Holiday parties can be stressful to host. Instead of choosing a cocktail party that requires lots of different appetizers to equal a full meal for your guests or even a well-planned dinner party, why not turn to a DIY-type of party that is making a comeback? Fondue was all the rage in the sixties and seventies, but is no longer part of our regular entertaining repertoire. And I think that's a shame. Who says it's old school to have a group of friends gathered around a pot of bubbling cheese or chocolate?
As far as I'm concerned, fondue is a perfect holiday party theme. The ingredients are affordable, the prep work is manageable, especially when you recruit those friends into the kitchen, and this type of party allows you to relax and enjoy your guests' company rather than toiling away in the kitchen by yourself. It's a mashup of dinner and entertainment, so let's revive the fondue party!
Chad and Kelly slice apples and pears
Types of Fondue
Fondue is typically served in three courses: cheese, an Asian hot-pot type where meat is cooked in oil or broth and chocolate. First off, eliminate the oil from the equation. Who wants to clean up that mess or have your house which currently has the aroma of a lovely Christmas tree smell like one of those fondue chain restaurants?
Instead, go with just the cheese and dessert courses and fill in with a charcuterie plate or simply a platter of beautiful sliced meat, complete with condiments and cornichons.
After all, cheese and meat make a great pair. We already know that cheese and wine are a match made in heaven (just like our class), so accompany your fondue with lots of wine (like Beaujolais), and you'll have a new holiday tradition.
Check your equipment. If you do own a fondue pot, it's likely collecting dust in a cabinet so break it out and make sure you have all of the parts and that it's working properly. Most fondue pots are fueled by liquid fuel or fuel paste, like the Le Creuset fondue pots we sell at The Chopping Block. Electric fondue pots reduce the risk of open flame but can limit your location choices since you'll need to plug it in.
Fondue accompaniments available at The Chopping Block:
Fat Toad Goats Milk Caramel, Fondue Chocolate, White, Milk and Dark Chocolate Chips, Le Creuset Fondue Pot
Each person should have fondue forks or skewers. If you are using a fondue set, your skewers are typically color coded already. If you’re using bamboo skewers, you can get all Pinterest-y and simply color each end with a different shade of marker to help your guests keep track of their skewers.
Don't think you have to have seating for a large group of people around a bunch of fondue pots at your dining room table. Part of the fun of a fondue party is the interaction with guests so create more of a cocktail party atmosphere by laying out the dipping items on a table so guests can fill their plates and have a separate area for the fondue pots. Guests can use spoons to drizzle the cheese or chocolate over the food on their plates or make use of their fondue forks and stake their claim at a pot.
Drips and spills are bound to happen at a fondue party, so arm each guest with a nice cloth napkin to save their clothes, and cover your table with an easy-to-clean cloth.
Most of this party can be prepped before your guests' arrival. You can chop the cubes of bread, pound cake and fruit a few hours before your party. The cheese and chocolate for your sauces can be chopped, grated or cubed in advance too. You should wait until your guests have arrived to heat the ingredients together to avoid over-thickening. Create your fondue on the stovetop, then use the fondue pot to keep it warm.
Patti prepares cheese fondue on the stovetop
What to dip?
Anything you desire, literally!
For the savory:
- Cubed baguette
- Blanched cauliflower and broccoli (or any other veggies you like)
- Steamed fingerling potatoes
- Red peppers
For the sweet:
- Cubed pound cake
- Graham crackers
- Mandarin oranges, segmented
My friends Patti and Jon recently hosted this fondue meal for their tree trimming party, and it couldn't have been more relaxing, fun or delicious! It was the perfect way for a group of old friends to enjoy each other's company and contributions in the kitchen together. Here are some recipes so you can recreate the retro magic at home this holiday season.
Gruyere Cheese Fondue
Yield: 4-6 servings as an appetizer
Active time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 25 minutes
4 cups (1 pound) Gruyere cheese, grated
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup apple cider
1 to 2 teaspoons kirsch
Pepper and nutmeg to taste
French bread cubes
Sliced sausage of your choice (bratwurst, kielbasa, Italian sausage)
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 red pepper, cut into strips
2 celery stalks, cut into sticks
- In a large bowl, toss together the cheese and cornstarch.
- Bring the wine and cider to a simmer in a large pot. Keeping the heat low, gradually stir in the cheese until melted. Add the kirsch, and season to taste with pepper and nutmeg.
- Transfer to a fondue pot and serve with bread cubes and apple slices.
Spanish Chorizo Fondue
Yield: 12 servings as an appetizer
2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
8 ounces chorizo sausage, minced
2 small red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, minced
3 cups plus 4 tablespoons dry sherry
3 pounds assorted semi-firm Spanish cheese (6-month manchego and Mahon)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
- Rub inside of a large saucepan thoroughly with cut sides of garlic halves; discard garlic. Place chorizo and bell pepper in pot, and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until pepper is tender and chorizo is crisp and browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Pour 1 ½ cups sherry into pot, and reduce heat to medium-low. When liquid starts to bubble, start adding cheese by the handful, stirring until melted and combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch with remaining 2 tablespoons sherry until cornstarch dissolves; stir into cheese mixture. Continue whisking until mixture is smooth and bubbling slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a fondue pot.
Ginna transfers the chorizo fondue to an electric pot
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 15 minutes
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other liqueur
Pound cake cubes
Assorted dried fruit
- In a saucepan, gently heat the cream until steaming. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted.
- Add the liqueur, transfer to a fondue pot, and keep over a very low flame to avoid burning the chocolate. Serve with assorted fresh and dried fruits, cubes of pound cake and marshmallows.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Active time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 20 minutes
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
- Stir together the water and sugar in a medium-size saucepan with a clean spoon.
- Simmer over medium heat without stirring until the sugar caramelizes into a deep amber color. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Be careful, because the butter will create a lot of steam. Allow to sit until the butter is melted, then stir until smooth.
- Whisk in the heavy cream.
- Cool slightly before serving.
NOTE: To help prevent the sugar from crystallizing while it boils, wash down any sugar crystals that stick to the sides of the pot with water and a clean pastry brush.
Fondue dessert plate with chocolate and caramel
Want to experience making fondue from its origins? Check out our upcoming hands-on class, Christmas in the Swiss Alps on Wednesday, December 19 at 7pm at Lincoln Square. You'll learn to make other Swiss-inspired recipes such as:
- Wiener Schnitzel with Braised Apples and Red Cabbage
- Potato Rösti
- Chocolate Soufflé