The Dippers

Bread is the classic fondue dipper, and the earliest fondues probably employed slightly stale loaves of hearth-baked breads. Don't attempt to serve fondue with fresh, squishy white bread or even soft wheat. You'll wind up with a limp mess, assuming the bread makes it out of the hot fondue at all.

Instead, use sturdy or crusty breads such as rye, pumpernickel, multi-grain, or sourdough. White breads should be the hearth-baked types with hard crusts and a coarse crumb, or fine-grained but slightly dry focaccia and ciabatta. Plan on providing 18 to 22 bread cubes or bread portions (i.e., one hard pretzel) per guest. A standard French baguette will likely provide enough bread to serve three people at the fondue table.

Meats and Seafood

Raw meats and fish should be cut into small cubes or paper-thin slices for quick cooking. This keeps the flow going at the table, giving guests quick gratification. It also ensures proper cooking. If you're serving meatballs or seafood balls, either make them tiny or serve them precooked, ready to be warmed and crisped in the fondue pot.

Allow 6 to 8 ounces of raw meat, poultry, or seafood per guest. At a buffet or cocktail party where many foods compete for attention, guests will likely eat less of any one dish than they will at a sit-down dinner party.

ALERT

Never attempt to dip raw meats into cheese fondue — the pot may not be hot enough to cook the meat, and dipping the raw food could add bacteria to the pot. Cooked or cured meats, such as sausage, and cooked shrimp are fine in any fondue.

Sweet Stuff

Buttery croissant rolls, cut in small pieces and dipped in very dark chocolate fondue, are a gourmet treat. Ladyfingers, biscotti, angel food cake, toasted pound cake spears, cookies, graham crackers, pretzels, and fresh or dried fruits are all fine for the fondue dessert table. If you're a candy maker, consider whipping up a batch of truffle centers, freezing them, then having guests coat their own truffles with chocolate fondue.

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