Happy Boxing Day, everyone!
We had my family (My mom, dad, and brother) over to our house for dinner on Christmas Eve. I decided that I wanted the evening to be more than a simple dinner and a movie, so I tried to find what I thought might be the most interactive and fun meal. Fondue!
I went to Harmons around noon on Christmas Eve, which was basically as soon as a realized that the snow was starting to stick ans wasn’t letting up any time soon. I wasn’t sure what kind of crowd there would be at the store. Large, but generally genial. The employees in the produce section seemed grumpy, as seems to be traditional there, but the people at the butcher counter, the deli, the bakery, and the cheese counter all seemed to be having a good time. There were Christmas carols playing and I heard lots of people saying Merry Christmas to each other. Even with a shortage running on quite a few products no one seemed to too stressed or rude. That shopping trip was actually one of my favorite holiday things I’ve done this year.
The first course was the cheese fondue, served alongside the salad, because the rest of my family is mentally American and doesn’t get that salad should be a course in and of itself. The salad was a strawberry and feta salad with a blush wine vinaigrette.
The fondue was the XXX recipe from the Melting Pot Cookbook. Since I am pretty sensitive to alcohol (and I mean that not the sense that I am a lightweight, though probably true, but the sense that I can feel it burning in my throat when it hasn’t been properly cooked off) I defied the recipe and mixed the cherry liqueur and wine together and cooked them for a few minutes to make sure the alcohol was well and truly gone. This didn’t seem to have any deleterious effect on the final product.
I added a little butterkäse to the cheese mixture for it’s smooth texture and mild flavor. The other cheeses were a blend of emmenthal (or, as the cheesemonger kept calling it emmentaler), and gruyere. I heart both of those Swiss cheeses. Please, if I may? You can buy any old cheese you want for everyday use. But for the holidays, and doubly for holiday fondue, I implore you. Buy good cheese. Go someplace with a cheesemonger, spend the extra few bucks, and buy the stuff that they cut off of a wheel. Shrinkwrapped cheese is not a holiday food.*
I might have gotten a little over enthusiastic when it comes to the dippables, but I figured each and every one would make a good leftover. In no particular order…. pretzel sticks, green apples, red apples, Lil’ Smokies, salami (Musica by Creminelli, try it if you get the chance,) ham cubes, green grapes, bread cubes, and potato chunks (steamed).
After the fondue we were all a bit stuffed, so we decided to watch a movie and then have dessert. Did you know that it’s the 20th anniversary of Muppets Christmas Carol? It’s probably my favorite Christmas movie ever.
When I mentioned to my next door neighbor, Brittany, that I was doing fondue for diner she offered her chocolate fountain. I’d never used a chocolate fountain before. Well, that’s not true. There’s a buffet in Wendover that has one. But I’d never run one. It’s pretty fun. The machine’s manual indicated that I needed to use a minimum of 8 cups of chocolate, so I mixed two bags of milk chocolate chips with one bag of semi-sweet and one bag of “bittersweet” (60%). The dippables were: strawberries, apples, grapes, pretzel sticks (yes, I carried a few things over from the cheese), Oreos, Butter Wafers, and marshmallows (vanilla, made at Harmons, incredible.) it was a lot of fun. It turns out that if your table isn’t 100% level the chocolate will sometimes not sheet totally evenly, but there was still plenty of chocolate flowing.
In the end the meal was declared fun by all, and that was about the nicest thing I could have heard.
*More on the value of qualified food merchants to come in my first blog post about our trip to Europe. Yay!