Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Valentine's Day Tradition: Fondue At Home

On February 14, 2006, the guy I was dating had a very special evening planned for me. It was a total surprise, but I went to his place prepared - with a card and two wine glasses (and maybe a bottle of wine too. I can't remember...) as a small gift.

I walked in to his apartment but he was no where in sight. But then behind the door to his room (he was sharing a place with two roommates at the time), there he was. He had set up a makeshift table with a red tablecloth, candles, and the fixings for fondue for two.
I'd never made fondue before - I probably had only had it at restaurants in Paris where I had been living the year before. He knew how to make fondue? Cool!
So we enjoyed a romantic dinner, shared cards, and headed out to a jazz concert. Such a great memory. That night I told this guy that I loved him for the first time. And every February 14th since then, I've had fondue with the same guy and I've told him that I love him. I love traditions and I love that the fondue-maker is now my husband of almost 5 years.

We've varied the type of fondue we make each year. The first year was Welsh Rarebit. The 3rd year we were in Paris, so we went out to a fondue restaurant there.

This year, our seventh year, we did one of our favorites: gruyere cheese and leeks made with beer. Mmm, good.

First, saute the leeks in a little bit of butter, then add 2 tablespoons of flour to create a roux - the thickening agent to make the cheese a nice consistency.

Add a cup of beer. We used Blue Moon Winter Ale - it's what we had on hand. Then add 2 cups (more if you like) of shredded gruyere cheese. It would work with white cheddar as well.

It should be nice and gooey after all the cheese melts. Yum.

This time we did a vegetarian version and used a whole wheat french bread, cut into cubes, and roasted fingerling potatoes and romanesco cauliflower from our CSA box. Other nice dippers are green apples (sweet and salty are good together sometimes!), sliced sausage, carrots and/or broccoli. Veggies can be steamed, boiled, or roasted - whichever way you like.

Here's my valentine enjoying fondue, some Alsacien Gerwurztraminer, and Leffe Brune, a Belgian ale. And yeah, your eyes are correct. We have drum kit in our dining area. :)

We have an electric fondue pot by Rival, but you can use a traditional pot with a flame underneath, or just make it over the stove in a pot then transfer it to a dish for dipping at the table. The benefit of an actual fondue pot is that it keeps it melted and hot during the whole meal.
Here's the recipe:
Leek & Gruyere Fondue
1 cup finely chopped leeks (be sure to clean all the sand out from each layer)
2T butter
2T flour
1 cup beer
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
pepper to taste

In a small pot or a fondue pot, melt butter and add leeks. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until leeks are transparent but not browned. Sprinkle in flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add beer and stir until thickened. Add cheese and continue to stir until completely melted. Top with cracked black pepper. Enjoy with dippers and a glass of wine or beer!

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