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Drowned and dripping treats

July 21, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

When it comes to fondue, there aren't many fon-don'ts.

Keep it simple or add some frills. Dip breads, meats, vegetables or fruit. Use a fondue pot, crockpot or double boiler.

"Fondue is very versatile," said Wendy Louise, who includes fondue recipes in her "The Complete Crockery Cookbook" (Champion Press, 2003). Basic cheese fondue recipes can be spiffed up with such ingredients as seafood and herbs, she said. Chocolate fondue can be flavored with coffee and different liqueurs. And dipping items can range from crusty bread cubes to cantaloupe to beef to brownies.

Fondue - which is derived from the French verb fondre, meaning "to melt" - originated in Switzerland as a way of using up hardened cheese. Traditional fondue consists of a mixture of Emmenthaler and/or Gruyere cheese and wine, melted in a communal pot before cherry brandy is added to complete the dip for pieces of bread, according to the "Rediscovering Fondue" page on About.com's Home Cooking Web site, www.homecooking.about.com.

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Fondue gained widespread appeal in the United States starting in the late 1950s, when chef Konrad Egli of New York's Chalet Swiss Restaurant introduced a fondue method of cooking meat cubes in hot oil. Chocolate fondue followed in 1964, according to the Web site.

Louise, 61, of Wisconsin, said she remembers the "fondue craze" of the 1960s and '70s - a time when it seemed like just about every American kitchen boasted a fondue pot around which friends often gathered to dip meats, breads and fruit into hot oil or melted cheese or chocolate.

Today, an increasing number of fondue fans are dusting off their vintage pots or purchasing new fondue kits. But Louise said a crockpot - with its high temperature setting of about 300 degrees and low setting of about 200 degrees - is a great substitute for a fondue pot.

"The crockpot makes it easy," she said. "You won't scorch the cheese. You just have to stir it."

Louise said fondue also can be made in a double boiler and transferred to a crockpot to keep it warm. For fondue enthusiasts lacking a fondue pot, crockpot or double boiler, Louise suggests melting fondue ingredients together in a saucepan set in a frying pan filled with a few inches of water. This water bath method will prevent ingredients from scorching.

"As the water boils, that will give it the gentle heat you get from a fondue pot or a double boiler," she said.

Adding a bit of flour to fondue cheese helps keep the cheese from getting stringy, Louise added.

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