I am going to be a little Swiss about this. This recipe is a labor of love born from living for 10 years in the Geneva countryside. I was married there, and my children were born there, so Switzerland holds a special place in our hearts. I confess that when I arrived on the heels of studying cooking in Paris, I was at first shocked by the lack of choice and rigidity in traditional Swiss cuisine. But with time I adjusted and learned to appreciate the rustic simplicity of the food.
Cheese fondue was a staple, served in every auberge and café. Bubbling pots of cheese were served family-style at the table, accompanied by platters of air-dried beef and bowls of pickled onions and cornichons. Depending on the region, there were subtle nuances in flavor, dictated by the local cheese or, more specifically, what the cows were nibbling on in the hills. This was austere mountain food, born from rugged alpine life, where every mountain chalet had a cold room which stored home-crafted provisions to last a family through a winter. Nothing was wasted - including stale bread.
When we moved from Geneva to London, I began to make my own fondue more frequently. This recipe is a classic cheese fondue that I have tweaked with time due to geography. For instance, kirsch was hard to find and quite expensive in Northern Europe, so I substituted Calvados or Poire William. A fan of strong flavors, I leave the garlic in the cheese rather than remove it. The bread should be a dense peasant or levain style bread, at least one-day old to ensure cheese absorption. And, most importantly, I use the best quality aged Swiss-origin or French alpine cheese I can get my hands on. My favorites are a mix of aged Gruyère and Emmental. Finally, this recipe provides the optional addition of porcini to the cheese (which I strongly recommend) - another traditional way to serve fondue in Switzerland. - TasteFood —TasteFood
Test Kitchen Notes
Yum, yum! This was a really tasty fondue, quite strong in alcohol, however the cheese and porcini mushrooms stood up to it well. The recipe was clearly written and came together really quickly and easily. I used Sauvignon Blanc and TasteFood's recommended and 2/3 gruyere and 1/3 emmental. I thoroughly enjoyed it! —Victoria Ross
Calvados or Poire William
freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for serving
dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
small garlic clove, minced
grated alpine cheese such as Gruyère, Emmental, Comté. (I use 2/3 Gruyere and 1/3 Emmental or Comte)
dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water until reconstituted, drained, squeezed dry and coarsely chopped (optional)
loaf day-old peasant bread, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
Have all of your ingredients ready before you begin. Once you start, the fondue will come together quickly, and during this time it must be constantly stirred.
Combine Calvados, cornstarch, salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Set aside.
Add wine and garlic to a large heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat until tiny bubbles form, giving the wine a fizzy appearance without bringing to a boil.
Add cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly until each handful is melted before adding the next - do not let the fondue boil.
Once cheese is added, continue stirring one minute - do not let the fondue boil.
Stir in cornstarch. Continue stirring until mixture thickens to fondue consistency. (I find that some cornstarch brands thicken more easily than others. If your fondue remains thin, add 1 more tablespoon cornstarch diluted with 2 tablespoons white wine.)
If using porcini, stir the mushrooms into the cheese at this point.
Remove from heat. Pour cheese into a warm fondue pot. Serve immediately with lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Tip: Use the bread cubes on fondue forks to stir the fondue at the table. Avoid letting the fondue come to a boil.