A recent evening’s journey home was blanketed by a most gentle fog, like thin icing that’s been poured over a warm cake, puddling in indiscriminate pockets. It was a wretched reminder of our unseasonably warm weather this holiday season. I long for a snow of Dickensian proportions*; the kind that draws you out for a brisk, cheek-reddening stroll. As I type this, the mercury reads 70 degrees and the sun has fooled my roses into thinking it’s spring. Our neighbor keeps prattling on about the “gift” we’ll receive by way of our utility bill, clearly diverting attention away from the dreadful rattle of his own heating unit which has momentarily gifted us with its silence. (He is also one of those sorts that keeps pressing us to have another baby. I’m considering a response of “well, we keep trying but have met with several disappointments,” to quiet him. It’s probably bad luck to lie in such a manner and I shall rather bite my tongue.)
Not unexpectedly, I’ve been unable to invoke the Christmas spirit despite tireless efforts to do just that. I’ve had carols piped throughout the house, repeatedly for days. I’ve added enough egg nog to my coffee that I’m sure my cholesterol has leapt several points. I’ve brought out my woolens and furs and have flirted with some choice tweeds. The Royal Stewart tartan blanket has been fetched from storage and, yet, I feel nothing……well, I do feel a tad feverish under this tartan blanket. Just now a mosquito, the official winged creature of summer, buzzed my head.
I fear my desire to start a Christmas Eve tradition of fondue will be quashed and replaced with, dare I say, sausages on the grill? Perish the thought!
CHRISTMAS EVE FONDUE
A failsafe fondue recipe, from I believe Town and Country magazine**, that has never let me down:
- Kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic, end cut off and discarded
- 12 oz. (6 oz. each) Gruyère and Emmentaler cheese, grated in the food processor because who wants to hand grate when they don’t have to!
- 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch (some say this is optional but I highly recommend using it)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. kirsch (optional - I use an apple brandy because I’ve yet to find kirsch in Virginia’s ABC stores)
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- You can make this from start to finish in the fondue pot but I don’t recommend it. Use the fondue pot for serving but do all of your preparation in a heavy-bottomed 2 quart saucepan. Put 1 teaspoon of salt in the pot and then rub the exposed end of the garlic like mad all over the surface, starting with the salt. When you’re done and your arm is sore, the entire surface should be coated with garlic and salt. Toss the garlic.
- Combine the grated cheeses with the cornstarch in a bowl, making sure the cornstarch is evenly distributed. Set aside. Add the wine and lemon juice to the prepared pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour yourself a glass of wine while you’re at it. When you’ve got a good boil going, add the cheese mixture and enthusiastically whisk to incorporate.
- After all the cheese has melted, continue to cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Whatever you do, don’t let the fondue boil. It will break and separate and you’ll be back at step 1 and out several dollars worth of delicious cheese.
- Stir in the kirsch (or brandy in my case) and season with salt and 4 grinds of pepper (or to taste), and add the nutmeg. Remove from the heat.
- Serve with any number of accoutrements. I’m fond of cubed bread, grapes, chunks or slices of apple, cauliflower, wild boar sausage and cornichons. Seriously, though, what doesn’t taste delicious dipped into melted cheese?
*You can blame Dickens for his nostalgic evocations of an unusually snowy childhood for all these “dreaming of a white Christmas” shenanigans.
**I have a habit of just tearing out bits of articles all willy nilly which makes it harder for attribution several years later.