Spring has sprung. A major leak. Though I could frolic among the green and lush life awakening around me my heels would be ruined, my feet absolutely soaked. Foremost, I would be so bloody cold I would surely come down with some sort of ailment. Oh, wait. I already did.
In such times, there's no need for the vegetal lightness we savor in summer. No sunshine in juicy bites. Rather, the heft is still in order. Particularly if you have cold feet.
One such remedy is fondue. Retro if you have the set. Resourceful if you have nothing but a simple little saucepot. You know the reason why there is no gooey photo heading this post? It's because we ate the whole lot before you could say "April showers bring May flowers." We'll probably be eating another batch by the time the flowers bloom under the sun.
Despite the myth and lore behind it, fondue is a pretty simple trick to have up the comfort food sleeve. And it most certainly does not deserve to be in the same category as retro-gawdy-licious ambrosia salad, Cheese Whiz celery sticks and Amy Sedaris' cold cut meat tower.
Shredded cheese tossed with a bit of flour thrown into a pot of melting butter. A bit of booze. A bit of seasoning. It's heaven in a pot.
It never hurts to have companions. That goes for fondue, too. Little cornichons, spring pink and warty like frogs, but crunchy and tangy to counter the ooze of cheese. Slices of apple adds to the illusion of fiber and health. The thin ribbons of Speck (smoked prosciutto from Northern Italy) I have absolutely no excuse for.
Starches and melted cheese are a fundamental pairing. Bread is requisite. Young potatoes boiled in their skin and skewerd with a stick to dip into the melting cheese is a revelation.
Rain, rain, you can stay. And do come again another day. I want fondue.
FONDUE FOR THE COLD AND HUNGRY
Any cheese works. Cow's milk from alpine areas (raclette, gruyere, fontina, etc.) is requisite. But I've subbed in goat cheese and other such sacrilege with sanctimoniously good results. Likewise, the booze can get creative. Riesling and gewurztraminer add some brightness and sweetness. Dry sherry or other aperitifs work in a pinch. It makes sense that beer would work since Welsh rarebit relies on brew to help loosen the cheesy sauce for toasted bread.
1 pound total of cheeses of your choice (shredded if it's a hard cheese) - we used Italian Fontina, Alta Badia and Gruyere * 1 tablespoon flour * 1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled * 1 1/2 cups white wine (or any other booze, other than red wine. There's something unappealing about Pepto Bismol-hued dip) * a splash of cherry brandy (kirsch) * a pinch of ground mustard or nutmeg
Toss the cheese with the flour in a large bowl or shake it all up in a mixed Ziploc bag. If you're using something soft like a goat cheese, omit the shaking/coating process and add the flour to the pot or toss it with any hard grated cheese you might be using.
Bring the wine to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add the smashed garlic clove. Reduce to a simmer. Add the cheese a handful at a time and stir well so that it melts over a medium low heat. You don't want huge clump or curd. Think risotto attention. Once it's all melted and combined add mustard or nutmeg and mix.
I serve it warm straight from the pan, returning the lot to the stove when it needs some loosening. Or you can break out the old fondue pot and light the tea light for a more convenient method of serving. Serve with a variety of dipping partners. Bread. Speck. Veggies. Apples. Fingers are great, too.
If you have leftover, store it in a small container. It'll solidify into some shape-shifter-looking mass. But once re-melted in a pot over low heat and some additional booze, stock or water to get the melting going, leftover fondue is quite good.