husband making fondue, andrew swiping bread
The conversation starts so innocently with, “what are your plans this week?” Before sensibility, 3 loads of laundry and my mile long to-do list can catch up to my big mouth, I’ve already invited half the neighborhood over for supper. As the “gourmet chef” amongst my friends, it’s been a natural progression over the past few years to just consider my home the free local restaurant. Normally, this is a great thing, as my friends are recipients of recipe testing and my fanciful food experiments. Plus, they bring wine, laughter, cute kids and sometimes even help wash the dishes afterwards.
But it’s getting old.
It would just be nice to be invited to someone’s house for a change. To not have to plan menu, shop, prep and crazily clean the house 15 minutes before guests arrive. And when I say “clean,” I really mean throw toys in the closet, scootch cracker crumbs under the couch with my feet, swipe the layer of dust on the glass table with my forearm and stash away traces of super convenience foods like Rice-a-Roni, instant ramen and Betty Crocker. You know, items that a gourmet chef would never be caught dead with in her kitchen.
Most of my friends would rather treat us out for dinner occasionally, sparing themselves of the unnecessary stress of entertaining. Maybe it’s the fear factor of what to prepare for someone who cooks and writes about food for a living. Oh but how I long to let my kids mess up their house, spill a little red wine on their cheap ass carpet, ask them difficult math questions while they are orchestrating the final touches of 5 dishes to be served steaming hot simultaneously, and get deliriously drunk and “forget” to help clean the kitchen…..continued….
I’m craving nothing fancy schmancy, really. Just a simple, low-maintenance meal like Aged Cheddar & Guinness Fondue. There’s really no cooking involved, and no, I don’t count melting cheese as cooking. There are endless variations of fondue, but the combination of sweet, nutty, aged cheddar and the smooth, espresso-like Guinness is my absolute favorite.
The secret to a smooth cheese mixture is to toss the flour with the grated cheese before adding it to the fondue pot. This method evenly distributes the flour (which serves as the thickener) and prevents lumpy fondue! The unexpected ingredient is apple juice concentrate – which balances out the Guinness and aged cheddar beautifully with a hint of sweetness. The acidity also helps create a smooth, creamy cheese. Just a great combo of flavors.
One of our favorite fondue dippers are baby pigs in a blanket. Simple to make – 1 can/tube of crescent dough + Lil’ Smokies baby sausage links. Unroll the dough, cut into strips – wrap each Lil’ Smokie and bake 375F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Aged Cheddar & Guinness Fondue Recipe
- 2 apples, cored & cut into chunks
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 cups lg cubed ham
- 2 cups baby carrots, each halved
- 1 baguette (or any bread with lots of crusty crust)
- 1 pound good aged cheddar, grated
- 2 2/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces Guinness stout + more if needed
- 6 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
- 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- If your bread is day-old, skip this step. Otherwise cut the bread into 1” squares. Turn oven to 250F. Toast bread pieces for 15 minutes. Remove and cool.
- Toss grated cheese with the flour. In your fondue pot over low heat, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and garlic. Fry until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn heat to medium-high. Add Guinness, apple juice concentrate, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Bring to boil. Add cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly until fondue is smooth and melted. Thin with more Guinness, if needed throughout the meal. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange bread, vegetables and fruit around the table. Other ideas: broccoli, pigs in blanket (made with lil’ smokies wrapped with crescent roll dough unrolled cut into strips, bake 375F for 12 minutes) , celery, boiled new potatoes, grapes, steamed Brussels sprouts, boiled shrimp.