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So I’ve decided to publish the menu for the game being served at Chez Caskie on Sunday. We have Appetizers, Wings, Cheese Dip, Veggies, Hummus, Bacon (of course!) and Dessert. Sounds simple, right? Read on…

BTW, spoiler. The Cheese dip is Fondue, and because we’re having wings, I’m using a bleu cheese fondue as a hat tip to that traditional football food. Also, pay attention to the beers we use in the recipes. It will make a difference, and frankly, you need more beer in your diet.

MAPLE CHILI BEER BUFFALO WINGS (Chocolate Stout)
In my opinion, what makes a great chicken wing is the sweet and spicy sauce, as well as being crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. These wings meet those criteria, and they’re made with beer, which is always a plus. When buying chicken wings, look for “party wings” or wings that already have the tips removed. They’re usually slightly more expensive, but you get more meat for your money and will save time by not having to remove the tips yourself.

INGREDIENTS:
1 C Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 C Room Temperature Chocolate Stout Beer (www.bisonbrew.com)
1/4 C unsalted butter
1/4 C ketchup
2 TBS grainy mustard
3 TBS chili powder
3 to 3 1/2 LBS chicken wings, tips removed (about 15 to 17)
2 Quarts Peanut oil

METHOD:
Place ingredients from maple syrup through chili powder in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add 5 to 6 inches of peanut oil. Heat to 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil’s heat by adding a bit of chicken fat to the hot oil. It should sizzle and float to the top, surrounded by bubbles. Cook wings in batches for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, turning occasionally. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Transfer to a large bowl and cover with sauce. Toss well.

CHIPOTLE DRY RUB WINGS:
I like these, because Buffalo Wild Wings makes a similar version that is my favorite on their menu and I was able to find a Chipotle Rub that’s really close to theirs. The trick is to not use too much, as it’s really salty. The brand I use is Konriko (www.konriko.com) out of Louisiana.

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 C Konriko Chipotle Dry Rub Spice
3 LBS Chicken Wings, Tips Removed
2 Quarts Peanut Oil

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add 5 to 6 inches of peanut oil. Heat to 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil’s heat by adding a bit of chicken fat to the hot oil. It should sizzle and float to the top, surrounded by bubbles. Cook wings in batches for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, turning occasionally. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Transfer to a large bowl and coat lightly with spice. Toss well.

BLEU CHEESE/FONTINA FONDUE WITH CRUDITE:
When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Melting Pot in Tallahassee, Florida. After that first time, I couldn’t get enough. Even back then it was pretty expensive, and being a kid, I didn’t understand the cost issue. So, mostly we went for my birthdays. Fast forward 30 years or so <cough> and my kids are the same (and at the exact same location). I’m pretty sure it’s all about the dipping stuff in chocolate and cheese that makes kids like it, but I personally enjoy the flavors.

Now, making fondue at home can take a bit of effort. However, this shouldn’t stop you from trying, since not everyone has a Melting Pot nearby. There aren’t many shortcuts aside from pre-cut veggies and pre-shredded cheese, but otherwise it’s a cinch.

What you really need to make this a family favorite is a good Fondue Pot and excellent cheese. For the pot, I suggest a good electric version. Although cast iron pots are great, I think you have a hard time keeping them evenly warm. Electric pots take all the guesswork and flame fiddling out of the way and let you just enjoy the food. The reason I suggest an electric pot is that a cheese fondue mixture should be kept warm enough to keep the fondue smooth and liquid but not so hot that it burns. If this temperature is held until the fondue is finished there will be a thin crust of toasted (not burnt) cheese at the bottom of the caquelon (pot). According to wiki, this is called la religieuse (French for the nun). It has the texture of a cracker and is almost always lifted out and eaten.

As a side note, apparently if you drop a piece off the fork in the cheese, you have to kiss a member of the opposite sex at your table. You’re welcome….

INGREDIENTS:
CHEESE FONDUE:
1/2 LB (8oz) imported Fontina Shredded*
1/2 LB (8oz) Bleu cheese, roughly chopped*
2 TBS cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
¼ C finely minced shallots
1+ C dry white wine
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS Sherry
1/2 TSP Dry Mustard
Pinch Nutmeg
Dash Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Assorted Blanched and Raw Crudites (Veggies, Bread, Apples, etc…)

*if you are so inclined, experiment with other cheeses and liquids. Bleu Cheese Fondue can be strong to some, so don’t be afraid to try any of the following:

Good Cheddar with Emmenthaler, Lager Beer, Garlic and Cayenne

ButterKasse, Jarlsberg, minced spinach artichoke hearts, garlic and White Wine

Blue Stilton, Cheddar, IPA and Garlic

The amounts of cheese to liquid remain the same in each recipe, just add 2 TBS Kirshwasser.

METHOD:
In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic, and then discard. Heat the pot at this point, add shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in Sherry, mustard and nutmeg.

BLANCHING VEGGIES FOR CRUDITES:
Along with steaming, blanching vegetables is a basic technique every cook should know. Briefly boiled and then plunged into ice water, these bright and tender-crisp vegetables may be used in crudité platters, salads, sushi rolls, and stir fries, or refrigerated or frozen for later use. Just about any vegetable can be blanched. Here’s how…

INGREDIENTS:
Vegetables
Water
Ice
Salt

METHOD:
Have ready a large bowl of ice water, a slotted spoon, and a plate lined with a cloth or paper towel.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat, add dash of salt. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Doing this just before blanching prevents oxidation. Cut them into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the vegetables to the pot in small batches so that the water continues to boil. If blanching more than one type of vegetable, blanch each one separately and blanch lighter colored ones first, as darker colored ones will tinge the water and subsequent vegetables.

After about 30 seconds, test for doneness. Most vegetables take between 2-5 minutes. When the vegetables are done, quickly remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. (This is called “shocking.”) Once the vegetables are completely cool, remove them from the ice bath and drain on the towel-lined plate.

NOTE: using a lid on a pot during the blanching process does not make a difference to color, PH levels, texture or anything. Not using a lid is one less item to wash. So go topless!

Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads**. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!

Baguettes (white and whole wheat) let stand out for 1 full day before slicing for Fondue to get a bit hard.

CANDIED BACON WITH BEER: (Vanilla Porter) (www.breckbrew.com)
Shut Up. Just you shut up right now. EAT IT!

INGREDIENTS:
1 LBS thick-cut, high quality bacon
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C + 2 TBS Vanilla Porter Beer

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine brown sugar and beer in a small bowl, whisking well to form a thin syrup. Set aside.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top. Place the pieces of bacon on top of the rack, overlapping if necessary. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush one side of the bacon with the beer syrup. Flip, and coat the other side with the syrup as well. Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and repeat process another time or two more, until bacon is crispy and browned, and you’ve used all the glaze.

Cool on wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

BROWNIES: (Morning Glory Espresso Porter) (www.olddominion.com)
INGREDIENTS:
1 C flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 TSP salt
1 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP cinnamon
1 C butter (room temperature)
8 OZ coarsely chopped unsweetened dark chocolate
4 eggs
1 TSP vanilla
2 C granulated sugar
10 OZ Espresso Porter Beer

METHOD:
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Grease a 9 inch baking pan with butter.
Mix together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.
Place approximately 2 inches of water in a pot and simmer on low. Place a double boiler or glass bowl over the pot of simmering water and slowly melt butter & chopped chocolate. Be sure to stir continuously until fully melted. Remove from heat.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla & sugar in a large mixing bowl on high. Beat for 3 minutes until batter becomes thick & creamy.

Add melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until well combined. Once that’s done, add flour mixture & beat until combined. Pour in beer & beat until combined. Texture should be similar to pudding.

Pour mixture into baking pan and place on center rack in oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Insert a toothpick & if it comes out clean, it’s done!

BOILED PEANUT HUMMUS:
I know, right?!? I could put this out on the table and you’d dig right in, thinking you’re getting that Chickpea Garlicky Goodness, only to find your mouth filled with peanuts and a tangy back-of-the-mouth bite. But, you WILL keep eating this. I just know it, because you’re my friend.

INGREDIENTS:
1 C shelled, boiled peanuts (from about 2 cans)
2 TBS Tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 TSP ground cumin
1/8 TSP cayenne pepper
1 small garlic clove
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste

METHOD:
Combine boiled peanuts, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, and garlic in a food processor and pulse to mix well.

With the processor running, slowly add oil. Continue puréeing peanut mixture, adding water 1 Tbsp. at a time, until the hummus is smooth. Season to taste with salt.

GUACAMOLE AND CHIPS:
Home-made Guacamole (Guest provided, no recipe), store bought chips.

SAUSAGE BALLS:
This recipe and the following one came from my Grandmother in Virginia. These were a staple during holiday cocktail hours and I remember taking handfuls of these down into the basement where I could pig out in peace. In January of 2013, I polled my family, and almost everyone named these as her most memorable dish.

INGREDIENTS:
1 C Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 LBS Ground Hot Country Sausage
2 1/4 C Bisquick
1 Dash+ Tabasco Sauce
1 TSP Paprika

METHOD:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Have all ingredients at room temperature and combine in a large bowl, mix by hand well to ensure everything is combined.

Shape into small balls (about ¾ to 1 inch across), place on greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

These appetizers can be frozen unbaked and cooked any time you need a quick appetizer.

ROASTED GOLDEN CHERRY TOMATOES ON FRESH BAGUETTE WITH GOAT CHEESE:
This is a very pretty appetizer and can be made ahead of time and served cold, but it is very nice warm as well.

INGREDIENTS:
1 LBS Golden Cherry Tomatoes, sliced into halves
1/8 C Avacado or Light Olive Oil
1 TBS Italian Seasoning
1 ½ TBS Fresh Chopped Garlic
1/2 TBS Chopped Parsley
2 TBS White Wine
Fresh Ground Salt and Pepper to Taste
8 OZ Goat Cheese
1 Baguette, sliced thin

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 300.

In a mixing bowl, combine gently all ingredients (so you don’t damage the sliced tomatoes), pour into roasting pan evenly and roast for 1 hour and 45 minutes. During the last 30 minutes, keep a close eye on the pan. You want the tomatoes to caramelize a bit, but not burn.

Remove from oven, spoon onto baguette, garnish with goat cheese.
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This recipe is really great for those times when you’re hanging out in the kitchen with your friends or a loved one, because it’s pretty easy to make, you can get other people involved in helping, and the divine smell of ginger, sesame and garlic will pervade the house, making everyone want to be in the middle of what you’re doing anyway.   There’s a lot of chopping and shredding, and when it comes time to roll the egg rolls, it helps to have one person frying while the other is rolling and folding.  You’re going to be so hungry during prep, the faster you can make these the better. (Photo)

If you want to make something other than chicken, that’s easy too… Just pre-cook whatever protein you want with a little sesame oil, ginger and garlic; chop it fine and add to the veggies.  Make sure that whatever you do, you don’t use too much oil when browning your protein, because you’ll want to scrape all of the browned bits into the egg roll mix.  Too much oil and it’s a mushy mess. 

Ingredients:

Meat:

1 1/2lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken (breast or thigh filets)

Veggies:

2TBS Sesame Oil

½ Head, Red Cabbage, Shredded

½ Head, Green Cabbage, Shredded

4 Medium Green Onions, Chopped

1 Head, Baby Bok Choy, Chopped

1 Carrot, Shredded

1 Inch Cube, Fresh Ginger Grated Fine

2 TSP Minced Garlic

2 TBS Roasted Sesame Seeds

1 TBS Chinese Five Spice

4 Cups Peanut Oil

2 TBS Corn Starch

1 Cup Water

1 TBS Soy Sauce

1 tsp minced Thai Chili peppers or red pepper flakes***

2 Pkgs Egg Roll Wrappers

Method:

Protein:

Wash and rinse your chicken, patting dry.  Once dry, rub 2 TBS sesame oil all over the chicken, coating well.   In a large cast iron skillet, brown chicken over medium heat, taking care not to dry it out or scorch.  After 1 side is browned, flip and add ½ TSP minced Garlic, ½ Cube of the Fresh Ginger, ½ TBS Sesame Seeds, and some of the Chinese Five Spice.  Fry until cooked through.  Remove and let stand on some paper to wick away any remaining oils.

At this time, preheat the 2 cups of peanut oil in a large skillet, filling the skillet about 1/3 of the way to the top.  This will allow the egg rolls to cook on one side, but not so much they float when you put them in the skillet.  If they float, they won’t cook evenly, but continue to roll over to the cooked side every time you try to turn them.  If you have too much oil, scoop some out with a ladle and discard.  You can add more as you cook the egg rolls should you need to.

Vegetables:

While chicken is frying, take all the other vegetables and slice into thin strips or chop fine.  You can use a food processor here, but don’t make them too fine.  Once shredded, put all veggies into a bowl and add the rest of the ginger and garlic, sesame seeds and 5 spice.  Pour the soy sauce over the veggies and mix well.  ***You can add chili peppers here if you like your egg rolls spicy.

By this time, the chicken should be rested and dry.  Chop or shred it into fine bits and mix into the vegetable mix.

Putting it all together:

Place 2 TBS of corn starch into a small bowl and add 1 cup of very hot water.  Mix well.  Lay a single Egg Roll Wrapper into a dry flat surface and spread a small amount of starch water over the surface.  Take a table spoon or two of egg roll mix and place in center of wrapper.  Fold according to wrapper instructions.  There is a very fine line between too little and too much mixture.  It takes some practice to get the amount right.  Too little and the egg roll is mostly air after it’s cooked, and too much can cause it to leak open and soak up oil.  Once you’re ready to make the final fold, dip your finger into the starch water and rub it along the last wrapper edge, ensuring a tight seam.  If you notice that you have any holes in the wrapper, either pinch them closed or use a small patch of wrapper dipped in the starch water to patch the hole.  The idea is to not let any oil inside the roll when you fry it.

Once you have 4 to 5 egg rolls wrapped and ready to fry, test the oil with a small piece of unused wrapper.  It should bubble up and turn golden brown in about 2 to 3 minutes.  When the oil is hot, place the wrapped and ready egg rolls gently into the oil, one at a time.  Make sure they stay separated.  As you keep an eye on them, continue to wrap more.  Once the frying rolls are golden brown on one side, gently use a pair of tongs to rotate them to the uncooked side for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and let rest on paper.  Continue to fry the rest of them as they are wrapped.

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This holiday favorite mixes the Balsamic Vinegar, sweet chewy flavor of dates, the salty crunch of bacon and the mild silky creaminess of cheese.   These morsels can be made a little ahead of time, and can be served either warm or at room temperature.  I do not suggest refrigerating.

Wensleydale cheese was first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region, who had settled in Wensleydale.  Originally a Blue Veined Cheese due to the sheep’s milk, it is today mostly made with cow’s milk and a little sheep milk mixed in, and is almost always wholly white in color.  It has a moist crumbly texture and slight honey flavor due to the grass in the pastures of the areas in which it is produced.   You can find this in the deli section of your local grocery store, along with apricot cheese.

Ingredients:

¼ C Balsamic Vinegar for brushing

1 LB Bacon, cut in half

1 LB Dates

6 OZ Wensleydale Cranberry Cheese

Plain wood toothpicks (not colored or flavored)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Slice dates almost all the way in half lengthwise, and open them up like a book to remove pit.  Pinch off pieces of Wesleydale cheese, form into oblong lumps and place them into the center of the dates. Fold the dates closed, and wrap a half-slice of bacon around the outside. Secure each bacon wrap onto the date with a toothpick. Arrange about an inch apart in a baking dish or on a baking sheet with sides to hold any grease.   Brush each date lightly with Balsamic Vinegar.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the oven, or until the bacon is crisp. Turn dates over after the first 20 minutes for even cooking.

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The idea here is to take some of the Scallops you used when making the Ceviche and set them aside after they are fully cooked to make these bacon wrapped appetizers.   You can of course make them separately, with the juice, spices and all, but it’s really easy to just add some extra scallops to the Ceviche you’re already doing, right?

Ingredients:

8 Ceviche cooked scallops, halved

4 Slices thick-cut bacon, cut in half

2 Wooden Skewers

Method:

Over low heat, cook each strip for about 5 minutes until not raw but still pliable.  Remove from pan, dry and cool.   Once the bacon is cool, wrap a piece of bacon around each scallop; insert onto skewer with room between each piece.  Grill over medium high heat for 3 to 5 minutes per side.

It’s a good idea to make sure you oil the grill surface so the scallops don’t stick when you’re grilling them.  Watch these like a hawk, or they will burn right up. 

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Ceviche is a dish you can do with almost any seafood.  It’s super easy and requires little more than time.  I’m pretty particular about the type of seafood I’ll eat, and can’t stand anything that’s too strong or fishy-flavored, so I mostly go with Shrimp, white fish, Tuna or Scallops.  Whatever you choose to add, just make sure it’s as fresh as you can possibly get.  When it comes to the other additions, go wild.  The idea is to complement the tangy marinade with sweet and crunchy bits that hit the mouth and taste buds from every direction. 

Ingredients:

½ LB Fresh Grouper

½ LB Fresh Raw Scallops

1 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup (about 12 whole) cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 or 2 green or orange jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus additional for garnish

1 cup finely diced red onion (1/2 medium red onion)

½ cup chopped fresh pineapple

½ Peeled diced cucumber

½ Jicama Root, peeled and diced

3 Green Onions Chopped

2 Oranges, peeled and chopped

2 Cloves Chopped Garlic

1 Dash Cayenne Pepper

2 heads of Belgian Endive

Method:

Cut the raw seafood into 1 inch cubes, place in Ziploc freezer bag with ½ cup of each of the following:  Orange Juice, Lemon Juice and Lime Juice.  Set aside in Refrigerator for at least 4 hours.   Chop and combine all the remaining ingredients in large, non-reactive bowl, add balance of all juices.   Stir to mix well.  After Ceviche has cooked in juices for about 4 hours, discard juice in bag, remove seafood from bag and place into bowl with veggies.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 more hours, and up to 16.

When ready to serve, wash and peel endive, arrange on a plate artistically, fill each endive leaf with two tablespoons of Ceviche and enjoy.  This goes great with a Cava Sangria.

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For a very long time, I gave up on making pizza from scratch at home.  I just couldn’t get the dough thin enough, nor crispy enough to stand up to my taste and need for a crust strong enough to hold all the stuff I was going to put on it.  When I did feel the need to make a pizza at home, I often used store bought, pre-made crusts, unsatisfactorily.
In the end, perseverance won out.  Here’s a crust that doesn’t take 2 days to make, is hearty and strong, yet thin.  Also included are some tips on topping your crust with ingredients that won’t make it too soggy.
Ingredients:
2 TBS Active Quick-rising Yeast (pretty much 3 packets of the Superactive stuff)
1 Dash (1/8 teaspoon) Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 C very warm water (not too hot)
3 C Italian “tipo” OO Flour
1/2 C Semolina Flour
1 TSP Salt
1/8 C Corn Meal
2 TSP Ground Fresh Rosemary
2 TBS Olive Oil for Dough
2 TBS Olive Oil for Dough balls and bowls

Method:
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water, stir and set aside for 10 minutes. Mixture should begin to bubble and foam at the end of the time (indicating that the yeast is activated & alive.).

In a medium bowl, shift flour and salt, pour into a food processor.

Turn on the food processor and slowly add the liquid yeast mixture and olive oil to the dry ingredients and run until dough is well combined.

Flour a work surface and your hands, remove dough from processor and knead for a couple of minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into 2 equal sized balls and coat with a thin layer of olive oil.  In two medium sized mixing bowls coat the inside of each bowl with about 1/2 TBS of Olive Oil, and place each ball into a medium sized bowl, cover with a cloth and set aside to rise for about an hour.

When you’re ready to make pizza, preheat the oven to 500, remove dough from bowls and shape the dough into 2 medium pizzas using whatever method you prefer; rolling pin, stretching between your two hands, etc…  Until it’s evenly about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick all around.

Once you have the dough like you want, sprinkle lightly with corn meal on one side, flip it over onto a peel, pre-heated stone or flat sheet, and Brush lightly with Olive Oil.  Sprinkle the rosemary over the dough and then put the dough in the oven.   If you use a pre-heated stone, TAKE CARE not to burn yourself.
Bake the crust for about 5 to 6 minutes in the oven at 500 degrees, watching it carefully.  If it begins to bubble, remove from oven and poke the bubbles with a fork to release the gas.  Return to oven and bake until the crust is firm, but not cooked through.  (eyeball this part) 
Once your crust is ready, remove it from the oven and build the pizza to your liking. 
As the crust is baking, gather all your other ingredients and have them ready at hand.  You’ll want to build the pizza quickly once the crust is ready.  If you’re using high fat or water content ingredients such as sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers and mushrooms, it’s a very good idea to pre-cook them on a low heat to remove most of the liquids.  Don’t overcook them, just get them dehydrated a bit so they don’t make the pizza mushy.  Lastly, you don’t want your sauce too runny either.  It’s a good idea to strain some of the liquid from your sauce before putting it on your crust.
Depending on the amount of toppings and sauce, your pizza should take about 12 to 15 minutes to cook.  1/2 way through cooking, rotate the pizza 1/2 way around to cook all sides evenly.image
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Dry rubbed mesquite smoked pork shoulder. Going into Cuban slow cooked black beans.

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Electro-Sean Eggs Benedict. English Muffins, Crispy Bacon, poached Egg and Asiago Cream Sauce.

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Drinks and atmosphere at #PX, Alexandria, VA #speakeasy

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Preparing short ribs. #meatcoma here I come.

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Quiche and cheese grits. #itswhatsforbreakfast

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Cheese Fondue

When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Melting Pot in Tallahassee, Florida.  After that first time, I couldn’t get enough.  Even back then it was pretty expensive, and being a kid, I didn’t understand the cost issue.  So, mostly we went for my birthdays.   Fast forward 30 years or so <cough> and my kids are the same (and at the exact same location).  I’m pretty sure it’s all about the dipping stuff in chocolate and cheese that makes kids like it, but I personally enjoy the flavors. 

Now, making fondue at home can take a bit of effort.  However, this shouldn’t stop you from trying, since not everyone has a Melting Pot nearby.  There aren’t many shortcuts aside from pre-cut veggies and pre-shredded cheese, but otherwise it’s a cinch. 

What you really need to make this a family favorite is a good Fondue Pot and excellent cheese.  For the pot, I suggest a good electric version.  Although cast iron pots are great, I think you have a hard time keeping them evenly warm.  Electric pots take all the guesswork and flame fiddling out of the way and let you just enjoy the food.    The reason I suggest an electric pot is that a cheese fondue mixture should be kept warm enough to keep the fondue smooth and liquid but not so hot that it burns. If this temperature is held until the fondue is finished there will be a thin crust of toasted (not burnt) cheese at the bottom of the caquelon (pot). According to wiki, this is called la religieuse (French for the nun). It has the texture of a cracker and is almost always lifted out and eaten.

As a side note, apparently if you drop a piece off the fork in the cheese, you have to kiss a member of the opposite sex at your table.  You’re welcome….

Ingredients:

Basic Swiss Fondue:
1/2 LB (8oz) imported Emmenthaler or Jarlsberg cheese, shredded*
1/2 LB (8oz) Gruyere cheese, shredded*
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ C finely minced onions or 2 TBS onion juice
1+ C dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirshwasser (preferably unsweet)
1/2 teaspoon Dry Mustard
Pinch Nutmeg

Dash Kosher Salt

Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Assorted Blanched and Raw dippers (Veggies, Bread, Apples, etc…)

*if you are so inclined, experiment with other cheeses and liquids.  Basic Swiss Fondue can be bland to some, so don’t be afraid to try any of the following:

Good Cheddar with Emmenthaler, Lager Beer, Garlic and Cayenne

Fontina and Bleu Cheese with White Wine, Scallions and Sherry

ButterKasse, Jarlsberg, minced spinach artichoke hearts, garlic and White Wine

Blue Stilton, Cheddar, IPA and Garlic

The amounts of cheese to liquid remain the same in each recipe, just delete the Kirshwasser.

Method:

In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic, and then discard.  Heat the pot at this point, and if using onions, add and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, mustard and nutmeg.

Blanching Veggies:

Along with steaming, blanching vegetables is a basic technique every cook should know. Briefly boiled and then plunged into ice water, these bright and tender-crisp vegetables may be used in crudité platters, salads, sushi rolls, and stir fries, or refrigerated or frozen for later use. Just about any vegetable can be blanched. Here’s how…

Ingredients

Vegetables

Water

Ice

Salt

Method:

Have ready a large bowl of ice water, a slotted spoon, and a plate lined with a cloth or paper towel.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat, add dash of salt.  Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Doing this just before blanching prevents oxidation. Cut them into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the vegetables to the pot in small batches so that the water continues to boil. If blanching more than one type of vegetable, blanch each one separately and blanch lighter colored ones first, as darker colored ones will tinge the water and subsequent vegetables.

After about 30 seconds, test for doneness.  Most vegetables take between 2-5 minutes. When the vegetables are done, quickly remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. (This is called “shocking.”)   Once the vegetables are completely cool, remove them from the ice bath and drain on the towel-lined plate.

NOTE: using a lid on a pot during the blanching process does not make a difference to color, PH levels, texture or anything.  Not using a lid is one less item to wash.  So go topless!

Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads**. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!

** The best method for bread is to get loaves of French style bread and let it sit out for a day.  You don’t want super soft fresh bread.  Once it’s a bit hard, cut it length-wise and then again so you have an edge of crust on each piece.  This keeps it on the fondue fork.

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Ahhhh steak. With purple asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

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Pancetta, asiago, spinach and leek pastie with asiago cream sauce.