Swiss Fondue Dinner
On Sunday, we had a great dinner party to celebrate 1.) Gabriel’s birthday earlier this week and 2.) the 404-year-old Geneva celebration called L'Escalade.
It was a very Swiss affair. We had 8 people and served them 2 cheese-filled fondue pots, the authentic Swiss “fendant” wine to go with, a veggie tray and a meat tray including the very Swiss “viande des Grisons” or “viande sechee” (which are dried, cured beef thinly sliced and similar to Italy's bresaola). Then for dessert, we smashed and ate two chocolate “marmittes” filled with marzipan veggies. Boy did my stomach hurt by the end - this is not for the faint of heart, or appetite!
Fondue Ingredients for 8 hungry people (or halve this recipe to serve 4 hungry people):
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 cups dry white wine such as Swiss Fendant
1 pound of shredded Gruyere cheese
½ pound shredded Emmentaler cheese (the Swiss cheese with the holes)
½ pound of Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 tsp kirsch (actually we used grappa and it worked really well)
Lots of crusty bread, cubed
1 cup tiny gherkin pickles (the vinegary kind, NOT sweet and sour)
an assortment of cured meats such as: (in the photo, starting clockwise at 6:00, culatello, prosciutto, salami, “viande sechee” and cooked ham.)
an assortment of crudité vegetables (in this photo you see carrots starting clockwise at 9:00, puntarelle, endive, fennel, radicchio, celery)
First place half the sliced garlic in each fondue pot. Add 1 ½ cups of wine to each pot and bring to a light simmer (not boiling, just a bubble or two coming to the surface every once in a while). Stir the cornstarch and kirsch or grappa together in a small cup, reserve. Mix the 3 types of shredded cheese together and slowly add them to the pots, little by little. Make sure the stove is at medium heat. As you add the cheese, stir in a figure 8 pattern rather than in a circle. This keeps the cheese from forming a ball in the middle of the pot. Once you have added all the cheese, stir to incorporate everything in a smooth, uniform consistency about 6-7 minutes. Then transfer to your heated fondue pot stand and enjoy!
One tip for guests: You have to WORK at this dinner! Every time someone dips a piece of bread on their long fork into the cheese, they must stir (again, figure 8, not circle) to keep the sauce going. You don’t want to burn the bottom. When the cheese is almost all eaten, the remaining layer at the bottom will “fry” (or sound like it’s frying) and turn a rich, medium brown color. This is the delicious “religieuse” (nun) probably named after the color of certain nuns’ habits. Once browned, it should be scooped out of the bottom of the pot and can be shared by any guest who loves rich, crispy cheese.
L’Escalade: Our dessert consisted of two chocolate pots emblazoned with Geneva's crest and full of “vegetables” fashioned out of marzipan. Every December 12th, Genevans celebrate their city’s victory over the forces of Savoy in 1602. Legend says that late that night, Madame Royaume was making vegetable soup in a huge pot and heard noises below. It was some scouts of the Savoy army. She got scared and dumped the boiling soup, pot and all out the window, on to the heads of the scouts. Those who survived, ran for their lives. Their advance was delayed long enough for the Geneva forces to prepare for the real attack and so they won and maintained their city free from Savoy control.
So, what do we do with the pots today? The oldest and youngest at the table hold fists on top of the pot and say, “Qu'ainsi perissent les ennemis de la Republique” (Thus perish the enemies of the Republic!) and they smash the pot to edible bits. Fun, huh? Music to smash your enemies in effigy by: "We Are the Champions" by Queen.