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If the words “molten cheese” aren’t two of the happiest in the English language, then the sky isn’t blue or the grass green. Which means we can conclude fondue is wonderful, too.
We’re not going to pretend fondue is new. It’s not avocado toast nor one of those food trends whose pictures inundate Instagram. Fondue is just, in a word, awesome. We've thrown our own fondue party or two—which you should totally do, too. Let us reiterate: It’s bubbling cheese. That you can dunk (!) stuff into.
And what’s even more awesome is you can make fondue without a recipe. All you need is cheese, some alcohol, dippable things, a pot, and some sort of skewer-type instruments to avoid any fingers-in-hot-cheese pain. Which, now that we think about it, doesn’t sound too painful after all. Here’s how to do it:
Pick your cheese(s).
Use one! Use two! Some options include Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss, Raclette, Brie, and Camembert. Really, any cheese that packs a good amount of moisture and fat will give a good melt. Stinky cheeses are good—well, great—in fondue.
Whether you mix-and-match or go the solo route, you’ll want about a pound to a pound and a half of grated (or cubed, if you’re using a soft) cheese. We used gouda, but as you can see, there are many options. After grating, toss you cheese with a tablespoon or so of cornstarch in a mixing bowl to help thicken the fondue and set aside.
Choose your alcohol.
You have your cheese, now it’s time to decide on your alcohol. Whether you use wine or beer depends on how it’ll pair with the cheese. Take, for example, pilsner or a hefty Belgian ale. You wouldn’t use it with, say, raclette, but rather with cheddar or gouda (like we did here), since their assertive, concentrated flavors go well with bold beers. As for wine, dry ones work best—like Rhone or a dry (brut) Riesling. Whatever you use, you’ll want about a cup. Hold onto this until you're ready to cook.
Pick (and prep) all the dippable things.
Bread cubes! Pretzels! Steamed or roasted vegetables! Apples! Sausage! Boiled potatoes! Cornichons! Salami! Prep ‘em now, so you can dip and dunk as soon as the fondue’s done. For things like apples, though, be careful how early you do so—they'll brown if they are cut too far in advance.
Cook the cheese.
First, we highly suggest rubbing a peeled garlic clove along the inside of a medium-sized pot for a subtle-yet-distinct flavor. Now, add the alcohol to the pot and warm it over medium heat. Once it's hot, add the cheese by the handful, stirring vigorously in one direction in between additions. Cook until the fondue begins to bubble. Once the cheese is all melted, you can season as you please. A tablespoon or so of liquor—like whiskey, brandy, Kirsch, or Calvados—is a welcome addition here, as is a spice like nutmeg, cayenne, smoked paprika, chili powder, or mustard powder. You can also sauté some garlic and shallots in a bit of butter before adding the beer or wine, too, if you like.
Molten cheese? Yes, please. Bring the pot to the table (warm over low heat if the cheese gets cold) and use fondue forks if you have them, however skewers also work well. As long as you’re dipping and dunking, life, as the saying goes, is good.
Second photo by James Ransom; others by Bobbi Lin