Food as fashion has never made a whole lot of sense to me. Kale is out (no, not really), jackfruit is in (I do not get jackfruit), and so on and so forth. But guess what? In Switzerland, the birthplace of fondue, this creamy cheese dish never went out of style, and once you make up a pot for your crew you will realize why the Swiss never ever considered letting it go the way of the Jello mold.
Emmenthal cheese (or emmenthaler, or – in Switzerland — Emmental) and Gruyere are the two most classic cheeses used in authentic Swiss fondue. Other traditional choices are Comte, Rachlette, and Swiss Vacherin, which melts beautifully and camily, if that is in fact a word. If you want to add different cheeses, please do – you need cheeses with flavor, and cheeses that have a smooth and creamy melting texture, classically cow’s milk cheeses made in the Alpine style. Fontina and Jarlsberg are good thoughts, too, and very accessible. Talk to your cheese monger to see what else is an option.
The rubbing of the pot with a garlic clove in this version adds a very subtle touch of garlic; some recipes call for actual minced garlic to be added to the pot. As for the kirsch, if you discuss “real” fondue with a Swiss person you will get firm opinions on whether kirsch should be included in the mix. It’s a cherry liqueur, and only a very small amount is used, so it doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker, at least to this fondue neophyte. Some people like to keep the kirsch out of the fondue, but dip the bread very lightly into a small dish of the liqueur before dipping it into the cheese. Other seasonings that might be added are dry mustard or nutmeg, but traditionalists would probably stab me with a fondue fork for suggesting such things.
The classic item to dip into cheese fondue is bread cubes, but there is no reason to stop there. Crackers, vegetables, even meats or fruit, anything that goes well with cheese is fair game.
Additional tips: don’t overheat the cheese, and add it slowly – melting the cheese gradually over low temperature helps keep it smooth and not clumpy or stringy. If your fondue gets clumpy, either add a bit more wine, or a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, and all should be fine. If you don’t have a fondue pot, you can still make fondue, and just serve it in the pot you cooked it in and reheat it, stirring, as needed. Or, just eat fast!
Classic Swiss Fondue
For the Cheese Fondue
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 pound grated Gruyere
- ½ pound grated Emmenthal or Emmental cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons kirsch optional
- Cubes of firm day-old bread
- Lightly steamed asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower florets, or carrots
- Cherry tomatoes
- Strips of bell pepper
- Apple or pear slices
- Rub a heavy pot, such as an enameled cast iron pot, all over the bottom in sides with the garlic clove. Add the white wine heat over medium heat until hot. Toss the grated cheese in a bowl with the cornstarch. Add the grated cheese to the pot very gradually, stirring all the while, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is very smooth, about 10 minutes. Season with pepper.
- Meanwhile, arrange the bread, and any other items you are using to dip, attractively on a serving platter.
- If you have a fondue pot, light the flame underneath the pot, and transfer the fondue to the fondue pot. Let everyone spear the food of their choice with fondue fork, or other small forks, and dip away.
Made this recipe? Post a photo of your delicious creation on Instagram with our hashtag #dinnersolved