Happy New Year! How did you choose to ring in the new year?
We like to avoid crowds and reckless drivers by celebrating at home and, for the last few years or so, we’ve whipped up a tasty fondue at home as a way to make dinner a little more special.
The above picture was pretty popular on my Facebook feed that night, so I thought I’d spill the beans (or cheese, at it was) on just how simple it is to put something like this together. It looks impressive, and tastes divine, but it’s not a lot of work.
First, you need a fondue pot. You can find various types at thrift stores and yard sales, or you can pick up a new one. You can get an electric one or one that uses fuel (like Sterno) or a candle. The one we have was a gift from my mom years ago and it’s the latter type. Intended for chocolate, it calls for a small Sterno can but I can never find the right size. Never underestimate the heating power of a tea light, though–it’s always done a great job of keeping the cheese or chocolate nice and fluid. (For a broth-style fondue, where you’re actually cooking your add-ins, I do bring out the Sterno, even if it doesn’t fit the holder quite right.) You can also use a small slow-cooker for cheese or chocolate fondue. As long as it keeps it hot, you’re golden!
Next, you need a quick and easy fondue recipe. This year’s came from The Fondue Bible (I reviewed it back in 2014) and is super simple.
Bacon Cheese Fondue
adapted from The Fondue Bible, Ilana Simon
6 slices bacon
1 cupÂ Greek-style yogurt
8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz old Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
Fry (or bake, our preferred method) the bacon until crisp, allow to cool, then crumble. Grate your cheeses and mix with the nutmeg and dry mustard. Do these steps ahead to make night-of preparation easier.
Heat yogurt over low heat until warm. Add handfuls of the grated cheese and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Once all the cheese in in, add the rest of your ingredients, seasoning to taste.
We found this to be a little thick so stirred in a bit of milk (maybe 1/4 cup in total).
Of course, the last think you’ll do is put the fondue together. Save that for last, and start laying out your trays of nibbles.
A cheese fondue is not meant to cook anything, so your dippers need to be okay eaten raw or already cooked. On the cold tray I assembled:
- Baby carrots
Not all of these go into the cheese (though you might be surprised at the different combos you can make), but it’s nice to have some cool palate cleansers set out. Apples and pears are not something I eat very much of (since they’re high FODMAP), but we had both in the house so I decided to indulge. The apples were already sliced and bagged, but the pears came in a Harry & David gift box so needed to be sliced and dunked in a little lemon water to keep them from browning too fast on the tray. I split the carrots and radishes in half for better portion control. The strawberries were small, so I just removed the stems. Very simple and quick.
On the cooked tray I did a mix of hot and cold:
- Smoked Salmon
- Chicken Sausage
The salami, capicola, and prosciutto came in a three-pack from Trader Joe’s; the first two already in a pretty little fall so all you have to do is set it out on a wooden cutting board. The proscuitto had deli paper interleaved and it was easier to crinkle it up in a corner than try to straighten out the slices. Work with what you’ve got. The smoked salmon was sliced thick, so I broke it up for the other corner. Presentation is all about balance. The chicken sausage was fully cooked, but I warmed it up in the microwave while arranging the rest of the tray.
Then there’s the bread. A good cheese fondue just begs for fresh bread, so either pick up a baguette from the bakery or, if you’re shopping far in advance, head to the freezer aisle for a load that can go in the oven while you’re laying out your trays. I found a gluten-free loaf that only needed to come to room temperature, didn’t even need baking, and it was fabulous!
I also added some frozen spinach-artichoke dip from Trader Joe’s that was microwavable–all I did was put it into a pretty dish. It was a last-minute add to the table but we certainly enjoyed it.
I hope you’ll consider fondue for your next special night in. It’s great for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or any given date night.