Valentines has a lot of pressure with it once you’re with the one you love. How much do you spend? What do you buy? I’m such a practical gal, fresh flowers kind of make me mad (unless we got them for a great price). But, then I do want something… anyone else have that problem?
And then there’s the issue of hitting a restaurant on that special night. So crowded, pressured to SHOW OUR LOVE to each other. Not to mention expensive. I’d rather save my budget, and just head to a favorite restaurant on the weekend.
Which is how I came up with fondue for our family. We’ve done it every year for the past 5 or so years. Our kids REALLY look forward to it, and it’s nice to concentrate on our FAMILY love rather than just the romance between my husband and myself. But, don’t feel tied to Valentines with this. It’s great for a fun family meal whenever you think you could use a little pick me up!
However, fondue can be nerve-wracking! I’m sure we’ve all tried to make a cheese sauce that “broke” (in turn breaking us) or was lumpy. Frankly, a lot can go wrong with fondue. But not with this recipe. It’s practically fail-proof (as long as you don’t burn it, you’re on your own if you ignore it) and is easy to tailor to your family’s tastes.
Lets do this!
First there’s cheese. You can pick whatever kind your family likes. I often do a sharp cheddar (the family’s favorite) or swiss (my own favorite). The recipe actually calls for a Monterrey Jack. If that’s a family favorite, then by all means go with that. It’s a nice mild flavor that won’t turn off any little mouths. 🙂 For ease of writing, I’m going to talk about it as swiss cheese.
I use a recipe I found in Family Fun a LONG time ago. I can’t find a link, but I love the recipes in Family Fun! They’re always easy and super-family-friendly!
It goes a little something like this (this recipe makes a good amount of fondue, plenty for the 5 of us)
1 cup milk (the recipe calls for 1 cup, but I usually do about 1.25 cups, because it sits in the frying pan and gets too gloopy if the milk is too little).
Bring the milk to a simmer — about 2-3 minutes (that means it’s not boiling, but it’s starting to get small bubbles around the edges). You could also add a smashed garlic clove (or if you’re garlic lovers like us you can just do a tsp of minced garlic).
Toss 1 pound of swiss cheese (or cheese of choice) with 2 T of flour. I put all my cheese in a basic plastic bag and shake it all around til the flour is all around it. This prevents the flour from making it lumpy. This is really the magic to this recipe!
So, back to the milk, it’s simmering.
Then take handfuls of the cheese/flour mixture and use your wisk to wisk it in until it’s all melted. Wisk fast. This isn’t a gentle wisk, with the heat you’re trying to wisk it in so it’s smooth. Then, another handful. You want to make sure to do just handfuls, you don’t want the milk getting overwhelmed by the cheese or it’s hard to mix in. You’re going to need to wisk hard and fast. Make sure you do some arm workouts prior to this. Haha.
We haven’t had a lot of luck using a fondue pot (our last one rusted, since we don’t use it very frequently). We use an electric frying pan on low at our table. It’s also larger so we can all get a seat around it! Be sure to find some fondue forks though. They’re long enough that everyone can dip without geting burned (I see them at Goodwill pretty frequently)
Now, it’s time for the REAL fun! The dippers (I LOVE picking out dippers):
- Bread — this isn’t time for the basic french bread, I recommend a crusty, hearty bread that will hold up well on your fondue fork. I often buy a nicer multi-grain and also a crusty sourdough. Yum.
- Chicken, I often sautee up a few cut-up chicken breasts and serve those
- Pickles (don’t knock it til’ you try it), you could also use pork or steak!
- Roasted garlic (same as above)
- Grapes (love me some sweet and savory)
- Roasted potatoes (make sure they’re still firm’ish, don’t roast them til’ they are smushable)
- Roasted veggies (we love cauliflower, carrots, asparagus and broccoli) — another option is blanching the veggies (especially the broccoli) just to soften them a bit before you dip (DO NOT OVER-ROAST, mushy broccoli dropping in your delicious fondue is a BIG Fon-DON’T).
- Mushrooms (I love baby bellas)
- Red pepper (best raw, I think)
Oh man, writing this post is making me hungry. You too?
We have a couple of fun traditions during he fondue. If you drop something, instead of kissing you have to say something nice about the person to your left (or across from you — we change it several times during the meal so you end-up saying nice things about many people).
We also usually have it a couple of times. When you’ve gone to all the effort of buying all the dippers and prepping it all, you might as well get two meals out of it! I do make the cheese part fresh each time, it’s not great s a re-run.
And, of course we follow it with chocolate, but that’s a post all of it’s own. Stay tuned. 🙂