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Derived from the French word meaning “to melt,” fondue has humble beginnings but has evolved over time into a festive and interactive meal that is enjoyed for special occasions, romantic date nights and holiday entertaining.
Fondue has origins in 18th Century Switzerland as a way to stretch resources during the winter months. When bread would get stale, melted cheese would soften it, and wine was often added. Fondue became a Swiss winter tradition and is known as one of Switzerland’s signature dishes. Fondue was introduced to America at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 as an art itself.
In our fast-paced world, fondue dining allows us to slow down and enjoy each other’s company while dipping and cooking
The Melting Pot
The Melting Pot restaurant group opened its first fondue restaurant in 1975 in Florida and has grown to more than 100 restaurants, proving the company knows exactly how to make fondue. “Fondue is the ultimate sharing experience, but one that allows each person to customize their dining options and flavors. Having fondue is both interactive and experiential,” says Jason Miller, Melting Pot’s Director of Culinary Innovation and Development, who shared one of the restaurant’s best fondue recipes with us.
“Our guests truly enjoy fondue cooking with family, friends and loved ones because of the togetherness that fondue dining can create. In our fast-paced world, fondue dining allows us to slow down and enjoy each other’s company while dipping and cooking,” says Jeff Lawler, owner and principal at Geja’s Café.
Fondue options have progressed over the years to meet a variety of tastes and dietary preferences. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free ingredients can still make some of the best fondue recipes.
If you want to know how to make fondue, let’s go back to the beginning. “More than four decades ago, the menu was much simpler with more traditional fondue offerings that centered on just a few proteins and oil because of the cooking style known as Bourguignonne,” Miller says.
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“Over time, the cooking style options grew to include a few seasoned bouillons like our signature vegetable-based bouillon. There is also our red wine, garlic and mushroom Coq Au Vin broth, and our Caribbean spiced Mojo bouillon, which is a guest favorite. In recent years, the cast iron grill has become another option,” he says.
A typical fondue meal starts with cheese fondue followed by a fresh salad, entrée and chocolate fondue with variations for each course.
In addition to traditional favorites like Wisconsin cheddar with pretzel bread and classic Alpine, Melting Pot offers several options for cheese fondue, such as spinach artichoke and local specialties like hatch green chile cheddar. The Melting Pot’s chocolate fondue options include smore’s, white chocolate, dark chocolate and flaming turtle.
“Our caramel and candied pecans are flambeed tableside,” Miller says. “The flaming rum casts a blue glow that burns off while toasting the pecans and the fondue itself lending another facet to the decadent flavors.”
With many people ordering takeout during the pandemic, restaurants are offering fondue to go with instructions on how to make fondue at home.
“Melting Pot To-Go is currently available at select locations and is a great way to bring our fondue experience into your home with different options,” Miller says. “Some locations are offering a three-course menu that includes cheese fondue, salad and chocolate fondue. Some locations have expanded offerings that include skewers of our signature proteins fully cooked to enjoy at home along with our signature sauces.”
Though demand was a little low previously, people are now rapidly seeking how to make fondue at home.
“We have been doing our cheese and chocolate fondue to-go for the last three years with not much popularity because guests have only known Geja’s as a dine-in experience,” Lawler says.
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“With the recent pandemic, our to-go program has gained awareness and popularity. Since fans of Geja’s fondue enjoy all three courses, we are in the process of rolling out a program where guests can enjoy our complete fondue dinners at home. We will lend out our equipment and provide all the wares and food to create the complete Geja’s experience.”
In addition to dine-in and takeout options, fondue can be made at home. Miller offers some cooking tips to make some of the best fondue recipes.
“Compound chocolate works best and can be melted down with just a touch of water to help keep it smooth as you whisk it. Cheese fondue can be done in a similar manner by heating up a liquid base such as beer, wine or vegetable stock, then adding some aromatics like fresh chopped garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Whisk in the shredded cheese of your choice,” he says.
The Melting Pot
A fondue pot complete with dipping forks can be purchased for under $100. This is a great investment for those who are serious about trying the best fondue recipes.
“Many people have found that a small investment in a quality fondue set makes the whole experience even easier. If you don’t have a fondue pot, a double boiler is recommended because using a sauce pot to simmer water with a metal bowl on top that is warmed by the steam from the simmering water prevents direct heat from scorching your fondue,” Miller says.
“Using bamboo skewers as fondue forks and a plug-in hot plate and a stovetop-safe crock to enjoy the fondue at your dining room table will also work and give you a whole new experience to enjoy.”
Here are two delicious recipes that will help you learn how to make fondue and elevate your taste buds to the next level.
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The Melting Pot
ALPINE CHEESE FOR TWO |THE MELTING POT
● 4 oz white wine (Chardonnay or Chablis works well, or vegetable broth can be substituted)
● ½ tsp shallots, finely chopped
● ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
● 5 oz shredded Swiss Cheese (Emmental, Raclette or your favorite swiss type cheese–alone or blended)
● 1 oz shredded Fontina cheese
● 2.5 oz cornstarch
● ½ tsp scallion, sliced
In a mixing bowl, toss the shredded cheeses with the cornstarch to evenly coat the cheese and set aside.
Add the white wine to the fondue pot or double boiler.
Add shallots and Dijon mustard to the warm wine and stir with small whisk or fork.
Allow the mixture to thoroughly warm up before adding cheese. Add one-third of the cheese and mix thoroughly using a small whisk or fork.
Add the next one-third of the cheese and mix thoroughly using a small whisk or fork.
Add the remaining one-third of cheese and mix thoroughly until all the cheese is melted and incorporated. Use a whipping motion to fluff up the cheese.
Sprinkle scallions over the top of the finished cheese.
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DARK BELGIAN CHOCOLATE FONDUE FOR TWO
● 6.25 oz milk chocolate
● 1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
● 2 oz freshly brewed coffee
● ½ oz milk
Place milk and coffee in a double boiler; heat until the mixture is steaming.
Add chocolate and stir until completely blended.
Let cook for 30 minutes.
Do not let the chocolate fondue boil.
Transfer chocolate to fondue pot.
ICONIC TIP: Pour 1 oz Grand Marnier (or any flavored flammable liqueur) on top of the chocolate fondue and flame to roast marshmallows. The flame will burn out in approximately two minutes. Pair with fruit wine or sweet dessert wine. Add caramel or fruit preserves to the chocolate.