Having lived all over the country, I can tell you that no one appreciates winter more than a Minnesotan. Yes, there are some who don’t enjoy cold and snow. But I was surprised to hear so many of my Northland friends and neighbors lamenting last year’s unusually mild winter and how it restricted their favorite frozen activities like pond hockey, cross-country skiing and ice fishing. While most people huddle up inside and wait out the cold weather until spring, these hearty souls look forward to getting outside in the frosty temps and making the most of the season.
It’s inspiring to say the least, and certainly a good way to get some fresh air and exercise during a time when many of us just stare at the treadmill and think “not again.” And for those who dare to venture outside, there is nothing better than coming back in to a warm and comforting meal.
In my mind, one of the most iconic winter dishes is cheese fondue. Of course it’s an indulgence, but one you can afford if you’ve been out all day cross-country skiing. Better yet, it’s a wonderful way to engage everyone in the meal, especially the kids, who have no end of fun swirling their broccoli-speared fondue forks around in the gooey melted cheese.
Cheese fondue is an easy dish to make, once you know a few important details.
• The acid: Dry white wine is typically used as the liquid in fondue. It works well because it usually has enough natural acid to break down the proteins in the cheese to create a smooth texture. I add a little lemon juice, just to give the wine a boost. If you’re using a liquid other than wine, such as broth or apple juice, you may need to add more lemon juice to keep your fondue from clumping.
• The binder: A little flour or cornstarch tossed with the grated cheese will help to prevent the wine and cheese from separating during the cooking process.
• The heat: Low and slow is best. Don’t ever boil your fondue. Simmering will give you a smooth texture and help prevent burning. If the heat is too high, it might cause your fondue to separate or become grainy.
So don’t let the chilly temps dissuade you. Get outside and enjoy the season, then come back in and enjoy a delicious meal. You’ve earned it!
For the fondue pot
Dippers are half the fun of fondue and it’s nice to have a reasonably wide variety. Since the fondue itself is rich, it’s good to keep the dippers as lean as possible. I like to have a colorful array of veggies and fruits piled high on a platter. And ice cold dippers are not appealing, so try to serve them at room temperature, or even warm where appropriate. Here are some of my favorites:
• Cubes of whole-grain bread
• Lightly blanched or roasted veggies such as broccoli, carrots, green beans, new potatoes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts
• Green apple chunks
• Seedless grapes
• Bite-sized pieces of turkey or chicken sausage, ham or cooked chicken breast
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.