Everything old is new again! The height of chic in the 60s and 70s, when everyone got at least one fondue pot as a wedding gift, fondue has made a bit of a resurgence. A fondue party is really easy to put together, is scalable for a number of guests and can be the basis of a community potluck or a romantic dinner for two. Follow our guide to the three key courses of a great fondue party and the basics of what you need to throw one, then get melting!
Tools for a Fondue Party
First, and this may seem obvious, you need a fondue pot! If you’re doing a three-course fondue meal, you’ll need at least three. Otherwise, your dinner will take eternity as you clean and restart each pot between courses. Some experts recommend different types of fondue pots for cheese, chocolate and the “hot pot” courses, so do your research. You can get electric fondue pots that maintain even temperatures or traditional ones that run on candles, Sterno and other fuel sources.
To add an element of kitschy fun to your fondue experience, check out thrift and antique stores for vintage pots from the 70s. You may even find them in the classic 70s kitchen colors of orange, harvest gold, avocado and brown, or painted in fun patterns.
Whatever fondue pot you use, buy extra fondue forks. Don’t question this. Just do it. You will need them, especially if you have a large group. People drop them, may want to change between courses, etc.
Don’t forget to make sure guests know the basics of fondue etiquette, which is pretty simple. NO double dipping! Dip food, then transfer to your plate and enjoy with a real fork or your fingers. Stir your cheese and chocolate in a figure 8 pattern with your fondue fork to maintain smoothness. Don’t crowd the pot. That’s really it!
Start Your Fondue Party with a Cheese Course
Cheese fondue is the classic fondue dish. Invented in the late 17th century, cheese fondue really took off when the Swiss Cheese Union promoted it as the national dish of Switzerland in the 1930s. Introduced to the United States in the 60s, it was an instant hit. The most traditional version involves both Gruyere and Emmenthaler cheeses, melted with white wine and a little cornstarch, a hint of garlic and perhaps a bit of Kirsch, a cherry liqueur.
Of course, fondue isn’t limited to the traditional recipe. Options with a variety of cheddars, light or dark beers, Monterey Jack, blue cheese, whiskey, Havarti, Mozzarella, different wines and lots of flavoring options. No matter what cheese fondue recipe you use, make sure to have lots of dippers for hungry guests! Sturdy breads like French, pumpernickel and sourdough are good options. Ham cubes, lightly blanched broccoli and cauliflower, sliced smoked sausages and soft pretzels are excellent dipping options.
Offer a green salad or Caesar salad option with cheese fondue to help cut the richness of the first course.
Second Course: “Hot Pot” Fondue
For the second course of a fondue dinner, provide a way for guests to cook their own meat, seafood and vegetables. You can do this with either hot oil or a simmering broth, which you can flavor with wine, herbs and aromatics if you want. Flavoring the broth can add an Asian flavor (cilantro, lemongrass), French notes (red wine, shallots, garlic), Mexican accents (chiles, cilantro, garlic) or other flavor notes.
Beef, in small cubes or thin slices, cubed tofu, scallops, shrimp and small cubes of boneless chicken breast all work well for cooking in oil or broth. IMPORTANT: a candle-heated pot will NOT get hot enough to safely cook meats, chicken and seafood. Make sure you are using the right kind of pot.
Dipping sauces are half the fun of this fondue course! If you choose to flavor your cooking liquid, choose sauces for dipping accordingly.
The Grand Finale: Chocolate Fondue
Glossy and rich, melted chocolate is a thing of beauty. Whether it’s milk, dark, somewhere in between or white chocolate, no one can resist melted chocolate coating fruit and other goodies. You can melt your chocolate with cream and leave it at that, or flavor it with any number of liqueurs or brandy: mint, Kirsch (cherry), Grand Marnier (orange), Cointreau (raspberry), Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto and more. The best bet, as with cheese, is to melt your chocolate slowly on the stove and rely on the fondue pot only to keep it liquid, not to do the cooking.
What to dip? Options abound! Mini marshmallows, broken macaroons, pretzels, shortbread cookies (finger dipped – they won’t work with a fork) and pound cake are all good choices. Fresh fruit dipped in chocolate is a delight. Try whole strawberries, raspberries, sliced bananas, maraschino cherries, chunks of pineapple, mandarin orange slices, grapes, apple slices and pear slices. Make sure all fruit is washed and patted dry if necessary before serving so the chocolate will cling to the surface.
If you want to do a fondue party for a large crowd or community gathering, pool your resources! If you have a fondue pot languishing in a storage bin or basement, odds are your friends and neighbors do too. Download Martha Stewart’s handy fondue planning guide, chill lots of white wine and hard cider and start planning your fondue dinner party today!