In the mid-20th century, despite its claim of neutrality, Switzerland aggressively seized U.S. kitchens with the invincible might of hot cheese. Delighted Americans put up no resistance. Back in the 70s, during the height of the occupation, my mother had not one fondue pot, but two—and when she busted them out on special occasions I knew we were in for something good. Some of my favorite childhood meal memories were born in those Sterno-warmed vessels.
Not too long ago, cheese fondue made a comeback. Magazine articles declared it was "hip to dip," fondue cookbooks proliferated, and swanky restaurants devoted to melted cheese started popping up in the top foodie cities. A comeback? What did I miss? Did someone forget to tell me several decades ago that hot-cheese-covered bread suddenly became not delicious? I sure am glad I missed that announcement.
I don't know what the official status of fondue is now—whether it's still hip to dip, or if fondue forks are for dorks—and I don't care. All I know is that it's one of the easiest dinner party dishes possible. And all people love it.
A bonus for us kids, back in the day, was that Mom served only bread for dipping—no veggies! But nowadays I love to pile the platter high with all kinds of vegetables, and apples or pears, too. With all that variety, a side dish is hardly required at all—although I do always like to pair a cheese-heavy dinner with a light, simple salad. My favorite fondue partner, in case you were wondering, is a green salad with dried fruit, nuts, and lemon vinaigrette.
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 10 ounces Gruyere cheese, cubed
- 10 ounces Emmentaler cheese, cubed
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- kosher salt, to taste
Serve with any of the following as dipping items:
- Cubed bread
- Broccoli (raw, steamed, or roasted)
- Cauliflower (raw, steamed, or roasted)
- Brussels sprouts (steamed or roasted)
- Squash (steamed or roasted)
- Zucchini (steamed or roasted)
- Asparagus (steamed or roasted)
- Mushrooms (raw, roasted, or sauteed)
- Tiny potatoes (boiled or roasted)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Bring wine to a simmer in a small saucepan.
- While wine is warming, make the roux. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter until it begins to turn frothy.
- Whisk in flour and continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until roux resembles a thick paste and is a light golden color (3 to 5 minutes).
- Slowly stir in the wine, followed by the cheese and nutmeg, stirring constantly until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.
- Taste and add salt if needed.
- Transfer mixture to a fondue pot, keeping warm over a low fire.