Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Après Ski Fondue

cabinAfter an introduction to the sport, I don’t think I’m en route to becoming a champion skier, but I may well take the prize for top après ski enthusiast! During a dream weekend in Vermont, spent skiing Stratton and Okemo Mountains, the Italiano and I cuddled up in front of a roaring fire, built for four in the winter chalet Erin and her man rent every season. The place looks like the cabin of my fantasy, filled with hand-carved, wooden everything—a favorite aesthetic in the kitchen and elsewhere. It sits atop a hill in the middle of nowhere. In fact, “Nowhere” felt like heaven last weekend on my first official getaway with the Italian. Alas, no Vespa ride to New England; I had too much baggage…

liftsIn addition to a suitcase full of Vermont-chic après ski wear (fluffy sweaters and cute tweed vests!) I took a bag stuffed with begged-for, borrowed and loaned ski gear. I intended to impress the Italiano with my I-know-you-grew-up-next-door-to-the-Alps-but-I-too-grew-up-in-a-‘powder town’-where-babes-are-born-“shredding nar” (just picked up the phrase, not convinced I’m using it right; who am I kidding?!).

I also lugged the better part of my kitchen up north. To me, ski weekend conjures “hot toddies in the lodge” more than “grueling afternoon tackling the slopes.” So in Vermont, what I was really looking forward to was après ski fondue at the chalet after a bottle of red and a toke of green. I came prepared for both.

Having prepped everything for easy, delicious fondue back in New York and then having stashed it all in Tupperware for the weekend, putting dinner on the table in Vermont took Erin and I a matter of minutes. I brought a sensational bottle of French Hard Apple Cider, Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie, girls_007bought at Gourmet Garage of all places (who knew you could score a French Brut at a grocery store in NYC?), to help melt the cheese—a combo of gruyère and emmentaler with and a dash of Vermont cheddar I had leftover in my fridge (too apropos not to!). I also used the cider to steam my asparagus, fingerlings and maple kielbasa from the farmer’s market…divine. Having already chopped up my remaining dippers and shredded the cheese, which was tossed with corn starch and a bit of seasoning, we picked up a loaf of good, chewy sourdough on our way home from the mountain and were ready to let the après take over by the time our skies were stacked beside the door, our wind-burned faces had paled to pink, and our fires were blazing.

Fondue for Four

ciderYou don’t need fancy fondue equipment to make this work, though it certainly fits the bill should you find yourself up the mountains. Forks, a saucepot, and a tea light will do in a pinch.

  • I LB Gruyère Cheese (shredded)
  • ½ LB Emmentaler Cheese (shredded)
  • ¼ LB Vermont Cheddar Cheese (shredded)
  • 2 TB Cornstarch
  • 1 Garlic Clove (smashed)
  • 1 ¼ cups Hard Apple Cider
  • 1 pinch Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fondue Dippers of your choosing

Have fun choosing what to dip into your fondue. I went all out this past weekend and grabbed a little bit of everything from across the map and each food group: cubes of sourdough bread, asparagus stems, fingerling potatoes, maplekielbasa, spicy cured soppersattacornichon pickles, red olives, romanesco (or green cauliflower), roasted butternut squash, baby carrots, Bartlett pears, and Pink Lady apples. fondueMost can be eaten raw and the few items you prefer cooked should be steamed or roasted in the very same cider you choose for the fondue. The apples were a surprise hit (I can’t recommend these Union Square greenmarket gems highly enough) and the leftover veggies and cheese made gorgeous omelets in the morning.

In a bowl with a lid, combine all cheeses, cornstarch, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste; seal the lid and shake vigorously until evenly coated. Take the smashed clove of garlic and smear it across the bottom and sides of the saucepot you plan to melt your fondue in; if little bits of the garlic fall off that’s a-okay; it’ll add a punch to the fondue for lucky dippers. Add the cider, or if unavailable, beer or wine works well, and a pinch more salt. Bring to a boil and stir in all your cheese. Turn heat to low and stir continuously until well blended and thick, about 5 minutes. Check seasoning before transferring to a fondue or serving bowl and keep warm under a tea light candle, or fancy fondue thing-a-ma-jig.

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