Tuesday Reviews-Day: The Fondue Bible

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Whether for Girl’s Night Out, birthday, anniversary or New Year’s Eve, there’s nothing that carries the same feel of anticipation than heading to the local fondue restaurant for a several-hour dinner. Fondue is the ultimate communal meal–instead of everyone concentrating on their own plates, there’s a mutual point of interest about what’s in the pot, and the waiting for each item to cook (or cool down enough to bite into) invites both conversation and relaxation.

Back in the 60s, the fondue set became a standby of housewarming and wedding gifts, and with many people fascinated with kitsch and mid-century throw-backs, I think the fondue pot is making a comeback for home use. I received one a few years ago as a Christmas present, but admit that it hasn’t seen the heat of a flame very often and spends more time in it’s box that on the table.

Getting the chance to review The Fondue Bible, though, gave me the chance to dust off the fondue set and give it a place of prominence on the table for a couple of gatherings and a relaxed mid-week supper.

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Because it lends itself so well to party grazing, I started off with a cheese fondue for one of our local game nights. The Edam Tarragon Fondue (p. 32) was a nice combination of the more traditional cheeses with the almost sweet tarragon, especially with the grainy mustard added. It went excellent with sausage puffs, chicken breasts, apples and carrots. As for the leftovers, those were fabulous as an impromptu quesadilla filling when melted inside of tortillas.

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Another night we went for the sweet with a cocktail-inspired B-52 Chocolate Fondue (p. 198). In addition to the dark chocolate, Kahlua, Cointreau, and Irish Cream I used coconut milk thinned with a bit of lactose-free 2% in place of the heavy cream and it worked fabulously. Into this we dipped strawberries, fresh-cut pineapple chunks, and cubes of homemade (gluten free) pound cake. Some of our guests also went for the salty-sweet combo by dipping rice crackers and salty popcorn into the gooey chocolate.

With my current fondue pot I usually use sterno-style gel fuel but it tends to get way too hot for cheese and chocolate fondues. Behold, the power of the humble tea light as this is plenty to keep a couple cups of melted cheese of chocolate liquid enough for dipping without risking scorching the whole pot (the center does tend to get a little stuck, but at least that’s easy to clean up).

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The gel fuel worked wonderfully for the Quick Asian Hot Pot (p. 138), though, doing an excellent job of keeping the broth (I made lamb broth since I had some lamb ribs on hand from a different meal) steaming hot for the duration of our dinner. While it looks like a lot of work, there really wasn’t much more to it than the prep for any stew or soup–the bits and pieces were just laid out prettily on a platter instead of tossed into the soup pot. And the remaining portions were tossed together on the stove to prepare soup for lunch the next day.

We didn’t dip into the oil fondues–that many forks in boiling oil makes me a little nervous, truth be told–but maybe I’ll get braver as they do look just as delectable as the book’s other options. The Fondue Bible includes 200 recipes, loads of gorgeous photographs, and plenty of pairing ideas as well as dips and sauces that could easily go with any other meal, not just your fondue fest. I have a feeling my fondue set is going to be getting much more use, now, with so much inspiration at hand!

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