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Cooking with Cheese: Fondue it

Contributing writer: Cheese Girl aka Nadia

If you love melted cheese, fondue can be heaven on earth and nearly foolproof for even the most cooking-challenged.  A fondue can be a great way to hold a farewell bash for the cheese bits and pieces that have overstayed their welcome in your fridge.  And seeing that cheese and wine can be perfectly paired, cooking with different grape varietals can lead to endless fondue recipes and even an interesting dinner party.

WHAT’S IN A CHEESE FONDUE?

The classic fondue consists of Gruyere, with a little Appenzeller or Emmenthal (both Swiss cheeses) and a crisp dry wine, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of cheeses and different grape varietals.  But before you go wandering too far from this reliable combination, there are a few basic

FONDUE RULES TO COOK BY:

•    Stick to dry wine. Nothing kills a fondue like sickly sweetness, so steer clear of sugar-heavy or dessert wines.  Rosé wines go nicely, but keep in mind, you’ll end up with pink fondue (which may or may not turn you on).   You can even try substituting dry Champagne, apple cider or beer for the wine in your fondue recipe.

•    Meltability is key. Keep in mind that you want a good melting cheese.  Stay away from sheep and goat’s milk cheeses unless you’re very practiced at fondue making. Alpine style cheeses, cheddars and really any pressed cow’s milk cheese, all make great fondues. Softer cheeses like Brie are scrumptious (remember to remove the rind), but I would avoid triple-crèmes as the fondue can end up too heavy.

•    Taste everything first. Try the cheeses and wines you want to blend before you throw them in the fondue pot. If they clash from the start, they’re not going to get any better when melted together. Some interesting combinations are Brie and blue cheese (try blending with a dry Champagne), all-cheddar (try different lagers or ales), and all-blue cheese blends (try Stilton with a dry Sauternes).

When it comes to dipping, my favorite is plain country bread. I also love beef tips (order them with a fondue at Artisanal Bistro one day and you’ll see what I mean), and green apples.  Red apples don’t have enough zing to cut through the cheesiness, and veggies are simply a vehicle for the cheese.  Boiled fingerling potatoes are much tastier and easy to make.

Check back with us next week for more cheese cooking ideas!  Until then, visit me for recipes and cheese rants at Cheeseaholic.

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