Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fondue for small gatherings

When was the last time you had folks over for fondue? Odds are it's been way too long.

And why is that? It's such a great match to small gatherings. It's fun, encourages conversation, and even bad fondue is pretty good. The only downside I can see is that some of the really good fondue cheeses are very expensive, but there are always alternatives for those with some creativity.

You don't even need a fondue set if you're really casual about it - a couple small pots over low heat and some bamboo skewers would work almost as well.

I recently had a small gathering with 4 pots; I made the oil/meat pot and the cheese/bread pot - our guests were fabulous enough to bring 2 chocolate pots with an over-the-top collection of dippings.

For the meat; couldn't be easier. Chunks of chicken, pre-skewered, white meat on one side of the dish, dark meat on the other. Chunks of beef, some NY strips I had handy. Lastly, some fresh local shrimp. They were big enough that I cut them in half. Cleaned, shelled and de-veined, of course.

Resist the temptation to put 2 pieces of meat per skewer. You won't be able to heat more than a few inches of oil in the pot to the needed temperature, so you've got to make sure the meat stays submerged.

The cheese was a little disappointing. I'm having trouble with it breaking. I'm not sure if that's because I'm doing it too hot, or not hot enough. I used an acid (a sauvignon blanc) and some cornstarch in the cheese, as suggested by my man Alton Brown, and it started out OK, but then it got a bit grainy. But guess what? Still yummy.

And the chocolate that our guests brought? 2 varieties; milk chocolate and white chocolate. I'm not a fan of white chocolate, but I have to say, this one, heavy on the vanilla - was really good. Especially on Oreos and pretzel rods.

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