Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cheesy Family Night: A simple fondue recipe that can be made ahead

My kids love fondue. They'd only had it once, over Christmas break when we were skiing out West, but they chattered about the meal for weeks to come. I don't know if it was the dipping action or the cozy cheesiness after a brisk day spent outside, but the meal quickly became a favorite.

In fact, when I handed my {vegetarian} 11-year-old a multi-page list of vegetarian make-ahead meals I was contemplating, and asked for his feedback on which ones sounded best, he scanned the list then honed in on fondue. "I'd like it if you would just make fondue every night." Right. Nice try little man. But as a special occasion meal that is (a) simple to make and (b) can be made-ahead, this recipe is definitely worth sharing.

I recently made a huge-- I've adapted the recipe below, since I made WAY too much-- batch of fondue on a Friday afternoon, and toted it up to VT for a ski weekend. The verdict? Total hit. And so, without further adieu, let me show you how I whipped it up, and then share the super simple recipe:

There are just 5 ingredients in my fondue recipe: cheese, flour, garlic, wine and mustard. When I was doing the grocery marketing, I set out to buy Gruyere and Swiss… and was thrilled to find out that Trader Joe's sells the two already shredded. Bonus!

The first step is to coat the cheese with flour or cornstarch. I opted for flour. To keep my prep even easier, I simply sprinkled the flour right into the bag of shredded cheese, closed the bag and gave it a shake. Shredding the cheese and coating w/ flour, done!

Then to make the cheese fondue, I warmed the wine and minced garlic over medium heat. Once the wine was was simmering, I whisked the cheese and mustard into the wine/garlic mixture, and gently stirred until the cheese was melted and gooey. Mmmm.

Because I was making the fondue a few days ahead of time, and then toting it up to a rented ski condo, I chopped all of our dippers {blanched broccoli, mushrooms and cauliflower, boiled new potatoes, sliced peppers, carrots, cubed bread, and sautéed chicken-apple sausage slices} while the cheese mixture cooled down.

If you were making the recipe around the time you were going to be enjoying it, you would simply transfer the warm cheese mixture to a fondue pot to keep it warm. This is the kind I have, which we received as a wedding gift 15 years ago.

OK, but back to the make-ahead batch. Not the most flattering photo, I know. Remember, it's just a few ingredients: cheese, wine, garlic and mustard. So, when it cooled it hardened up, as cheese is want to do. I just scooped the amount we wanted that night into our fondue pot's ceramic bowl, and microwaved it. I know some of you aren't fans of the microwave, in which case, you'd just warm the cheese mixture in a saucepan until melted again… but our rented ski condo isn't very well-stocked, so I didn't have a saucepan. The microwave worked just fine in this case.

As you can see, apparently I was anticipating feeding fondue to a small army. I've adjusted the recipe below down to a normal 4 servings!!

The beauty of this recipe is that, like all of my make-ahead recipes, you can prep it when you have time. In the case of this weekend. I most definitely was not back at the condo cooking. Nope, that's my younger son competing in his first-ever ski race. Way more fun to be out there cheering him on, than slaving over the stove!

And still, after a long ski day, we were able to come inside, get toasty, and have such a fun family dinner. Love those kinds of days and nights.

Simple Cheese Fondue
makes 4-6 servings

14 oz bag Trader Joe's Shredded Gruyere/Swiss cheese blend*
1 T flour
1 cup white wine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced {or 2-3 Dorot frozen garlic cubes}
2 T Dijon Mustard {or more/less to taste)
Assorted dippers in bite-size pieces {I prepped: bread, blanched broccoli, mushrooms and cauliflower, boiled new potatoes, sliced peppers, carrots and sautéed chicken-apple sausage slices}

Add the flour to the bag of shredded cheese and shake to coat.** Set aside. In a medium saucepan, warm the wine and minced garlic to a gentle simmer. Add the shredded cheese and Dijon into the wine/garlic liquid, and whisk until the cheese is melted.

If you are serving the fondue now, simply transfer it to a fondue pot to keep it warm. Otherwise, transfer the cheese mixture to a glass storage container and cool it before placing the lid on and storing it in the fridge for 2-3 days. When ready to serve, reheat the cheese fondue in the microwave, or in a saucepan then transfer the cheese mixture to a fondue pot.

*Or you can shred about 2 cups of cheese on your own if you're not near a TJ's. 
** Or, combine shredded cheese and flour in a ziploc bag.

End the family dinner with a raucous game of Settlers of Catan or Ticket To Ride, and I guarantee this will be a winter weekend to remember.

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