Before visiting Quebec, Canada, I knew fondue as a decadent treat of fresh fruit dipped in a warm chocolate sauce or bread bites dipped in a melted cheese and wine mixture. I didn’t know fondue could be a meal of meat and vegetables cooked in a simmering broth. I never had hot pot, and I ate shabu shabu once – not realizing similar versions existed in countries other than China and Japan. After having broth fondue for the first time, I became an instant fan.
Since then, my husband and I would feast on fondue with family and friends during annual visits to Quebec. Now, with guidance to limit travel and social gathering, we will be dining at a distance with them and the city in our hearts. With the holidays around the corner, fondue seems an attractive alternative to traditional meals here in the U.S. In this post, I share why one should be fond of fondue, when fondue may not be for you, what is needed for fondue, and how we prepare, serve, and enjoy fondue.
Why One Should Be Fond of Fondue
One should be fond of fondue because:
- It’s a great meal for single households, e.g., an intimate supper between domestic partners and a dinner feast among family or friends living in the same home.
- There’s minimal cooking for the host. The broth and some accompaniments require cooking, but each person cooks their own meat and vegetables in a shared pot at the center of the table.
- It encourages a slow eating pace and socializing. While food is cooking, diners wait and carry conversations.
When Fondue May Not Be for You
Fondue may not be for you and your household when there is a heightened risk for mess, injury, or both. It involves a shared pot that is hot, a cord (or two), hot broth, and sharp fondue forks. Pulling at a cord or mishandling the equipment could result in accidental spills, burns, and poking. Using regular forks to cook, as well as eat, and double-dipping contaminate food.
What is Needed for Fondue
In addition to safe and sanitary practices, fondue equipment, fondue broth, thinly sliced meat, vegetables, and accompaniments are needed.
We have a Cuisinart electric fondue pot that came with an adjustable temperature probe, a cord with a magnetic end, 8 fondue forks with different colored tips, and an instruction and recipe booklet. It also came with a fork ring, but the forks stay in place without it. It serves 8, but we use it for 2 to 4. An extension cord may be needed depending on where the nearest outlet is.
Fondue Broth — We use the fondue mixes our family and friends in Quebec use (i.e., Conagra/VH and Knorr/Bovril). These may not be available in your area, but hot pot mix is available online. Broth can also be made from scratch, using the recipes in the fondue pot instruction and recipe booklet.
Thinly Sliced Meat — As our family and friends do in Quebec, we use beef. Sirloin, filet mignon, or tenderloin can be purchased at a grocery store, frozen, sliced as thin as lunch meat, re-wrapped, and stored in the freezer. Beef is buyable from a butcher, who may be able to slice it deli-thin. Shabu shabu meat is pre-sliced and purchasable at a Japanese market. It is fattier (not to mention pricier) than fondue meat, but some visible fat is removable. We buy 3 to 6 ounces of meat per adult.
Vegetables — Vegetables must be transferrable from the serving dish to the fondue pot and from the fondue pot to your plate. Broccoli florets, whole mushrooms, and zucchini work well because they are firm yet tender and stay on the fondue fork if not overcooked.
Accompaniments — Sides that complement fondue meat and vegetables are baked potatoes, such as russet or sweet, and fresh sliced crusty-on-the-outside doughy-on-the-inside bread, such as a sour batard. A tossed salad that features seasonal produce is also nice. Fall and winter vegetables, fruits, and nuts include Brussels sprouts, eggplant, sunchokes, figs, persimmon, pomegranate, apple, pear, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
How to Prepare, Serve, and Enjoy Fondue
Delegate tasks to able helpers. Have them set the table with a dark tablecloth, and 1 to 4 fondue forks, a regular fork, knife, napkin, and a plate for each person. Wash, drain, and cut vegetables as needed, and slice the bread. Transfer each to a serving dish (or two).
Thaw the meat in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 400°F for 15 minutes. Wash and drain the potatoes, wrap with foil, and bake for 1 hour. If making broth from scratch, begin cooking it. If using a fondue mix, cook it closer to serving time. Just empty and stir the contents into boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes per package directions. After 1 hour, turn the oven off and allow the potatoes to cool. When the broth is ready, transfer it to the fondue pot on the kitchen counter.
When all is ready, bring the fondue pot to the center of the table, insert the probe, connect the cord(s), and adjust the temperature dial per booklet instructions. Bring the vegetables, bread, spreads, and condiments to the table. Place a baked potato on each plate. Take the meat out of the refrigerator, transfer it to a serving dish (or two), and bring it to the table. Since raw meat and perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, consider placing them over ice. We usually eat them and cook any leftovers by then.
From the serving dish, poke a slice of meat with your fondue fork and wrap the meat around your fork. Transfer it to the fondue pot. When the meat is cooked, transfer it to your plate, and remove it with your knife. Use the same colored fondue forks throughout the meal and avoid putting them in your mouth. Use your regular fork to eat. Enjoy!
So that is how we feast on fondue.
Have you ever had broth fondue, hot pot, or shabu shabu before? Are there more versions in other countries? Do you have additional tips or ideas, for example, to make fondue more feasible for different feeding abilities or food preferences?
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