Life in a Northern Town

Hard Cider & Calvados Cheese Fondue

Cheese fondue. Those two words conjure up memories of being a Holly Hobby bell-bottomed wearing kid in the 70's, scooping 'fancy' swiss cheese out of my Mom's fondue pot and feeling pretty fancy myself. We didn't eat it often, (imagine the chaos a bunch of kids with sharp forks, hot oil and a bubbling pot of cheese could create on a Saturday evening) but when we did, it was memorable. Jack and his friend, Jack, were home for spring break a few weeks ago and since this is northern Wisconsin, there was a fresh 6 inches of snow on the ground. Chaos doesn't scare me so I dug out the fondue pots, found the forks and started shredding and melting a pile of Emmetaler. I forgot how fun it is to dip, swirl and retrieve wayward pieces of bread/sausage/potatoes in the fondue pot.

A word to the wise— keep your eyes on that little, yet strangely powerful, Sterno container. I didn't and there was a nice, dark layer of burned cheese on the bottom of our pot. Other than that, our night was chaos free and full of cheesy goodness. Until we went to bed. Ted and I were having our customary recap of the evening's dinner and festivities and he looked at me with a sheepish smile and said, "I don't like fondue".  After I took a few moments to gather myself and digest his fondue revelation, he assured me, "don't worry, we're still Raclette people". What a relief.

Hard Cider & Calvados Cheese Fondue (Adapted from Epicurious.com)

4 cups coarsely grated Emmentaler cheese (about 1 pound) 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 cup hard apple cider 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons Calvados 1 cup caramelized onions, rough chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 Northern Waters Smokehaus (or another high quality) kielbasa sausages, cut on the bias into 1/2 inch thick slices 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 2 inch long pieces 2 pounds fingerling potatoes 1 baguette, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

Preparation Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrot pieces with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 30 minutes or until softened but not overly browned. Grill the kielbasa pieces on a stove top grill until they are warmed and have grill marks on each side. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, place the fingerling in the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are softened. Set the kielbasa, carrots, potatoes aside in a warm oven until you are ready to serve the fondue.

Toss the cheese and cornstarch in large bowl to coat. Bring hard cider and vinegar just to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low (mixture should be barely simmering). Add a handful of cheese to simmering cider mixture. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add remaining cheese 1 handful at a time, stirring until melted between additions. Increase heat to medium and cook until fondue begins to bubble, stirring constantly. Stir in Calvados and caramelized onions. Season to taste with pepper. Transfer fondue to pot. Set fondue pot atop stand; light candle or canned heat burner. Serve with the kielbasa, carrots, potatoes and baguette pieces.