Jan 292011

With a picky four-year-old who loves vegetables but won’t eat much else (she won’t touch pizza or sushi, for example), and an eleven-year-old who’s only slowly starting to appreciate vegetables and fruit (but loves both pizza and sushi, as a typical Vancouver kid does), mealtimes are often a struggle. On a whim a few months ago, I made fondue and discovered how pleasant a peaceful meal where everyone cheerfully eats what’s in front of them can be.

Cheese fondue the way we make it is simple, and reasonably healthy, as long as you have no lactose-intolerant or vegan people at the table. I slice up whatever vegetables and fruit are around, and everyone has some bread and lots of vegetables or fruit to dip into their cheese. There’s something about the communal dipping that’s attractive, the colours of the vegetables and fruit contrast with the creamy sauce that each piece is coated with, and nobody keeps track of just how much everyone eats.

Cheese fondue is laughably simple and quick to make. I make it in the fondue pot on the stove (we have a gas stove) so there’s less washing-up afterwards, and start to finish it takes about 15 minutes.

I always wash and slice the vegetables and fruit first. The staples on the table are an apple, some sugar snap peas, a bell pepper (capsicum) or two, some broccoli spears, some cherry tomatoes. If we have other vegetables or fruit that won’t fall off a fondue fork too easily, those go on the table too. A loaf of good hearty bread, or a crusty French baguette, are also de riguer.

The fondue itself has 400 – 500 g of grated cheese (about a pound) for four people. We like the classic gruyère and emmental (as well as a mixture). Brie is good too (cube it rather than grate it, and toss the rind as it won’t melt). Old cheddar is a little too sharp for some, a milder cheddar is better. After grating, toss the cheese with about 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat slightly more than a cup of white wine (something with some flavour that isn’t too sweet, such as riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, or pinot blanc) in the fondue pot until it bubbles gently. Stir in the grated cheese + flour, stir until the cheese melts and the fondue is smooth and reasonably thick, serve.

We’ve tried lots of different combinations of cheese, wine, and vegetables. Experimenting is part of the fun.

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