No wonder someone donated “Chafing Dish & Fondue Cook Book” to my Friends of the Library sale. Published by Sunset Magazine in 1973, the 80-page book focuses on a style of eating that few people seek out today.
Fondue pots are considered quaint, and chafing dishes are more likely to turn up at garage sales than on somebody’s table. In case you’re not sure what a chafing dish is, it’s a metal lidded dish that sits in a hot water bath, which in turn sits on a metal frame. Underneath is a flame, possibly from a candle or can of Sterno or other fuel. If you watched “Downton Abbey,” you would have seen chafing dishes in breakfast scenes. They sat on the sideboard and kept the scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages hot, allowing servants to be elsewhere.
Hotel buffets still use chafing dishes, and Swiss restaurants still serve fondue. Actually, Cheese Fondue is a fun family meal. Kids love the novelty of stabbing a piece of bread with a fork and sticking it into a pot of bubbling cheese. Serve it with some salads to break up the monotony of bread and cheese.
Cheese Fondue – serves 6-8 (adapted from “HELP! My Apartment Has a Dining Room!”)
1 1/2 loaves French bread1 1/4 pounds Gouda cheese4 teaspoons lemon juice4 teaspoons cornstarch1 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc)1/8 teaspoon black pepper1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Set up the fondue pot frame and burner attachment on the table and prepare but do not light the burner. Make sure you have the recommended fuel. A small can of Sterno always worked well for me.
If you don’t have a fondue pot, substitute a small pot that sits on a hot tray or an electric frying pan set on low heat. If you have fondue forks (extra-long forks with heatproof handles), set them out. You can also use regular forks, metal skewers or chopsticks.
Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, making sure at least one side of each cube is crust. Pile the cubes into a bowl and set on the table.
Grate the cheese on a large-hole grater or use the shredding blade in a food processor.
Combine the lemon juice and cornstarch in a small cup and stir thoroughly. Set aside.
Add the wine to the fondue pot and begin heating it on the stove over medium-high heat. When it begins to bubble around the edges, add the grated cheese, a little at a time, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until all of it has melted. When the mixture begins to boil, add the black pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice mixture. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
Light the fondue burner and then set the fondue pot on the pot frame over the burner. Encourage diners to stir the cheese when they dip their bread into the pot.