmentaler and a vaudois cheese. then, sautéed morels (fresh or dried and pre-soaked) or diced tomatoes are added. for the sake of swiss neutrality, i’ve opted for a non-canton specific basic recipe.
fondue ingredients (for 8 people)
2 ½ lbs shredded cheese (about 5.3 oz per person)- half gruyere cheese and half emmentaler
2 cloves of garlic
2 ½ cups dry white wine
6 tsp cornstarch
6 small glasses cherry kirsch
rub a heavy saucepan or heat proof clay fondue pot with the split garlic cloves. dissolve the cornstarch in the kirsch. put the cheese and wine into the pan and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. when the cheese is completely melted, add the cheese and cornstarch mixture, stirring vigorously. continue to cook. season with pepper and nutmeg, to taste. serve over a fondue alcohol lamp and the cooking should continue on low heat. stir constantly with small pieces of bread speared on a fondue fork. try not to boil the cheese!
with that, i have several tips i feel i must share:
1. if you are lactose intolerant or pregnant, please abstain from this recipe.
2. fondue is usually eaten with bite-sized pieces of bread speared on a fondue fork. however if bread is not your carb of choice, small boiled potatoes may be used instead.
3. under no circumstances, i cannot stress this enough, drink water while eating your fondue!!!!!! we have a scottish friend who told a hysterically embarrassing story of the severe case of constipation that resulted from the breaking of this cardinal rule of fondue eating. fondue is best enjoyed with dry white wine or shots of kirsch.
4. fondue aficionados dunk their bread in kirsch before dipping it into the cheese. not for the faint of heart!
5. also a little fondue game- whoever loses his bread stirring in the cheese pot must pay for a round of beer or bottle of wine. if it happens to a woman, she must kiss the man sitting next to her.
6. by far the best part of the fondue is the final crusty bit of almost charred cheese at the very bottom of the pot. make it a fondue fork fight to the finish if you must to claim that last bite of heaven!
7. lastly, fondue is best served on a cold, wintry evening. we don’t get many of those here in texas so when they do come, make sure to take advantage. also, best enjoyed in the company of fun, close friends and family.
as the swiss say, en guete!