The French word fondue (fondue = to melt) describes a very old traditional method of spearing bread cubes onto a long fork and dipping them into melted cheese. At the time it was "invented" it was an ideal way of using up old bread.
Because of the cold climate, in the middle ages, both the French and the Swiss would make their cheese and bread during the warm summer months and store them for winter use. Of course after several months in storage the bread was as hard as a rock so some bright spark - probably an inventive peasant - sought ways to soften it, and came up with the idea of grating some cheese adding a cup of wine and heating it all in a pot. Getting the hot cheese mix from the pot to the mouth was tricky, it couldn't be held on a fork and a spoon became too hot, they needed an edible solution, so the old bread came into play. And voila! The fondue was born.
Its very simple to make and a good fondue pot will last for years, I've had mine for over 20 years. It's best to make one recipe at a time as the recipes don't double up very well, a pot can only hold so much, you cannot fill it to the top but only half-way for safety, but its enough for four people or two hungry adults.
Into your fondue pot, put 1 tablespoon butter over medium low heat, whisk in the flour stirring constantly to avoid sticking and burning, for 3 minutes add 1 cup the wine (a decent Sauvignon Blanc, a Riesling, or a Chenin Blanc), and slowly, bit by bit add1/2 lb grated Gruyere cheese (rind removed), 1/2 lb grated sharp aged Cheddar cheese (rind removed), 1 clove garlic, black pepper and a grating of nutmeg, heat and stir until melted.
Cut baguettes (long loaves of French bread) into cubes, leaving the crust intact. You can also use pieces of cooked ham or chicken, sausages, boiled baby potatoes, asparagus or broccoli and even green apples.
A fondue dinner for two in your own home is more romantic than a restaurant. Not only that, it's easy to put together. The trick to a successful fondue is to ensure the melted cheese dipping sauce stays smooth.
I prefer well-aged grating cheese, such as Gruyere or even Parmesan and strong Cheddar - they work well in sauces. No matter which type of cheese you decide to use, don't heatthe cheese past its melting point, it will ball up at higher temperatures. And don't let the cheese cool down too much before serving, as it will get tougher when it cools. Don't over stir the cheese, it will encourage it to go stringy.
Because the fork goes back into the pot, be extra careful not to touch it with your lips, tongue or teeth. Dipping a morsel of food, taking a bite and then dipping it back into the pot is just as bad as touching the fondue fork with your mouth. Make sure you cover the bread with enough cheese the first time, and you will have no reason to double dip.
And if you want to vary the recipe, omit the cheese and melt chocolate and cream, and use fruit such as strawberries instead of bread. Whisk until smooth. 3/4 cup heavy cream, 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (finely chopped) 1 tablespoon Cognac, liqueur, or brandy. You can use long kebab sticks instead of long forks for the fruit, but be careful soft fruits tend to slip off.
(HK Edition 03/05/2011 page4)