November 19, 2014

Boozy, Cheesy Fondue

"Oh the weather outside is frightful…"
Well, not quite. But it IS getting colder!
So, to go along with my snow flowers arrangement, (, I decided to make a boozy, cheesy fondue. And because the flowers were white, I decided to keep the white theme running through the food too - all but the sausage, 'cause a girl's gotta eat some meat! I didn't originally intend for it to be as boozy as it ended up, but alas, that's the story of my life.
And since the weather was going to be a big part of my life for the next bunch of months, 
including hats and mittens…
…and boots...
...I decided that we should celebrate the cold! I actually LOVE the cold so its no big deal. 
And with all the hand-knit goodies courtesy of my prolific mother-in-law, 
we're not only ready, but we're snazzy too!
So to start my meal, I compiled all the ingredients. 
The recipe will be at the bottom, so don't worry!

I am not, nor will I ever be, a wine snob. This goes back to my days in college where for $50 for two hours of work (this is back in the '80's y'all), I stood in the local Hanover, NH supermarket selling Gallo wine to my unsuspecting professors. I should have guessed they had my mark because on many more than one occasion, the various professors said that of all their students, I WOULD be the one selling wine on Friday nights. I can't decide if that's a compliment or an insult. But let me tell you, I sold A LOT of Gallo wine - whether I shamed my professors into buying or not. AND I got a job offer from Gallo after I graduated because of my brilliant sales. (I didn't take the job though - I still wanted to conquer the world, so I went to work as an assistant buyer at Filene's department store. Whoopee! Wish I had taken the offer, but I digress :)
First, I fried up the sweet italian sausage to then cut it in small bite-sized pieces
Second, I cut the small gold potatoes into bite-sized pieces and then placed them back into the steam bag they came in (gotta love modern convenience at the grocery store) and sprinkled a good amount of salt and pepper in the bag and stuck them in the microwave for about eight minutes.
I cut up cauliflower florets in easy dipping sizes. 
Next up, mushrooms! Being the daughter of a mother who grew up in Kennett Square, PA, mushrooms are pretty much a staple of every meal in my life (plus they're white). I popped the stems out and then cut them in quarters if they were really big.
Okay, so there's a little green here, but the apple is white. I cored and sliced these and they are so great with cheese fondue!
LOTS of cheese for the fondue. 1/2 pound of Gruyere and 1/2 pound of Comte, plus a little more so I could just use the whole block - I'm really scientific in my cooking - ha ha!
To start, I rubbed the inside of the pot with cut garlic cloves to add some flavor and then poured in the wine. A lot of recipes vary with the amount of wine, but since this is boozy, I STARTED with 1 1/2 cups of white wine and simmered it until it was warm and fragrant.
Oops! A little more may have fallen in the pot. If you're worried, don't be because you can always simmer off any amount you don't want (although that would be a waste of perfectly yummy wine)
Once the wine was hot and the room smelled delicious, I added both kinds of cheese (any Swiss cheese will work, I just wanted these two kinds because they have a little bite and melt to a creamy consistency) a little bit at a time, making sure I stirred it until it melted in the wine before I added more.
 Once the cheese was melted and all was combined and smooth, I added the 1 tablespoon of flour. 
You can also use cornstarch here if you don't have any flour on hand. 
Its just to thicken the mixture a bit.
I am a nutmeg-aholic so I added about 1 1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg - yumm - but if nutmeg isn't your thing just add 1/4 of a teaspoon or so.
Then for the final touch, add some salt and pepper. Since the cheese is kind of salty, you can go easy on the salt - maybe 1/8th of a teaspoon, but don't be shy on the pepper - just add it to your taste. (I love recipes where you taste it all along the way)
I chose my Tyrolean-sort-of-looking plates - even though they're made in Portugal. 
I love them for different kinds of meals.
Then I found this cool ribbon at the flower market and cut pieces to make napkin "rings",
 and to keep the wintry, woodsy, white theme going.
I scattered some fabulous reading materials by the fire: Mountain Houses by Phillipe Saharoff and Gwenaelle Leprat, Ski Style by Simon McBride and Alexandra Black, and Winter House by none other than Charlotte Moss - sigh…
I set the pot up with the Sterno, and all the goodies. And slowly but surely, the Sterno didn't keep my fondue warm enough. And HERE'S where the even boozier part came in. When the heat died down, the fondue got stringy and thicker. So to thin it out, I kept having to transfer it back to the original pot that I cooked it in, heat it up and add more wine and blend it again...
…because THIS is the consistency I wanted, but I was having a hard time maintaining it - hence more trips to the pot to warm it and thin it and to do so, I kept adding wine. So note to self: 
I decided I'd treat myself to something that would make my life a whole lot easier.
Welcome Home Electric Fondue Pot. Welcome Home!
(and don't worry, the directions are also in English - ha ha!)

Boozy, Cheesy Fondue
(pretty awesome title, don't you think?)
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cup of dry white wine (or more if you like to keep adding it - hiccup!)
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese (you can use any kind of Swiss cheese for this step)
1/2 pound Comte cheese (approximately 5 cups grated when all said and done)
1 garlic clove cut
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 loaf of French bread cut into slices
sweet Italian sausage cooked and cut into bites
1 head cauliflower cut up into bites
1 pound of mushrooms cut into bites
2 Granny Smith apples cored and sliced
I bag or about 2 pounds of small follow golden potatoes - steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper  

Cut the garlic and rub inside of a medium to large sauce pan. 
Simmer the wine and add the cheese, small bits at a time and stir using a whisk until well combined and creamy. Don't let it boil
Stir in flour and blend some more.
Add the seasonings and stir some more. 
If the fondue seems too clumpy, add wine as needed to keep thinning it out.
Keep warm in your fondue pot and serve with all the cut up goodies!


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