What's Cooking?

Kids gobble cheese, but not fondue

October 22, 2008 

  • AT A GLANCE



    Here are some tips on selecting ingredients from "Great Party Fondues," by Peggy Fallon (Wiley, $16.95).

    BREAD: Buy a good, chewy French or Italian loaf that will withstand the heat of the fondue and the density of the cheese. Cut into bite-size cubes with a serrated knife, leaving the crust intact.

    CHEESE: Buy the best cheese you can find. Taste a sample to be sure you like it a lot, and avoid pre-grated cheese.

    CHOCOLATE: Purchase large chunks of good-quality chocolate with high cacao content. Don't use semisweet chocolate chips; they will not provide the silky texture or intense flavor of premium chocolate.

    CORNSTARCH: A small amount will keep the cheese from separating when heated and keeps the fondue smooth.

    FISH AND SHELLFISH: Fresh is everything.

    KIRSCH: For cheese fondue, a bottle of good imported kirsch is a long-term investment, as it is used sparingly.

    MEAT: Bright red, fresh smelling, glossy meat is a must. Buy the most tender boneless cut. It should be lightly marbled.

    OIL: Peanut oil will withstand the highest heat without smoking.

    VEGETABLES: Blanch asparagus, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower for a minute or two.

    WINE: Use a crisp, acidic wine, like one from Switzerland. California chardonnays are too rich or oaky.

Who doesn't like melted cheese?

My kids, that's who. They eat their weight in cheese sticks every day, but the minute I — gasp! — melt cheese, they turn up their noses.

"It smells stinky, Mommy," the 4-year-old said.

"Why isn't it orange?" the 6-year-old wanted to know.

"I want a sandwich," they declared in unison.

This is particularly disappointing because I chose this week's recipe, called "Fondue For You," for my children. It's from a show Emeril did on cooking for kids. Or with kids. Or having kids cook for you. Or something.

Whatever the theme, fondue was the most kid-friendly thing on the menu. Among Emeril's other offerings supposedly geared toward children: green beans with almonds and herb-crusted halibut fillets called "Mommy's Fish Sticks."

Parents know kids don't eat these things, no matter what we call them. Sure, we are supposed to serve green beans and fish to our children in hopes that someday — say, the 50th time "Mommy's Fish Sticks" turn up on their plate — they will finally accept them as an alternative to Goldfish crackers and SpongeBob yogurt.

Who are we kidding? We don't even like green beans and fish sticks. At least I don't. But I do like fondue. And I had hoped my children would, too.

Shopping for this dish was painful. The cheese alone cost nearly $20. Preparation was no picnic. It took forever to dice and grate the cheese.

Making the dish seemed easy. I melted the butter and sautéed the shallots. But once I had added the cheese in batches, and it had all melted, I wondered if the fondue was done. I had expected something along the lines of cheese sauce. What I had was cheese soup.

I was afraid the fondue would separate if I cooked it longer, so I poured some of it into a small saucepan and put that in a larger pot of warm water and carried it to the table. (We don't have a fondue pot). We served it with boiled potatoes, chunks of bread, apples and pears for dipping.

One bite and I was hooked. The fondue may have been watery, but it was rich and flavorful. I couldn't get enough.

My kids refused to try it, but they did make a meal of potatoes, bread and fruit. That's a lot healthier than the melted cheese I was trying to get them to eat.

Still, I'm disappointed. I hoped that, just once, we would all eat the same thing for dinner. I guess I can always serve cheese sticks.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at kmccray@modbee.com.

What The Testers Had To Say

When I was a teenager, my favorite part of Swiss cheese were the holes, and my least favorite part about cheese fondue (with Gruyer and Emmentaler Swiss cheese) was the cheese, so it was with fearful optimism that I served this to my two teenagers. And they didn't think it too bad. My daughter liked it with potatoes and asparagus; my son didn't think it had much flavor, bad or good. (He actually liked the steak I served with it best). I thought the flavor was fine but nothing unique. The recipe seemed pretty fool-proof, and started out creamy enough, but eventually the cheese and liquids separated and it wasn't very pretty. So although I now like Swiss cheese and Gruyer-based fondues, this wasn't a "wow."

— Karin Reenstierna, Modesto

•  •  •

I looked forward to this recipe, getting out my grandma's olive green fondue pot, and melting gobs of cheese. I only made a couple of changes. I halved the recipe and replaced the water with white wine. I used half Guyer, one-quarter aged Emmentaler and one-quarter Swiss. The aged Emmentaler has a very strong flavor, so I'm glad the other cheeses cut down on the Emmentaler. I LOVE cheese. It is my favorite single food item, so I was a little disappointed with this recipe. The addition of shallots was new and the lemon juice makes it very fresh and bright, but the fondue itself was very thin. It rolled off the fruit and bread; I love thick, gooey fondue that sticks. The next time I make this recipe, I would cut down the liquid by about a third.

— Lisa Moreci, Oakdale

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