Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in conjunction with Shriners Hospitals for Children. We are honored to team with this renowned organization to help promote safety over the holidays through the Be Burn Aware campaign.This site uses affiliate links.
By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
Family gatherings around the holidays include plenty of food. And often these events serve as a time to bring out favorite family recipes, show off someone’s signature dishes, or debut a new item.
If you’re hosting family the holidays and want to try something different for a dinner, how about serving fondue? This way of eating is very “democratic” in that it is highly customizable and gives diners plenty of choice in foods. But it’s also a fun way to put a new twist on classic items. Best of all, with various “jobs” in food preparation, you can get the kids involved, such as cutting cakes or fruit into small pieces.
Traditional fondue is a Swiss dish of melted cheese that is served in a heated communal pot. Diners dip bread and other items into the cheese using fondue forks, which are basically long metal picks. In modern times, fondue includes variations such as dessert fondues with diners dipping fruit, cake bites, and other sweets into warm chocolate.
My family enjoys fondue and we’re lucky that we are not too far from a location of The Melting Pot, the national restaurant chain that helped popularize fondue in the United States. We go there a few times a year to enjoy a four-course meal of a cheese fondue, meat fondue, salad, and chocolate fondue.
I also have a few fondue pots at home that – while not restaurant-quality – do the job. I don’t use these enough, though, so when I thought of creating a fun holiday recipe, these came immediately to mind. And thus our “holiday fondues” were born. For these, we wanted to combine seasonal treats with traditional fondue items for a fun meal. The result was a slightly sweet cheese fondue and a refreshing chocolate one. See how we did this (we include the recipes at the end)!
Beyond the basics of melting the cheese (or chocolate), there is no set way to prepare or present fondue. The beauty of this type of meal is that you can create it with whatever ingredients you wish. Are you vegetarian? Skip the meats. Doing low-carb? Do the cheese with veggies and meats only, and avoid the breads. You get the idea.
You should, however make sure you are using the right equipment. You can get a fondue kit for a low price. Don’t “improvise” with any pots not designed for this, as using them in this manner could create a fire hazard or make it easy to get burned. At this time of year, with more activity in the kitchen and more distractions, it’s important to keep safety in mind.
Shriners Hospitals for Children®, through its annual Be Burn Aware campaign, is helping to make the public aware of the importance of fire safety and burn prevention. Cooking is one area where burns are very likely to happen, so take precautions, and remember each method of food preparation carries its own risk. And when children are helping with the cooking, it’s even more important to be cautious.
For example, for the following recipes, I used both a fondue pot heated by a tea light and an electric one that plugs into the wall. If you’re using a fondue pot with a tea light, remember to blow out the candle immediately when you’re done using it. According to an independent survey of holiday safety habits for Shriners Hospitals for Children, 25 percent of participants surveyed said they leave lit candles unattended. This, of course, creates a hazard, no matter how small the candles may be. Using an electric fondue pot requires care, too: if using one of these, be sure to not only turn it off when you’re done but also to unplug it right away.
Okay, with safety in mind and your taste buds ready to explore, let’s get cooking now!
Apple cider cheese fondue
Cheese fondue is melted cheese (use a high-fat cheese so it melts well), sometimes with seasonings, such as garlic. Some recipes call for a splash of wine. For our cheese fondue, we wanted to keep it simple but still tie it into the holidays, so we added apple cider instead!
The apple cider gave the cheese just a slightly sweet taste, without “giving away” what it was. The most commonly used cheese for fondue is Swiss, but I wanted to do something slightly different and went instead with a mix of two-thirds Jarlsberg (like Swiss, but milder and with a bit of a “nutty” flavor) and one-third sharp white cheddar. The result was fantastic!
We paired our cheese fondue with baguette rounds, super-light crispy crackers, salami, sweet red peppers, celery, and apples. My son was a bit skeptical of how this would taste – he wasn’t sure how the apple cider would go (much as he loves it) and he thought the cheese I got was “too fancy” – but he ended up loving it. And the more he ate, the more he appreciated it. He thanked me often for doing this, and as parents know, as unsolicited, heartfelt thank-you from a kid is one of the biggest compliments a parent can get!
White chocolate mint fondue
For the chocolate fondue, we tried something totally different: a white mint chocolate mix. I will confess that I generally am not a big fan of white chocolate, but mixed with something like mint (as in peppermint bark), I enjoy it much better.
For this fondue, we melted white chocolate chips in the microwave, added a tiny bit of peppermint extract, and blended in some crushed peppermint candies, again to keep with the holiday theme. We served this fondue with crisped rice squares, small gingerbread cookies, angel food cake squares, and red and green apples (Christmas colors!).
This fondue turned out nicely, too. I wasn’t sure how the apples would go with the mint, but they were nice. What surprised me most was how well the mint flavor went with the gingerbread cookies! The angel food cake is a toss-up: I went with angel food cake because I was determined to stick with the theme as much as possible (this would be a nod to a Christmas angel!) but this cake is too light to dip into the fondue. The flavor pairing was great, but I recommend scooping out some of the chocolate with a spoon and drizzling it over the cake pieces instead of dipping them (a sturdier cake for a dessert fondue is pound cake).
Mulled wine meat fondue
My family decided that a cheese fondue and a chocolate fondue would be enough, since the cheese and the meat for the cheese fondue would be enough protein. If we had done a meat fondue, I know exactly what I would have prepared, though: a mulled wine steak fondue.
Meat fondues involve small uncooked pieces of meat (steak, chicken, pork, and shrimp) that you cook in a pot filled with broth, oil, or a wine mixture. My holiday meat fondue would have involved thin pieces of steak cooked in a mulled wine!
Fondue etiquette and tips
Are you ready to make a fondue meal? Try out our recipes below, and if you have your own favorite way to fondue, let us know in the comments! Also, if you’re new to fondue, keep in mind:
- You should use a separate pot for each type of fondue.
- Give each guest enough fondue picks or forks (at least one for each type of meal).
- Remember to use your fondue fork to dip your food in the sauce and then place it on your plate – then use a regular fork to actually put the food in your mouth. Do not place the fondue fork in your mouth and then back into the communal pot (douple dipping!).
- Fondue is best the day you make it, but if you have leftovers, you can reheat the dipping sauces over low heat; the stovetop method is better for this than the microwave is.
One last thing: unlike traditional meals where your food is heated just once and then brought to you, so you eat it as it cools off, fondue is different. With fondue, you are constantly warming your food with some heat source., so please “Be Burn Aware,” as Shriners Hospitals says. The organization, by the way, has the longest standing burn awareness education program that began in 1964, and helps in many other ways. Shriners Hospitals for Children, with 22 locations in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, provides specialty care for children with burns, orthopaedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. If you know a child who Shriners Hospitals for Children may be able to help, have his or her parent or guardian call 800-237-5055.
Below are the recipes we created for this. Fondue can take many forms, so feel free to experiment with your own variations, both as to the ingredients for the fondue itself and the items that you serve it with!
Apple cider cheese fondue
2/3 cup apple cider
2 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (for thickening)
A dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional)
Heat up your fondue pot. Put the apple cider in a medium pot and bring to a slow boil over medium heat (note: the cider will heat up VERY quickly!). Add the cheeses and the cornstarch slowly, stirring as you do so. When the cheese has melted, transfer it to the fondue pot. (Note: if your cheese is getting too thick and hard to stir, add a bit more cider; if it’s too liquid, add a tiny bit more cornstarch.) Serve with cubed bread, vegetables, fruits, and meats. We used: a small French baguette, La Panzanella Croccantini (crispy thin artisan crackers), Boar’s Head Bianco D’Oro Italian Dry Salame, sweet red peppers, and celery chunks. Other good choices would have been apples, pears, Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, thin pieces of steak, and pepperoni sticks.
White chocolate mint fondue
One twelve-ounce bag of Hershey’s Kitchens premier white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint extract
Russel Stover Air-Bons puffed peppermints (six candies) or candy canes (two or three should be enough)
Heat up your fondue pot. Place your unwrapped mints or candy canes in a plastic zip-top bag and use a kitchen mallet to crush them into small pieces, then set aside. Melt the chocolate chips or wafers using a double-boiler or microwave method. In our case, we melted them in a glass bowl in the microwave following the directions on the package, which called for very short intervals at medium power, stirring the chips in between. Add the peppermint extract and about three-quarters of the crushed mints, then stir and transfer this to your heated fondue pot. (Note: We used the soft mints so they blended nicely with the white chocolate; if you want a bit more of a “crunch” the use candy canes.) Serve with fruit, sweet breads, cakes, cookies, marshmallows, pretzel sticks, or other treats. We used: sliced green and red apples, Giant (store brand) marshmallow crispy rice bars (cut in four), Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Minis, and store-brand angelfood cake. If I had made a milk chocolate (no mint) fondue, I probably would have tried pieces of fruitcake, too, for my Christmas fondue!
About Shriners Hospitals for Children
For 95 years, Shriners Hospitals for Children has provided life-changing care to more than 1.3 million children. The care provided at Shriners Hospitals for Children is unique and goes beyond many of the limits of traditional health care. Shriners Hospitals for Children provides all aspects of treatment, including surgery, rehabilitation and psychological support. The ancillary services offered by Shriners Hospitals are vast and include a school re-entry program for children to ease the transition back to the classroom after being hospitalized. Shriners Hospitals is the official philanthropy of Shriners International – a fraternal organization dating back 145 years. In 1922, the Shriners founded the first Shriners Hospitals for Children in Shreveport, Louisiana. Since then, this unique philanthropic effort has grown into a network of care with global reach, transforming the lives of children throughout the world.
This post was sponsored by Shriners Hospital for Children to promote the Be Burn Aware campaign. I received compensation to develop and promote this post. The ideas, recipe, opinions, and writing are strictly my own. Have a great — and safe — holiday season, everyone!
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