Thursday, December 29, 2011

holiday traditions: fondue night

Five years ago the girls gave me a fondue set from Williams Sonoma for Christmas.  They are smart ones, because every Christmas Eve since has meant fondue night at our home.  Since I love to cook and I truly do express love through food (right or wrong) I am always delighted with food-prep gifts.  When you got married in 1984, you did not receive KitchenAid mixers, Cuisinart food processors and LeCrueset pans.  I still maintain, even though the ship has sailed yet again for me; that if your make it to your twentieth or twenty-fifth wedding anniversary you should get another shower.  Who couldn't grab that little electronic gun and zap out a house-lust registry after 20 or 25 years? Your wedding gifts are outdated or simply no longer function, you know your taste and style and you know just where to get it.  Maybe you have slowly acquired your objects of desire as you've gone along.  But I am certain that most of us could name a few things you long for, but know you really need to spend the money on other pressing expenses like school and/or college tuition, the family car fleet or new running shoes (because you cook so well, you need to keep moving).  This Christmas my babies bought me two new King Arthur Flour baking pans and they are magnificent.  Like I said, they are smart girls.  New pans = baked goods.  Simple math.

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas Eve 2011 aka Fondue Night IV (Super Bowl XLVI prep in high gear hear in Indy, hence the Roman Numerals) was heralded by all as the best yet.  So good in fact that we never made it to the chocolate fondue dessert part of the evening.  The first fondue attempts with classic emmentaler cheese (very sharp Swiss cheese-yikes), Kirsch liqueur and all the usual suspects did not translate well to our collective palette.  So each year we've looked through the little fondue cookbook and tweaked recipes to please our preferences.  This year's winners:  pizza sauce (every crowd has one, and she who shall not be named is currently not eating cheese but will eat good pizza sauce like no other), avocado and beer & onion.  Some of the success must also be credited to advances in dippers:  blanched vegetables instead of raw, caramelized onion and mango/jalepeno chicken meatballs from Costco, super deluxe Italian sausage with Provolone (also from Costco) and multi-grain artisan bread.

I've been crazy busy, but at everyone's urging I am posting my tweaked recipes before I forget them so that next year's Christmas Eve "does not suck" in the elegant syntax of my loving family.  Maybe you will be inspired to break out your fondue pot for New Year's Eve or some random cabin fever weekend yet to come this winter.  If you don't own a fondue set, just use some nice ceramic dishes that will hold heat well and dip with skewers or forks.   No penalty for substitutions!


Pizza Sauce

Muir Glen pizza sauce in a can is amazing.  I only make my own sauce if I'm making deep dish pizza.

Avocado Fondue

2 T unsalted butter
one medium yellow, sweet or white onion minced fine
4 T flour
1 C chicken broth or stock
juice of one lemon
one large ripe avocado, halved pitted and flesh mashed with a fork
1 C mexican blend shredded cheese
2/3 C half and half (fat free is fine, that's what I had on hand)
few drops of Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a medium saucepan (or your fondue pot on the stove) over medium heat.  Saute the onion until translucent.  Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two.  Add chicken broth and turn up heat to medium high.  Stir until thickened.  Add lemon juice and avocado and lower heat to medium low.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Add half and half and a few drops of Tabasco and gently heat through (do not boil or half and half will separate).  Taste for salt and pepper.  Thin with additional broth or stock if desired.  Dip vegetables, meatballs, bread or shrimp.


Beer & Onion Fondue

1 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
one large yellow, white or sweet onion finely minced
1 C (or more, open a 12-oz bottle) good beer (Greg tried to give me a Nattie Light, but Kelly grabbed me a Stella)
2 C grated/shredded cheddar cheese
1 minced garlic clove
3 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp dried mustard (Coleman's)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan (or in your fondue pot on the stove).  Saute onion until translucent.  Add beer, cheese and garlic and cook over low heat until the cheese melts.  Blend the cornstarch and dried mustard with 4 T of water and add to mixture, stirring in until thickened.  Season with pepper to taste.  Thin with more beer as desired.  Serve with sausages, pretzel bread or multi-grain bread.

Sara's vegetable wreath


let the games begin!



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