The last weekend of the holiday season is here. Kids will be back to school on Monday and pretty much all operations return to regular schedules. Perhaps you have one last weekend of hosting a dinner and are looking for something a little lighter than you have been eating over these past two weeks. Why not try a fondue? I don’t do fondues often, but when I do, I’m reminded of how easy they are to prepare and how different and fun they are to enjoy. Guests can cook their own food at their own pace and enjoy the feeling of controlling how much they eat. It’s naturally gluten-free for those guests who require that type of meal. And, after this season of eating, you and your guests might find this a refreshing change.
Our parents introduced us to fondue in the 70’s. It was quite a trend then (especially in Montreal where my family grew up) and I think my Mom was interested in it because it seemed like easier prep and she was always looking for fresh ideas to get us to eat a variety of foods. She did chunks of chicken and beef cooked in peanut oil, served with rice and salad. We always had some dipping sauce for the meat. We liked it a lot, although my Dad was a bit impatient with it and always wanted multiple forks to use so he didn’t have to wait as long to eat!! We used to tease him about that!
In the 80’s, our parents introduced us to Chinese Fondue. This is one where you have paper thin slices of beef that you roll onto your fondue fork and cook in a delicious broth. You also cook vegetables in this broth. We grew to love this version because it seemed less stressful than cooking with the hot oil and also you got to incorporate lots of veggies in the dinner. We still served it with rice and salad and dipping sauces. Cooked shrimp that are warmed up in the broth can also be added. Once you are done with all the cooking, the broth will have great flavour. So, crack a fresh egg in it and whisk it up and then you can serve little bowls of egg drop soup at the end of the meal. It’s so tasty, but don’t forget to let everyone know you are doing this so they save some room to enjoy it!
When I was in university, friends were also into this dinner. It was a great dinner to serve because it wasn’t all that expensive and you didn’t need any cooking skills! One of the things that can happen is that the items fall off your fork and into the broth. No worries, there’s a tool for that! Keep one of these small basket tools handy and you’ll rescue the items quickly and easily. Most kitchen stores would have them.
(Or if you are like one of my university friends, turn it into a game and if you lose what’s on your fork, you have to drink the contents of your glass!! He thought that was funny back in the 80’s, but of course, only a handful of people were that adventurous!!)
Truthfully, I’ve always wondered whether this fondue is really Chinese, or was just a marketing thing back then. So, when my husband and I decided that’s what we’d do for New Year’s Eve this year, I took to the internet to see if Chinese Fondue was a real thing…I looked it up and found that it is also referred to as Chinese Hot Pot cooking. In Montreal, this meat is readily available in grocery stores in the frozen section and at the butcher counter. We try to bring some home when we visit family because it’s not readily available at our grocery stores where we live. You can get it, but need to ask the butcher to pre-order it. That’s because they freeze it slightly to get it sliced very thinly. And, because it’s a specialty item, it’s more expensive than I’m used to paying in Montreal. So, for our New Year’s Eve fondue this year, we substituted stir-fry strips and it worked well too.
Here’s what you need to do to put together the fondue dinner:
- Heat up about 2 litres of good quality chicken broth on the stove. Transfer to your fondue pot and light the flame beneath your pot. (You can make your own broth or use best quality low salt broth available at your grocery store). Follow directions and cautions on your fondue pot for using fuel correctly
- Cut vegetables in large enough pieces to stay on the fondue fork. I use mushrooms, peppers, and broccoli. (Cauliflower and Brussel sprouts would also work)
- Arrange meat and vegetables on a platter. (I also add large cooked shrimp that can be heated up in the pot). Budget about a half pound of meat per person and 3 or 4 shrimp each, depending on the size of shrimp. (Some will eat less, and some more but these amounts will ensure you don’t run short!)
- Serve with dipping sauces: Two favourites are two parts steak or BBQ sauce with 1 part mayonnaise and a teaspoon of honey, and cocktail sauce if you are having shrimp. Be creative with your sauces and make up your own recipe…we also like Asian sesame, ginger or peanut sauces…use spicy sauces if you like it hot
- Prepare your favourite rice and salad to serve with the meal, and perhaps some fresh bread (regular or gluten-free)
- At the end of the meal, crack an egg in the pot. Whisk for 1 minute and serve small bowls of deliciously flavoured soup, thanks to all the meat and veggie cooking!
And for dessert??? Chocolate fondue, of course! (That may be a future post!)
Preparation and clean-up are a breeze for this meal, so relax and enjoy! And, if you’ve got leftovers, just turn it into a stir-fry for the next day! Drop me a note to let me know how you enjoyed it!