Tuesday, November 23, 2010
thanksgiving appetizer: cheddar and ale fondue
I'm sure some of you received a fondue pot as a wedding or housewarming gift and have only used it a few times, maybe never. I think it would be a great thing to dust off for a family holiday gathering. Think about it: you can make it on the stove in less than 10 minutes while the oven is occupied with roasts and turkeys and the like, it's interactive, kids will love it and it will keep them out from underfoot, and it will encourage those kids to eat some veggies.
As long as you prep the day before, the fondue itself takes very little time to serve. The day before, you want to do the prepping of your veggie dippers. You may want to blanch some of them, such as cauliflower, by boiling them for less than a minute, then shocking them in cold water. You may want to roast some, such as brussels sprouts, until they are still crisp, but the outsides caramelize a bit. Or you may want to keep it simple, and serve some raw crudites, like broccoli, carrots, and celery. Whatever you choose, arrange a platter ahead of time to save yourself some work on the holiday.
As far as I'm concerned, there are two ESSENTIAL dippers for any cheese fondue: cubed crusty bread and apples. These should be done shortly before you plan to serve, so that the bread doesn't get stale, and the apples don't brown. You can also slow down the browning of the apple slices by tossing them with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice.
Cheddar and Ale Fondue
Whatever type of cheddar you choose, make sure it's good quality. Most farmers' markets have one or two vendors selling amazing local cheddar. For this recipe, I used Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, a very sharp, caramely cheese available at Whole Foods. For the ale, I chose Ommegang's Abbey Ale, a Belgian style beer with spicy caramel undertones. These are both very flavorful ingredients and they paired beautifully together, but I'm sure you could make substitutions if you cannot find these at your local market. You might want to try adding a dash of worcestershire or dijon mustard for a little extra flavor.
Emmentaler cheese melts beautifully, so it's addition here will help ensure a smooth, creamy fondue.
1 lb cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb emmentaler cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups belgian style ale
1 tbsp non-gmo cornstarch
Toss the cheddar, emmentaler, and cornstarch together, The cornstarch will keep with cheese solids and fat from separating when added to the beer.
Bring the ale to a low boil in the fondue pot (or a medium nonstick pot if your fondue pot isn't stove-worthy) over medium-high heat. Add the cheese mixture in handfuls and whisk quickly in between additions. Once all the cheese is added, reduce the heat slightly and continue whisking vigorously to blend the ale and cheese. This may take a few minutes, just keep whisking!
Once you have a wonderfully smooth, beery cheese mixture, move it off the stove to the fondue stand over a low flame. Stir periodically to keep the cheese on the bottom from burning.