Fondue is a cheesy, gooey treat loved by millions of cheese fans around the world. Despite its reputation as a decadent party food, it was originally born out of sheer necessity. Mountain-dwelling families in Switzerland ate it as a survival staple during the long, harsh Alpine winters.
The word fondue is French for “to melt.” The Swiss families had no access to fresh foods for many months at a time during the snowy season, so they had to do the best they could with the cheeses and breads they had stocked up on earlier in the year.
Although the bread was stale and the cheese very aged, they found that by melting the cheese with wine and seasonings, they could create a delicious, hearty fireside meal.
Thank goodness for the creative and practical Swiss! Nowadays, fondue is a fabulous party dish that’s been popular since it hit American kitchens in the 1960s and ’70s. More than just something to eat, fondue is an experience — a fun, tasty way to bring people together.
The classic fondue contains the Swiss cheese Gruyere, wine and kirsch liqueur — but almost any cheese can make for an amazing fondue.
Here, we combine traditional Gruyere with tangy cheddar, a hint of garlic and a splash of beer. (Choose a brew that’s light on hops and not too bitter, to avoid overwhelming the flavors of the cheeses.)
We served up our fondue with some salty, chewy pretzel bites, but the dipper possibilities are endless! Think cubes of crusty French bread or crunchy ciabatta, whole mushrooms, steamed broccoli, strips of colorful peppers, cooked potato wedges … or meaty options such as meatballs, smoked sausages, ham and turkey bites — if you can poke it with a skewer and dip it, try it! After all: everything is better dipped in cheese.
Cheesy beer fondue
Serves 4–6 servings
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- 1 medium clove garlic, halved
- 3/4 cup beer
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 dashes hot pepper sauce
- Kosher salt
- White pepper
- In large bowl, toss together both cheeses with cornstarch until evenly coated. Set bowl aside.
- Rub cut pieces of garlic cloves around inside of fondue pot or double boiler.
- Set fondue pot or double boiler over pot of simmering water. Do not allow it to come into direct contact with simmering water.
- Add beer. Heat until steaming.
- Keep burner on low heat and begin adding cheeses, one handful at a time, stirring until melted before adding next handful of cheese.
- Continue adding cheeses until all is melted into beer and forms smooth, glossy melted cheese sauce, about 10 minutes. Keep fondue below simmer once you start adding cheese, or it will break and separate.
- Stir in lemon juice until fully incorporated.
- Season with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper.
- If you used a double boiler, transfer cheese mixture into fondue pot, keeping it warm and melted.
- Serve immediately with toasted pretzel bites.
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