From cheesy dips to mini s’mores, a ton of delicious fondue fun awaits. Fondue legend says the tradition started in the 1600s Switzerland. The practice grew in popularity in Switzerland in the 1800s, when the Swiss government promoted it as a nutrition strategy and a use for aged cheeses. A pot with its own heat source, usually a small flame under a rack, keeps the dipping sauce molten. Diners use skewers to dip small pieces of crusty bread into the sauce.
Cheese and bread are the original fondue foods, but 21st century fondue has expanded to many different sauces and dippers. A fondue party on the patio is a fun addition to any football tailgate or Thanksgiving meal. Whether you are looking to serve a full meal or just dessert, fondue options are plentiful.
Cheese fondues originally began with some combination of Gruyère, Vacherin and Emmentaler cheeses, but many other cheese options exist. Some cheeses melt easier than others, so a little experimentation may be a good idea before you invite guests to come dip. Roasted garlic is a popular addition to cheese fondues, and luckily a garlic taste combines well with most cheeses. Cheddar is popular for dipping in the U.S., but cheddar alone can be difficult to keep melted. Try mixing in American or other high-milk-content cheeses.
Serve with small squares of crusty sourdough bread. Crackers aren’t fondue foods; they don’t fit on the end of a skewer (important for keeping fingers away from the dip and the heat source) and they tend to crumble. Crusty bread, especially bread that is a day old or has been cut and left out a few hours before guests arrive, stays together and can be skewered well. Long breadsticks are acceptable in a pinch, but the dreaded “double-dipping” should be avoided. Fresh or lightly steamed vegetables are also great cheese fondue dippers. Zucchini chunks, broccoli florets, potato wedges (roasted), or carrots are good fondue veggies. Avoid steaming or cooking them for too long. A firm but warm veggie is best for skewering and dipping.
Meats and Poultry
Grill up some beef and chicken, cube it and serve. Several fondue pots may be in order for a full meal, but in a pinch a small crock pot can stand in as a heated fondue pot. Horseradish melt, Béarnaise sauce or garlic butter are some dipping sauce ideas for beef. Alfredo, cream spinach, or peanut sauce are delicious with chicken. Guests can skewer and dip bite-sized pieces of beef or chicken and release them onto their plate one-by-one, or they can fill up a plate all at once and sit somewhere farther away from the table. Whereas a dessert fondue is typically enjoyed sitting around the table, a more hearty meal can be done in buffet style if you want to host a large gathering.
Chocolate fondue is one of the simplest, easiest, yet most decadent desserts there is. Melting chocolate seems complicated until you try it. Once you know the secret, you’ll want chocolate fondue to be your go-to party trick. Double-boiling to make or melt the chocolate sauce is the secret technique that’s easy to master. Transferring the chocolate into the fondue pot from a double-boil bowl gives a consistent molten sauce perfect for dipping. Dippers can be frozen banana slices, strawberries, marshmallows, mini peanut butter cups and anything else you’d like to combine with chocolatey goodness. Have shredded coconut and nuts handy for an added roll-in, either before or after the chocolate dipping.
Mini s’mores are a popular party nosh. Setting up portable open flames in cans is the first step. Sterno has ethanol gel that is safe for foods. Be very careful on the type of fuel you use for s’mores. Ethanol is the safest fuel. The canned gel fuel will indicate on the label if it is ethanol based and food safe. Once you have your flames going, dot the table with mini s’mores supplies: skewers, mini marshmallows, tiny chocolate bar squares and cut graham crackers. This is a fun dessert for a birthday party or a tailgate on the patio. Mini marshmallows are easy to handle and very fun to roast.
Not a chocolate fan? Salted caramel fondue will bring out the fall fun for everyone. Slice up a variety of apples, rinse them in a lemon juice/water solution (to avoid browning) and your patio will turn into a fall carnival feast. Strawberry fondue is a delicious dip for ice-cream balls, pound cake squares, or bananas. Think sweet and warm and you can make almost any of your favorite dessert combinations into a fondue experience.
Fondue is a communal eating event that physically brings people together. It’s a cozy, nurturing dining experience that can be as much fun outdoors as it is inside. Consider fondue for your next camping trip, tailgate or Thanksgiving dessert. Get outside and enjoy the fall season and the fun of fondue together with friends and family.