Monday, 26 July 2010

Meat-Free Monday AND Cooking the Books! Fondue

Our latest book over at Cook the Books has been Erica Bauermeister's first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients.

I confess, I was a bit apprehensive about the "first novel" bit. About a million years ago I wrote some reviews for a brilliant magazine called Good Reading, and my heart learned to sink whenever a "first novel" came my way. The vast majority of them would have benefited from a bit more polishing at whatever writer's workshop spawned them. There is a saying that everyone has a book in them, but no one ever said it was readable by other people.

Fortunately The School of Essential Ingredients is not like that. It is, in fact, a very sweet little book. Lillian uses the hard lessons she learned as a child to teach her cooking students about food, and those lessons transform each of their lives.

I very quickly decided that I was going to make fondue, the dish the students make for Valentine's Day at Lillian's cooking school. For one thing, I love it. When I was growing up it was always something our family would have for celebratory meals - so it seems appropriate that this post is going up on my mother's birthday. Happy Birthday Bettina!

But I was also struck by the mention of the hint of nutmeg in the cheese. This was a revelation to me. I love nutmeg, and I use it in almost all cheese dishes and a lot of vegetable dishes (it's wonderful on buttered cabbage) but it had never, ever occurred to me to put it in a fondue.

I followed my usual proportions of wine, gruyere and emmenthaler, leaving the garlic cloves in the wine instead of just rubbing around the caquelon. I didn't dust the cheese with cornflour, I followed the family method of making a cornflour slurry to add towards the end, and I bought a little bottle of kirschwasser to use in that slurry. Then right at the end I seasoned the fondue with a grating of nutmeg and some black pepper. I served it with cubes of crusty dark sourdough bread (I find baguette goes too pappy in the hot cheese) and pickled shallots.

This was definitely the best fondue I have ever made. It is amazing how much difference a little nutmeg and a little kirschwasser make to the flavour. And, as Lillian's students discovered, fondues bring people together and encourage intimacy. Sharing a meal from the same pot is a very cozy way to eat, and you can't help but lean together and chat as you swirl your cubes of bread in the thick molten cheese.

23 comments:

The Cat's Mother said...

Thank you. What an honour - my favorite food really is cheese in all its forms.
(Thank goodness for modern lipid lowering drugs I say.)

Jude said...

Happy Birthday Foodycat's mum!

I am drooling for fondue now . . . .

Simona said...

Happy birthday to "the Cat's Mother"! That is a nice setup you have for your fondue. I agree with your thoughts on sharing a meal from the same pot. In Italy, we have a tradition of sharing polenta from the same board: it's always been one of my favorite meals.

Debinhawaii said...

Mmm...what a great pick for CTB. I love fondue but hardly ever make it. This looks delicious and I am intrigued by the nutmeg in it too.

Happy B-day to your Mom! ;-)

Foodycat said...

Mother - hope you had a lovely day!

Jude - I could happily eat another one soon.

Simona - I've seen references to polenta served like that, but my husband isn't a fan of polenta so I don't get to do it very often.

Deb - probably healthier not to eat it too regularly!

Choclette said...

God, I love fondue and I haven't had it in years. Not sure the mention of slurry made it any more appealing though!!! Couldn't see the photo.

kat said...

I cannot even remember the last time I had fondue, I guess not having the pot makes it harder

mscrankypants said...

I don't know why but shared dipping things freak me out -- should have seen me shake with fear the night I went to a steamboat dinner.

"We put all our stuff in those soups and then haul them out communally?"

"Yes."

"You're joking?"

"No."

"And then we keep dipping food in until we're full, so it's like a quadruple dip?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

I survived, but realised I am not a team player.

Anyway, happy birthday to The Cat's Mother and all the best for a happy year ahead :-).

Foodycat said...

Choclette - I wonder why you couldn't see the photo? It's just hosted on photobucket as usual.

Kat - I had to buy a pot last winter because I had such a craving!

Cranky - well it's not really quadruple dipping! You don't bite anything and then put it back in the pot!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What a great idea. I love fondue, especially when the wine is flowing!
We have it on New Years Eve quite often, just the two of us. Very romantic. I'll definitely try the nutmeg!

Choclette said...

I can see it now and very nice it looks too.

Foodycat said...

Natashya - oh yes! Next time I am home for New Year's I will serve fondue! How snuggly and perfect.

Choclette - glad it is working now!

Rachel said...

Hot molten cheese with garlic, nutmeg and kirschwasser: sounds heavenly! I'm glad you enjoyed the Cook the Books selection and so glad you picked the fondue for inspiration.

Ty'sMommy said...

I adore fondue, and we had it for special occasions when I was growing up, too. I loved that choice for their valentine's meal, I couldn't think of anything more fitting! Nice job!

girlichef said...

Oh, I love me some cheesey goodnes...and dipping things in it! Your fondue has me drooling. It's one of the ideas I tossed around before making my tribute to the book (of course, I tossed around a new idea w/ each new chapter, lol). =)

Foodycat said...

Rachel - thank you for hosting!

Ty's Mommy - glad it wasn't just us. It's addictive, isn't it?

Heather - so hard to beat runny cheese!

WendyGK said...

I considered fondue for my entry-inherited my mother's fondue pot from 1971. I may have to dust it off and give it a go after seeing your pics.

Cook of the House said...

I love fondue as well and yours looks wonderful. My son would often ask for fondue on his birthday and we have had it for New Year's Eve as well - not for two but for about eight. I love this way of eating as it encourages people to eat slowly. Eating should be an event. Kelly

Foodycat said...

Wendy - you definitely should! Bring back the fondue! We should start a campaign.

Kelly - exactly! It encourages conversation and laughter and togetherness. You can't ask any more of bread and cheese.

Claudia said...

I love your fondue, and want to try that recipe soon, with kirschwasser even, wow! I don't have a proper pot, had to improvise mine.

Joanne said...

You can never ever go wrong with fondue, I'm pretty sure. Happy birthday to your mom and what a great entry for Cook the Books!

Foodycat said...

Claudia - having a proper pot does make life easier.

Joanne - thank you!

Foodjunkie said...

Must be quite cold in in the UK for you to make fondue in the summer! I love this food so much, but can never properly enjoy it in Greece, as it just makes me feel so hot. I should also try the nutmeg next time, sounds like it really changes everything.

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