The best recipes are those that are handed down through generations. This past Saturday, I was privileged to watch a family recipe being prepared for us. The recipe was our friend's Mom who lives in the Jura area, the French part of Switzerland that my husband and I have visited in our travels to Switzerland.
Fondues were so popular in the seventies. My first fondue and one I have never forgotten was prepared by a coworker's husband who was Austrian. This recipe was also his mom's recipe. This Classic Cheese Fondue has become the gauge to meet when making this dish. The table was beautifully set as we sat around a pot filled with bubbling cheese and enjoyed the leisurely pace on a cold Manitoba winter night. Kirsch, a cherry brandy had been used to thin the cheese mixture when it became too thick. At the end, as the cheese start to stick to the pot, a raw egg was dropped into the to and stirred quickly to remove the crust.
The Fondue that was prepared this weekend was called a Forest Fondue. The Fondue had shallots, mushrooms and parsley mixed into the cheese. The mushroom added an earthly layer to the creamy cheese.
Although fondues seem to be in and out of fashion, fondues in Switzerland are timeless.
The steps in making this Forest Fondue are very similar to the Classic Cheese Fondue
Three shallots were chopped and sautéed in butter until soften.
The cheese had been grated before starting the Fondue. 150 grams of cheese were calculated per person. An interesting point was that 250 gms of cheese per person are calculated in Switzerland. Gruyere Cheese and Emmental Cheese were used for the fondue. There was some discussion that the flavors were more intense in Jura as the cheese used by his Mom is more aged than what he can find in Canada.
Mushrooms had also been cleaned and sliced before beginning. Once the shallots were soften, mushroom were added to the pot and sautéed until soften. A tsp of Dijon Mustard was added to the mixture.
I imagine that this recipe first originated with the use of wild mushroom picked in the Jura area.
Wine was added and brought to a warm simmer on Medium heat. Cheese was gradually added to the mushroom mixture and stirred until incorporated.
More cheese was added and again mixed. Great care was taken in watching the temperature of the fondue and consistency of the mixture while stirring constantly as he went along.
A dusting of cornstarch was added to the top of the cheese and mixed into the cheese mixture. A step that his Mom always did!
This skill and method of preparation of the Classic Fondue has been passed from generation to generation resulting in a silky bubbling cheese dish.
Kirsch with cornstarch mixed into the brandy was slowly added and mixed into the warm mixture.
Chopped parsley was added at the end into the mixture.
Another beautiful setting prepared for this Forest fondue.
Yes, all the mushrooms were near the bottom and were easier to scoop up as cheese mixture was used up!
As with the very first Fondue, this evening was filled with leisurely eating and good conservation. Maybe it is because this recipe has also been tested many times before being passed down, this Forest Fondue did not disappoint. To me watching my friend prepare his Mom's recipe so carefully and lovingly was the best part, his Mom would be so proud!
Although our friend stated that the amounts varied per recipe, there was a lot attention to detail in making his Mom's dish.. I did find a recipe very similar to his Mom's recipe but without Parsley and Dijon Mustard. This recipe uses Comte Cheese which is also a Swiss cheese
8 ounces mixed mushrooms (I like a combination of crimini and shitake, but use your favorites), roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons Kirsch
½ pound Comté cheese, shredded
½ pound Emmental cheese, shredded
Bring a medium size heavy pot to medium heat. Add butter then mushrooms. Sauté for 6 - 10 minutes to soften. Remove mushrooms from pot and set aside.
Rub the inside of the pot well with garlic and then discard the garlic. Add wine and bring to a simmer (but not a boil!).
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and Kirsch then add into the wine.
Gradually add the cheeses and stir together until the cheese is melted and creamy (around 5 minutes). You’ll know it’s done when you can dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and it coats the spoon.
Add the mushrooms back to the pot and stir to combine.
Transfer the warm mixture to a fondue pot set over a small flame. You will want to continue stirring periodically while over the flame. Serve with bread cubes, vegetable slices, apple slices, or roasted potatoes.
The cornstarch is not used as a thickener here but instead is used to prevent the cheese from separating. If the cheese mixture begins to get too thick or hard, add about a tablespoon of additional wine at a time and stir. Add more if necessary. If it’s too thin, add more shredded cheese a little at a time.