Makes 8 servings
I first tasted cheese fondue when my aunt Jane returned from a trip to Switzerland. Aunt Jane's many trips to Europe were invariably followed with a series of theme dinners accompanied by appropriate music and drink. Some of those lovely dinners I've forgotten, but the Swiss dinner—complete with yodeling music on the phonograph and plenty of kirsch and crisp white wine—have remained family traditions. Aunt Jane is one of the few people I know who still has her original fondue set.
Anyone who eats cheese fondue will remember that it goes through a series of phases as it sits in the pot. First there's the soup phase—the one I'm replicating here—followed by the stringy and crusty phases. Kirsch (or, as it's called in Germany and parts of Switzerland, kirschwasser) is a dry, very alcoholic cherry brandy. Don't confuse it with "cherry-flavored brandy," which is grape brandy flavored with cherry syrup and loads of sugar and tastes like cough syrup. Good kirsch is expensive—the best comes from Switzerland, but French brands from Alsace are decent—so don't be shocked and don't buy an inexpensive American brand, many of which seem to be made from cherry pits (which give the kirsch a distinctly almond flavor) rather than the fruit. Don't scrimp on the cheese either—authentic Gruyère and Emmentaler are essential. (And don't be taken in by packages that say "imported Swiss cheese" which can be imported from anywhere but never from Switzerland.) I suggest serving this soup with dry white wine and a little glass (or more as needed) of kirsch.
1 French baguette, cut into cubes
about 1/2 inch on each side
6 ounces authentic Swiss Gruyère
6 ounces authentic Swiss Emmentaler
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup good quality kirsch (optional)
Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake them in a 350 degrees F oven for about 15 minutes, turning them over every 5 minutes, until they're lightly browned and crispy.
Grate the cheese. Combine the cornstarch with a tablespoon of the wine and bring the rest of the wine to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Simmer the wine for about 7 minutes to cook off its alcohol and whisk in the cheese, the cornstarch mixture, and the kirsch. Stir over medium heat until the cheese dissolves and the soup returns to the simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and ladle into heated soup plates. Sprinkle each bowl with a few bread cubes and pass the rest of the cubes in a basket at the table. This soup is thinner than an authentic fondue, so you can eat it with a spoon.
By James Peterson
John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2001
Hardback, $ 45.00
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created October 2001
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