What’s not to like about cheese fondue? Over here it evokes memories of ski vacations in the French Alps, where after a day on the slopes it is enjoyed in cozy chalets before a crackling wood fire. But of course fondue has emigrated far from its Alpine home and has been popular elsewhere for decades. It is a convivial dish, and if you happen to be celebrating Valentine’s Day, makes a friendly meal for two, accompanied by a crisp white wine.
Fondue savoyarde / Cheese fondue
A traditional cheese fondue is made with cheeses from the Savoie region of eastern France or neighboring areas. The exceptional flavor of these cheeses comes from the Alpine pastureland on which the cows graze. Beaufort, Abondance, Emmental, Gruyère, Reblochon and Raclette are made in Savoie, while Comté comes from nearby Franche-Comté and Appenzell and other similar cheeses from Switzerland.
These cheeses bear little relation to the bland Swiss cheese I consumed as a child in the States. They range from fruity (Comté) to slightly sweet (Abondance) to pungent (Beaufort), to name the three cheeses I used in the fondue pictured above. You can use a single variety, but making fondue with a combination of three is recommended as this yields a more complex and interesting flavor.
Another question is whether or not to add kirsch to the fondue. It is thought to enhance the flavor of the cheeses, but personally I find it’s not necessary. However, it’s essential to melt the cheese in white wine and flavor it with a little garlic some freshly grated nutmeg. Then all you have to do is to cut up some bread cubes, and voilà — the dish is ready.
Fondue is generally served with a selection of thinly sliced cured ham (proscuitto or speck), cured beef (bresaola or viande des grisons) and hard sausage (saucisson sec, rosette, etc.). In addition to the bread cubes, you can prepare little boiled potatoes for dipping in the cheese. And a green salad is de rigueur (essential) to lighten the meal. You can serve the fondue first, as a starter, or have everything on the table at once.
P.S. Followers of this site know that it mainly proposes recipes made the way the French cook at home — the easy way. However, there is a countertrend in Paris bistros now to serve fabulously creative dishes not made the easy way. Would you believe oysters with beet purée and pepper-flavored foam, or tarragon ice cream with a sesame cookie? Check out the latest restaurant review on site Paris Update to get a flavor of what else is cooking over here.