Beer and Cheese Fondue

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beer and cheese fondue

Fondue is always a fun way to get the family together or to impress dinner guests with an engaging meal option alternative.

Ingredients

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/2 small yellow onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 oz. extra-sharp white Cheddar, coarsely grated (about 2 lightly packed cups)
12 oz. Emmentaler cheese, coarsely grated (about 3 lightly packed cups)
4 oz. Gruyère, coarsely grated (about 1 lightly packed cup)
(you can use any combination of these cheeses, or substitute Swiss for the Emmentaler)

2 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-12-oz. can lager-style beer, like Budweiser or Coors
3 Tbs. Sherry or Marsala wine
Kosher salt

Tip: A medium-dry sherry or Marsala provides a nice contrast to the bitter beer and the sharp cheddar.

Method
  1. Melt the butter in a 1-1/2- to 2-qt. flameproof fondue pot over medium-low heat. (If you don’t have a fondue pot that’s flameproof, use a heavy, narrow saucepan.)
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely soft and beginning to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the cheeses with the cornstarch, mustard, and pepper.
  4. Add the beer, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer to mellow the flavour of the beer, about 3 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese mixture into the pot a large handful at a time, stirring each batch in a back and forth pattern so that the cheese doesn’t ball up as it melts.
  6. Continue adding and stirring until all of the cheese is melted, smooth, and thick, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain barely a simmer.
  7. Stir in the sherry and season to taste with salt. (If using a saucepan, transfer the fondue to a fondue pot.) Set the fondue pot over a low flame at the table to keep it warm.
  8. Serve with the dipping ingredients.

Serving Suggestions

What to dunk: Our family favourites are cubes of crusty baguette and steamed baby potatoes but you can serve it with some or all of the following as dipping options: Sourdough or ciabatta bread cubes, pear and apple slices, steamed carrots, broccoli or cauliflower, cornichons or baby pickles, grilled or broiled sliced sausage.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a few things:

1. Throw out the rusty fondue pots and fuel that have been sitting in your basement since the 1970’s and invest in electric pots. Join up with a friend and buy some to share as you won’t use them very often. My daughter and I share our pots, and we have 2 electric Cuisinart pots which are perfect for the oil. You end up with some cords around the table, but it just seems safer to me than messing with all that unpredictable fuel. Heat the oil in a big pot on the stove first, but make sure the pot is completely dry before you add the oil. Even the tiniest bit of moisture in a pot will cause the oil to sputter, and believe me that hurts! Use a candy thermometer and heat up the oil until it reaches about 180 to 190 Celsius (about 350 to 375 Fahrenheit).Turn your fondue pot on a few minutes before you add the oil so that the temperature of the oil doesn’t fall, and then carefully pour it into the fondue pot. Using a heat-proof measuring cup works better than trying to pour it. Here’s a link to a website that will answer all your fondue questions. http://www.bestfondue.com/index.html

2. The best pot for a cheese fondue is a heavy one, otherwise the cheese will burn. I ordered a Swissmar electric fondue pot with my airmiles and it’s great. Here’s the link to Amazon.com which sells the Swissmar version.
http://www.amazon.com/Swissmar-FE1002-AlpenGlow-11-piece-Electric/dp/B000RGYQ0W

3. Kraft (are they still called Kraft?) caramels melted with about ¼ cup to ½ cup whipping cream makes the best dessert! You can buy the caramels in the bulk section of the big grocery stores. Freeze your caramels first, and unwrapping them becomes a lot easier. Find a stray person hanging around the kitchen and give this job to them. Bananas, pears, apples, marshmallows and pound cake make for a killer dessert.

4. A fondue forces you to slow down and savour each bite, so relax and enjoy the process.

5. Make sure you don’t put a fork that you’ve just pulled out of the hot oil into your mouth. It’s really hot!

6. Give everyone a small side dish to put their raw meat into so that you don’t contaminate your plate. I’ve also bought a few small little condiment bowls at the dollar store, and 2 people can share a set so that the dipping sauces don’t all run into each other on your plate. Double dipping will likely happen with this practice!