Friday, December 20, 2013

Fondue and Vin Chaud

Snowflakes dashing past my window, whirling and twirling and drifting and swirling. It's a cheese and wine kinda night. A hot delicious melty cheese and sweet and strong spiced wine kinda night. Pull on your favorite slippers - you know you don't want to go outside. Whip up a salad if you must - but that's strictly optional. This evening is all about being comfortable and homey and falling asleep while watching movies.

This dish started off as a peasant dish - a one pot meal if ever there was one! And even though the non-peasants co-opted it quite thoroughly, the very fact of sharing a pot of melted cheese has a way of taking away formalities and bringing everyone down to earth.

This was a beer fondue. Something a little different from the usual wine and kirschwasser, something a little heartier. 

And although it does make a perfect group dinner - perhaps a 70s style fondue party? - this little fondue and vin chaud night is also perfect for two. 

Although I may have overestimated a little...I served 8 oz of cheese per person, but that meant we had leftovers for a little appetizer the next day. probably 4-5 oz of cheese per person is actually more realistic. But hey! Fondue two days in a row is a-okay by me! If you do reduce the cheese to 4-5 oz, remember to reduce the amount of beer as well. Or, of course, you could just invite another friend and make it a party!

And the vin chaud - well, there just isn't anything more warming than wine mulled with spices is there?

And oh yes, remember to use your cheapest red wine - you can savor the good stuff by itself later, but it takes a hearty and inexpensive wine to take on the heat and the spices here!

Beer Fondue (serves 2-3)

16 oz cheese (6 oz emmenthaler; 4 oz gruyere; 6 oz comte - adjust according to taste)
1 clove garlic (halved)
1 bottle lager of your choice - I used Stoudt's Gold Lager
1 - 2 tbsp cornstarch


Rub the insides of a heavy bottomed pan (or a fondue pot that can go on the stove if you have one) with the garlic halves. Discard the garlic. 

Chop the cheese into 1 inch cubes and place in your pot on low heat. Pour in the beer and let the cheese melt slowly and come to a simmer.

When the cheese has melted, take a few spoons of melted cheese in a little bowl with 1 tbsp cornstarch. Stir to form a paste, then add this back into the pot and stir in to thicken the fondue. If after a few minutes it isn't thick enough for your liking, repeat the process with another tbsp of cornstarch. 

Cook for a few more minutes until thickened, then serve with fresh bread, raw veggies, and roasted potatoes.

Vin Chaud (Mulled Wine)


1 bottle (inexpensive) red wine
7-10 cardamom pods
10-12 whole black peppercorns
5-6 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup sugar


Pour the wine into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat on low. 

Stir in the sugar until completely dissolved and add in the spices. 

Stir and simmer until reduced by 1/3. 

Serve with a twist of orange peel or a cinnamon stick for garnish. 

You can keep the wine simmering while you sip your first mug of vin chaud so that it's nice and warm when you come back for a second helping! 

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