(BUSINESS WIRE)--With the hectic bustle of the holiday season in full swing, The Melting Pot fondue restaurant (http://meltingpot.com) offers tips for holiday entertaining, fondue-style, that can keep the host mingling with guests and out of the kitchen.
“Fondue is a fun and interactive experience, which makes it the perfect holiday party activity,” says Shane Schaibly, manager of culinary development for The Melting Pot. “Most people have a fondue pot, whether it’s left over from the disco days or a new wedding gift, and can easily throw together a great meal to share with friends.”
Fondue dishes range from easy cheese appetizers and complete dinner entrées to chocolate desserts. Chef Schaibly offers the following tips to make each course at home.
1. Chill your cheese. Shredding cheese when it’s cold ensures the pieces maintain similar sizes and prevents clumping, which can lead to lumpy fondue.
2. Dust lightly in flour. This ensures the fondue reaches a smooth consistency. Use one tablespoon of flour for every two ounces of cheese. Gluten-free dieters can replace the flour with cornstarch.
3. Be a smart matchmaker. Keep cheeses from the same region together, as their flavors will naturally complement each other. Including only two or three varieties will allow each flavor to come through without being overpowered or lost.
1. Ensure the oil is the right temperature. Oil is the traditional cooking style and is still best for batter-dipped proteins. But it can be quite temperamental. If the oil is too hot, it will cook the outside of the protein but leave the inside raw. If it isn’t hot enough, it won’t fully cook the protein. Aim for 350° F, and test with a food thermometer.
2. Dry the dippers. Any water on the food will cause oil to pop, so make sure the vegetables are dry before dipping.
3. Be health-conscious. Vegetable bouillon is a low-sodium, low-fat, high-flavor alternative to oil. It’s also more forgiving because if a piece of meat isn’t done to perfection, it can be dipped back in for an extra minute or two.
4. Experiment with other cooking styles. Some other cooking styles available are coq au vin, a blend of burgundy wine and vegetable stock with chopped vegetables, and mojo, a garlic and citrus flavored broth. Both are similar to bouillon in their forgiving cooking times and go well with a wide range of protein choices.
1. Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate. This is a delicate process. If any water makes it into the top bowl, the chocolate will become grainy and lumpy and will be unusable.
2. Melt it in the microwave. Place penny sized pieces into a round, microwave safe container and nuke for 30 seconds at a time at medium heat. Between warmings, stir the chocolate completely until it becomes fluid and then transfer to a fondue pot.
3. Set it on fire. Flambéing is a fancy trick that is easy enough for beginners to do and certain to impress the dinner crowd. Use one tablespoon of high-proof liquor (The Melting Pot uses Bacardi 151) and light it in a fireproof container, then pour it into the fondue. A sprinkling of cinnamon will sparkle like fireworks.
1. Small dippers work best. They must be bite-size; too small and they’ll fall off the skewer, too large and cooking times increase.
2. Choose the dippers. Cheese fondue is best accompanied by assorted breads (pumpernickel, French baguette, rye), vegetables (carrots, celery, cauliflower), or fruit (apples, grapes). But if the local bakery has a family favorite, use it! If the kids don’t like cauliflower, leave it out!
3. Prep proteins the day before. If meats are on the menu, be sure to marinate them the day before so they can absorb plenty of flavor. Small raviolis are also a nice entrée selection and don’t take long to cook.
4. Prepare for dessert. Dessert accompaniments are the easiest to select, mostly because everything tastes great when dipped in chocolate. The Melting Pot offers marshmallows, cheesecake, pound cake, strawberries, bananas, pineapples and brownies. Fruits, sturdy cakes and cookies are a good choice here, as well as Rice Krispies® Treats.
“Sharing a pot of fondue is a great way to slow down and connect with the people you care about,” says Schaibly. “It’s easy to make because there aren’t any hard and fast rules in fondue. If it tastes great, it was done right.”
For more tips and complete recipes, take a look at The Melting Pot’s recently-released first cookbook. Available in the restaurants, “Dip Into Something Different – A Collection of Recipes from Our Fondue Pot to Yours,” features signature recipes for the restaurant’s most popular fondue dishes, salads and accompanying cocktails.
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