Swiss...nah, nah nah, scratch that
French....Humm at least by name...
Scandinavian, Austrian... Japan?
Well actually all of the above claim a piece of the melting pot territory.
The basics are comparable to a love affair, innocent fruits, sweeties ,tarts or even beef cakes skewered and dunked into a hot and often thick situation.
Fondues are one of those culinary introductions made famous by the Swiss, and the "House beautiful" magazines of the fifties. Though as usual the Swiss got to officially name these dishes, claiming originality is a whole different ball game. Ever since mankind learned how to boil water, skewing and dunking has happened. Think of how convenient it is not to burn your hands.
The base of these dishes is a silky smooth sauce of a fatty ingredient (Cheese or Chocolate) emulsified, beaten and rendered into submission but not so much as to loose their natural ability to smother....then again just like a perfectly balanced love affair. A little alcohol to keep things flowing and some flour. These hot sauces are served preferably warmed up by a tealight or in a bath of hot water and have a tendency to required constant stirring to avoid forming a thick skin. Nontheless do not stirr too deep into the emotions in gathered in th epot or you may get the burned bitter bits to raise early to the surface. The Fondue is a communal dish, food orgy if you must compare. A race to the bottom were you may find the burned bits of your stirrings, bitter yet increadibly addictive. LIKE WITH ALL LOVE AFFAIRS TIMING IS OF UPMOST IMPORTANCE! Too long in the heating elements and the flavor can be ruined, not enough stirring around and a thick skin may form. A perfect balance of roughness in texture and smothness in flow. Fondue sauces may require a pinch of flour to maintain thickness or a bit of alcohol to keep all ingredients pefectly suspended in the richness of the sauce. But who are we kidding Fondues are just FUN to DO.
Set up a double boiler if you are serving a fondue that may be on the table for a while, or a Kettle Candle to keep warm if serving inmediatly.
Shamelss Plagerism fom Wikepedia:
Boy I love cut and paste!
A recipe for a sauce made from Pramnos wine, grated goat's cheese and white flour appears in Scroll 11 (lines 629-645) of Homer's Iliad and has been cited as the earliest record of a fondue. Swiss communal fondue arose many centuries ago as a result of food preservation methods. The Swiss food staples bread and raclette-like cheese made in summer and fall were meant to last throughout the winter months. The bread aged, dried out and became so tough it was sometimes chopped with an ax. The stored cheese also became very hard, but when mixed with wine and heated it softened into a thick sauce. During Switzerland's long, cold winters some families and extended groups would gather about a large pot of cheese set over the fire and dip wood-hard bits of bread which quickly became edible.
Modern fondue originated during the 18th century in the canton of Neuchatel. As Switzerland industrialized, wine and cheese producers encouraged the dish's popularity. By the 20th century many Swiss cantons and even towns had their own local varieties and recipes based on locally available cheeses, wines and other ingredients. During the 1950s a slowing cheese industry in Switzerland widely promoted fondue since one person could easily eat half a pound of melted cheese in one sitting. In 1955 the first pre-mixed "instant" fondue was brought to market. Fondue became very popular in the United States in the mid fifties during the 1960s after American tourists discovered it in Switzerland.
A full cheese fondue set in Switzerland. Apart from pieces of bread to dip into the melted cheese, there are side servings of kirsch, raw garlic, pickled gherkins and onions, and olives.
There are many kinds of fondue, each made with a different blend of cheeses, wine and seasoning, mostly depending on where it is made. The caquelon is first rubbed with a cut garlic clove, then wine and cheese slowly added until melted. A small amount of potato starch (or corn starch, cornflour or flour) is added to prevent separation and the fondue is almost always further diluted with either kirsch, beer, black tea, and/or white wine. The most common recipe calls for 1 dl (100 ml) of dry white wine per person and a 200 g mix of hard (such as Gruyère) and semi-hard (such as Emmental, Vacherin or raclette) cheeses: The mixture must be stirred continuously as it heats in the caquelon. Crusty bread is cut into cubes which are then speared on a fondue fork and dipped into the melted cheese.
Temperature and la religieuse
A cheese fondue mixture should be held at a temperature warm enough to keep the fondue smooth and liquid but not so hot as to allow any burning. If this temperature is held until the fondue is finished there will be a thin crust of toasted (not burnt) cheese at the bottom of the caquelon. This is called la religieuse (French for the nun, more or less). It has the texture of a thin cracker and is almost always lifted out and eaten.
Neuchâteloise: Gruyère and emmental.
Moitié-moitié (or half 'n half): Gruyère and Fribourg vacherin.
Fribourgeoise: Fribourg vacherin wherein potatoes are often dipped instead of bread.
Fondue de Suisse centrale: Gruyère, Emmental and sbrinz.
Appenzeller: Appenzeller cheese with cream added.
Tomato: Gruyère, Emmental, crushed tomatoes and wine.
Spicy: Gruyère, red and green peppers, with chili.
Mushroom: Gruyère, Fribourg vacherin and mushrooms.
A fondue bourguignonne: At top is a pot of hot oil for quickly cooking the meat, at middle a caquelon for a further cheese fondue and at bottom more sauces for dipping.
Bourguignonne: During the late middle ages as grapes ripened in the vineyards of Burgundy a quick harvest was needed and the noontime meal was often skipped. Johann du Putzxe was a monk who made a kind of fast food by dunking pieces of meat into hot oil. The Swiss later adapted this as a variety of fondue. The pot is filled with oil (or butter) and brought to simmer. Each person spears small cubes of beef or horse meat with a long, narrow fondue fork and fries them in the pot. An assortment of sauces and sometimes a further cheese fondue are provided for dipping.
Bressane: Small cubes of chicken breast are dipped in cream, then in fine bread crumbs and at last deep fried, as with a bourguignonne.
Court Bouillon (or Chinoise): A Swiss traveling in China ate a dish called Chrysanthemum which was dunk-cooked in a pot of bouillon. Fondues based on this became popular when he returned to Switzerland. The diner dips rolled shaved meat (traditionally beef) into a simmering broth. As with a bourguignonne, dipping sauces are served. This dish is still somewhat like a Chinese hot pot (huoguo in Chinese, or steamboat, which is popular across Asia). At meal's end the much flavoured broth may be served to the participants, with or without sherry wine.
Savoyarde: Comté savoyard, beaufort, and emmental.
Jurassienne: Mature or mild comté.
Fonduta: Fontina, milk, eggs and truffles, known as Fonduta valdostana in the Aosta valley and Fonduta piemontese in Piedmont, both in northern Italy.
Refrigerated fondue blends are sold in some Swiss grocery stores and need little more than melting in the caquelon. Individual portions heatable in a microwave oven are also sold.
Dessert fondue recipes began appearing in the 1960s. Slices of fruit or pastry are dipped in a caquelon of melted chocolate. Other dessert fondues can include coconut, honey, caramel and marshmallow.
As with other communal dishes fondue has an etiquette which can be both helpful and fun. Most often, allowing one's tongue or lips to touch the dipping fork will be thought of as rude. With meat fondues one should use a dinner fork to take meat off the dipping fork. A "no double-dipping" rule also has sway: After a dipped morsel has been tasted it should never be returned to the pot. In longstanding Swiss tradition if a nugget of bread is lost in the cheese by a man he buys a bottle of wine and if such a thing happens to befall a woman she kisses the man on her left. Lately, rather more humorous twists on this have shown up in Switzerland such as young diners diving into the snow whilst clad only in underclothing.
Those who succeed in following the etiquette of fondue can share the cheese cracker-like la religieuse left at the bottom of the emptied caquelon.
Fondue Bourguignonne refers to a fondue of meats or vegetables cooked in oil. It was created in the vineyards in Burgundy sometime during the middle ages. Here, when these grapes are ready to harvest, they have to be quickly picked, and the workers couldn't take time to leave the fields for a hot lunch. Some hungry soul (many credit a monk named Johann du Putzxe) came up with the idea of quickly cooking pieces of meat in pots of hot oil that were set-up in the vineyards. That way, workers could dunk and cook pieces of meat in spare moments without losing valuable harvesting time. This fondue is most often made with beef, but pork, game, poultry, seafood as well as vegetables can be cooked in this manner. I've fired up the traditional French side sauces with ones based on those found in the Spicy Food Lover's Bible by Dave DeWitt and me.
1 1/2 pounds trimmed beef tenderloin or sirloin, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
Vegetable oil, peanut or canola preferred
Place the sauces in individual bowls and arrange around the fondue pot and have the beef at room temperature on a serving platter.
Pour the oil into a fondue cooker to no more than 1/3 to 1/2 the capacity or to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over a medium heat to a temperature of 370 degrees F and transfer the cooker to the fondue burner. The meat should bubble when put in hot oil; if it doesn't, return to the heat.
To serve, guests spear the meat with a fondue fork and cook in the hot oil to desired doneness 15 seconds for rare, and about a minute for well-done. Transfer the beef to a dinner fork, dip in a sauce, eat and enjoy.