Donna gave me quite a challenge this month with her theme for the 8th edition of the IMBB ("Is my blog burning") event: "Raise your spirits high". She asked to prepare anything which has wine or spirits as a protagonist and while I use alcohol a lot in sauces, soups, risottos etc, I would not necessarily list them as a main component.
Then I woke up one morning and I realised that summer was over - it's cold, miserable and wet, and - to add insult to injury - Christmas decoration is piling up high everywhere you look... this is when my body starts longing not for quick and simple suppers like salads and pasta, but is screaming for stodge and carbs, or anything rich in calories, really.
So I decided to arrange a laid back, heart-warming evening with a cheese fondue, which definitely responds to Donna's brief, as the cheese is melted in a lot of white wine AND some spirits (cherry or some other fruit schnaps, to be precise). And while quantity-wise the alcohol only comes in second, cheese quite obviously being the predominant ingredient, it certainly is a VITAL component.
Kudos for this recipe to my better half, since I am not the cheese fondue meister at home. I can merely take credit for the careful selection of ingredients: a Pinot Grigio from the North of Italy, a great range of tasty, but creamy cheeses (Raclette, Gruyère, Comté and Bergkäse), crunchy cornichons, pickled silverskin onions, crusty baguette and Teufelswürstel (little spicy hard sausages which I buy at Hable Landmetzgerei in Aurolzmünster, Austria) and last, but not least a home-made (if not self-made) apricot schnaps distilled by an old woman in the South-East of Hungary (the mother of my father's colleague Šandor) and "smuggled" into the UK in an innocent-looking bottle of mineral water.
The latter plays a more important role than you might think, as cheese fondue etiquette demands that if anyone loses their bread in the cheese melt, they must drink a glass of schnaps immediately. And if you think this is harsh, think again: the traditional rule says they must be drowned in lake Geneva with a millstone tied to their neck: this is too terminal a punishment for my liking and you will find that our schnaps fining system is much more fun!
Mr. Obermayr's Cheese Fondue
(serves 4 with a healthy appetite)
350 ml dry white wine (for example a Pinot Grigio from Italy or a Pinot Gris from Alsace)
420 g Raclette
350 g Gruyère
200 g Vorarlberger Bergkäse
200 g Comté Vieille Réserve
1 clove garlic (crushed)
8 cl schnaps (kirsch or other fruit schnaps)
3 crusty baguettes
1 jar cornichons or cocktail gherkins
1 jar pickled silverskin onions
20 Teufelswürstel (little spicy hard sausages)
nutmeg and white pepper to season
Heat the wine with the garlic in a fondu pot*. Grate the cheeses and add them in little by little, stirring constantly. When the cheese has melted, add the schnaps.
Dunk the sliced baguette, pickles and sausages in the melted cheese using fondu forks/sticks.
Any top-quality Grüner Veltliner or Pinot Gris, even a European Sauvignon Blanc or very dry Riesling would work nicely.
Avoid the New World wines which generally have an overpowering fruitiness not suitable for this occasion.
*We use an electric non-stick fondue set from Tefal.