Fondue is often thought of as a type of food that is best saved for the cold winter months.
Maybe because of its origins in the snowy mountains of Switzerland, or because of the tea light warmer that casts a glow upon the surrounding dining room, inciting a mood of coziness and romance.
Visit just about any big city, and you'll find at least a few fondue restaurants, complete with smooth jazz, big wine lists, and plenty of dove-eyed couples, all of them cuddling in snug leather booths surrounding a silly electric fondue heater.
These restaurants require customers to pay a hefty wad of cash, so they may, in turn, cook their own dinners.
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I've never really caught on to the fondue restaurant thing.
The fondue pot (those of you who got married in the '70s should be familiar) is a take-it-or-leave-it piece of kitchen equipment -- in my book.
I do own one, but have no idea where it is, or how to recover the colorful objects, formerly known as fondue forks, that have since become dueling devices for my son's Transformers action figures.
What I'm trying to say is please don't give up on this recipe because you sold your fondue pot in last year's church rummage sale. You can do without. I am all about breaking the rules of cooking as you know it.
As a spontaneous dinner party erupted at our house recently, I frantically raided the fridge for ingredients that I could put together to feed my perpetually hungry brothers and their gracious counterparts.
I found leftover cubed cheese, shallots, smoked sausage, some fresh veggies, a baguette and beer.
Out of desperation, I abandoned my former opinions regarding fondue's role as a romantic wintertime dish. As the warm sun set over the patio, we enjoyed an awesome summertime fondue barbecue.
A fondue-Q, if you will.
Everyone loved the communal dinner, and I didn't even use a fondue pot. It wouldn't have been necessary anyway, because the delicious cheesy fondue was gone before a tea light would have had the time to transfer a single BTU.
In keeping with June's theme as dairy month, this seemed to be the perfect recipe to share with you this week.
Try to find a California cheese, not just for this dish, but all the time. Not only is our cheese superior in taste and quality, it makes a big difference to the whole area when you take the time to buy local.
As you submerge a hearty chunk of chewy bread into this velvety cheese fondue, think of a local dairyman.
Through high butterfat and low bacteria counts, messy floods and devastating droughts, poor milk prices and high feed costs, these dairymen continue to soldier on in their Redwing boots, faithfully tending the herds that produce one of the safest, most nutritionally dense products available.
You can reach Amanda De Jager Friedman at amandadjf@gmailcom.
Recipe: Beer Cheese Fondue
1 pound of shredded cheddar
1 beer (use whatever you like to drink)
2 shallots, finely diced
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire
Dash of hot sauce
1. Toss shredded cheese with cornstarch until cheese is evenly coated. Over medium heat, using a medium pot, sauté shallots in butter until translucent, but do not brown.
2. When shallots are translucent, pour beer into the pot. Add Worcestershire to the beer. Bring to a boil. When the beer is boiling rapidly, slowly add cheddar, one big handful at a time. Stir the beer cheese mixture in a zig-zag motion, which will help to break up the cheese. Do not add another handful of cheese until the first is melted completely. Continue until all of the cheese is used. Season to taste with hot sauce.
3. Pour into a warm ceramic bowl, or fondue pot.
4. Serve with grilled steak cubes, grilled smoked sausage, sourdough or rye bread cubes, cherry tomatoes, celery, or whatever happens to be lurking in your fridge.