Monday, August 5, 2013

Do you fondue? A tantalizing Dinner for Two

 From my Petaluma Post column, enjoy...

Wow, you would think we were back in the 70’s, fondue is the thing.  Time to check the cabinets and pull out those fondue forks and set up for a romantic evening.  The barriers to what can be dipped and what you dip it in have expanded; all the old classic fondues are back, along with a lot of new options.  Here are a few of my favorites

Asian Peanut Fondue
½ cup Peanut Butter
½ cup Soy Sauce
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup Olive Oil
½ cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Simply mix all the ingredients well.  I like to us my electric hand blender; it does a very thorough job.  Then warm.  I like to warm it on the stove first, but you can just put in your fondue pot over the flame; just remember to stir it a bit.

For dipping, try blanching some of your favorite vegetables, like from fresh cut bell pepper and snap peas, along with some chilled sliced grilled chicken breast.  You can reheat some shu mai that you can pick up frozen at the market.  This is one of my husband’s favorites - he’ll eat anything with peanut sauce.  This is also a great peanut sauce, hot or cold, to add on the side to any Asian dish.

Fondue Trivia: Did you know if you something falls off your fork into the sauce you have to kiss whoever is to you left?

Another great opener is also a classic cheese fondue, which happens to be my favorite.  I love cheese.

Classic Cheese Fondue
1 Tbl Vegetable Oil
1 clove Garlic minced fine
2 Tbl Flour
1 cup White Wine
8 oz shredded Swiss
8 oz shredded Gruyer
½ dry mustard

Place the olive oil and garlic in a heavy bottom sauce pan, and heat till the garlic is just barely cooked; you want to be cautious not to brown or burn.  Remove from heat and add in the flour and stir to make a roux.  Return to heat on medium low, whisk in the white wine.  This will create a thickened sauce.  Bring to boiling lightly for 3 to 5 minutes stirring often.  Turn the heat to low and slowly add the both cheeses.  I recommend using a wood spoon or spatula to keep the bottom of the pot clean so it does not burn.  Then just transfer to the fondue pot.

Dippers for cheese are typically chunks of crispy bread, fresh apple, blanched broccoli or cauliflower, grilled pieces of sausage or asparagus.

Trivia: All dippers should swirl their bread in a figure eight mention, just dipping is bad form (hint: it also helps to stir the cheese).

Classic Oil Fondue
Note:  Please remember that this is using boiling hot oil and should only be done with proper equipment, and should not be left unattended.

This is the type of fondue where you will actually be cooking the dippers in it, not just adding a warm sauce.  Start with a Fondue Pot using a White Gas Burner and 4 to 6 cups of peanut oil.  The reason we must use peanut oil is that it has a high smoking point.  Expect it to take 30 to 45 minutes to get up to temperature (about 300 degrees).  If it smokes, it is too hot.

For dippers here are a few of my favorites:
Tri Tip: Season 1 pound of cubed tri tip, remember to cut into bite size cubes, and marinate in 2 Tbl soy sauce and 1 tsp garlic powder for 1 to 2 hours before cooking.  Drain and pat dry

Crimini Mushrooms: Great additions for your vegetarians, treat the same as tri tip

Italian Meat Balls & Raviolis: Pre-cooked and cooled.  Serve with a side of marinara

Bell Peppers, Red Onions: sliced and raw

The top of the evening should always be a chocolate fondue; this is a great way to finish any dinner!

Chocolate Fondue
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Chocolate Chips, semi sweet

Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy bottom pan, turn the heat off, and stir in chocolate chips till melted.  Yes it is that easy.  This holds really well and can be made ahead and just microwaved when needed.  If you make it ahead try not to eat it all before the party!

Dippers: Fresh fruit like Strawberries, banana pineapple*, kiwi*.  *Wet fruits will be harder as the chocolate will tend to not stick properly.  Cookies, graham crackers, marshmallows and anything you can think of.

You can have some fun here.  Lay out graham crackers with toppings that can then be pre-dipped in marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, almond butter, strawberry jam, and sweet cream cheese.  Your guests can spread then dip. 

For a party or just two, fondue is a lot of fun!

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