Cheese fondue is a simple dish. It's just a pot of melted cheese and wine, into which people can dip almost anything they like. By strategically choosing the dippers, you can turn your cheese fondue into a complete meal that will satisfy your guests while also providing balanced nutrition and a tasty dessert.
Cheese Fondue Accompaniments
Bread is the most popular dipper for cheese fondue and you have many excellent options to choose from.
French bread, bread sticks, and croutons are always favorites. Other breads you might try include baguette, bagels, multigrain bread, rye, sourdough, and pumpernickel. Don't forget about unique breads, either. For instance, a rustic cranberry walnut loaf is fantastic when dipped in cheese.
No matter which type of bread you choose, lightly toast it (especially bread that may fall apart in the cheese), then cut it into cubes.
Beyond bread, dip any of these accompaniments into your cheese fondue:
- Snacks: soft or hard pretzels, candied walnuts, dried apricots, dried figs, snack crackers, tortilla chips
- Lightly steamed vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini
- Blanched, steamed, or roasted vegetables: artichoke hearts, green beans, pearl onions, radishes
- Roasted or raw vegetables: bell peppers, cauliflower, summer squash, zucchini
- Sauteed or roasted mushrooms: crimini, shiitake, oyster, sliced portobellos
- Steamed baby potatoes: Yukon Gold, fingerling, red, or purple
- Raw vegetables: celery, fennel spears
- Cooked and cubed meats: chicken, ham, steak
- Cured meats: beef jerky, kielbasa, pepperoni, meatballs, salami, sausage
- Lightly steamed seafood: shrimp or lobster
- Raw or whole fruit: sliced green or red apple, sliced pear, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, seedless grapes
- Pickled (pat dry): pearl onions, pickles, sweet gherkins
What's So Great About Fondue?
Contrary to popular belief, fondue was not developed as a way to use up stale bread and pieces of cheese. Rather, it was a concept developed by the Swiss government in the 1930s to promote the cheese industry.
While fondue was moderately popular during the 40's and 50's, it became a bit of a fad during the 60's and 70's. People bought fondue sets that included special forks and Sterno-based pots to keep the cheese warm and turned it into a fun party. Fondue was rarely a full meal in those days. It was generally served with chunks of bread to dip and was enjoyed as an appetizer or part of a dessert.
Fondue can be made with made different kinds of cheeses. Swiss, French, and Italian cheeses are most popular and Gruyere cheese is a favorite in many traditional fondue recipes. Don't be afraid to mix, match, and experiment with cheese because that's part of the fun of fondue.
In most cases, grated fondue cheese is mixed with garlic and other herbs along with a sweet white wine. Some recipes get creative with ingredients as well. This cheddar beer fondue with mustard, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce is a perfect example.
After combining the ingredients, the pot is heated until the cheese has melted. The fondue pots keep the cheese from congealing, which is why they are designed specifically for this type of dish.
Tips for Fondue Dippers
While cubes of crusty bread are classic fondue dippers and the other possibilities are virtually endless, there are a few considerations for choosing fondue dippers:
- Be sure that whatever you dip will hold together in a thick, warm cheese dip. Chunks of potato are great; potato chips are likely to fall apart.
- If you are choosing food that would ordinarily be cooked, be sure to precook it. Vegetables can be lightly steamed or tossed with oil and roasted. Meats should be fully cooked and grilled chicken and steak are great for fondue.
- If you are creating a full meal for dipping, be sure to offer a range of foods including meats, vegetables, and fruits.
- Fondue forks are the best choice for dipping because they are color coded so everyone at the table knows which is theirs. If you choose to use ordinary forks, be sure they are long enough.
- It's important to avoid dipping fingers into hot fondue. This is both unsanitary and asking for a burn.
If you offer a wide selection of foods for dipping, you don't need to offer much else to round out the meal. Consider serving a simple salad and finish the meal with a fruit tart or a chocolate fondue.