The Fondue Family
The word “fondue” comes from the French verb
Cheese fondues consist of high-fat cheese that has been slowly melted in a liquid. Usually the liquid is wine, but beer, ale, or even milk can be used. Traditionally, garlic is rubbed around the inside of the saucepan to give the mixture extra flavor. Adding lemon juice and cornstarch or flour helps keep the cheese from curdling.
Ideally, fondue cheese should have a fat content of at least 45 percent. Low-fat cheeses are harder to melt and may curdle. If using cheese with a fat content below 45 percent, try combining it with a high-fat cheese and adding extra cornstarch to compensate.
In broth-based fondues, food is cooked in a simmering broth. Reputed to have been invented by Mongol warriors, Mongolian hot pot was probably the original broth-based fondue. Today, many Asian countries have their own version of a hot pot dish, such as Korean bulgogi and Japanese shabu-shabu. Sukiyaki, Japan's most popular one-pot meal, technically doesn't qualify as a hot pot dish, since the food isn't cooked in broth. However, it can still be considered a type of fondue.
In oil-based fondues, the fondue pot becomes a type of deep-fat fryer. Bite-sized morsels of meat, seafood, or vegetables are cooked by submerging them in a pot of simmering oil or shortening. The first and most famous oil-based fondue, fondue bourguignonne, consists of tender cubes of beef that are skewered, cooked in hot oil, and served with an assortment of sauces and spices for dipping. Often, although not always, seafood and vegetables are coated with batter before deep-frying, both to protect them from the hot oil and to seal in their natural juices.
Some experts consider Bacchus fondues to be a fifth type of fondue. Named after the Roman god of wine, Bacchus fondues are cooked in red or white wine instead of oil. Vegetable or chicken broth may be added to the wine for extra flavor.
Last, but definitely not least, are the dessert fondues. The standard dessert fondue consists of chocolate that is melted with cream over low heat. Spices and a liqueur may be added for extra flavor. Fresh fruit and slices of pound cake or sponge cake traditionally make up the dippers. However, quick and easy dessert fondues can also be made by replacing the melted chocolate and cream with yogurt, sour cream, or even ice cream.