Weekend Dish column: Melt hearts with cheese and chocolate fondue
The Weekend Dish
Love is love, and it should be something that we feel for ourselves and others every single day.
It comes in so many different colors and shades, while leaving us vulnerable to pain. Yet, to truly feel it is one of the most profound experiences in life. There is no such thing as too much love in this world. I daresay we need it now more than ever.
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love. But the cynic in me wonders if it isn’t a capitalistic ploy to cash in on our most sacred feelings. Like so many of our holidays, it can be meaningful or commodified. It is what you make it.
Valentine’s Day has ancient roots in Western society. It originated as an early Christian feast day to celebrate Valentinus — also known as Saint Valentine. His saga is one of martyrdom and persecuted love.
Saint Valentine of Rome was famously imprisoned for marrying soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, and preaching the Gospel of Christ to persecuted citizens. He must have felt deeply enough about love to defy the Roman Empire. Forbidden love is usually the most tantalizing.
The saint also sent the first Valentine. According to his legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, even after he was sentenced to be executed. While awaiting execution, he wrote a farewell letter to the girl and signed it “Your Valentine.”
Saint Valentine was put to death on February 14, 269 (AD). He gave his life and became a martyr of love.
His sordid tale of love resonated throughout the Dark Ages. Still, it did not develop a romantic connotation until the days of Chaucer, in the 14th century, who put forth the notion of courtly love of chivalry. White knights saving distressed damsels became the archetype for Western romance.
In the 21st century, love has taken on new meanings and questions. We have expanded our acceptance of love while pondering the roles of gender and consent of intimacy. These questions aren’t fully worked out yet, but they are essential. What does Valentine’s Day mean to us now?
It is undoubtedly still commercialized. Some stores seem to put out Valentine’s merchandise in early autumn now. And advertisements always tell us that love is best expressed in diamonds or new luxury cars with a bow on top.
While it’s fine to use cash to express love, the most valuable memories come from shared experiences. Also, food is usually the key to another heart.
Chocolates are divine, and champagne is thrilling, but fondue is for lovers. The melting dance of pungent cheeses and rich chocolates is the perfect metaphor for love. Unique flavors swirl together seamlessly over a slow-burning flame.
Fondue is an experience to share. A variety of foods such as beef, cheese, and chocolates can be prepared in this Swiss tradition. The food is cooked in a pot and then shared with loved ones.
Fondue pots work best, but you can also use slow cookers and even a cooktop. Fondue is an art form to be perfected, the slow burn of an intimate dance.
The key is to find the right level of heat. If the flame burns too hotly, then the ingredients can scorch. On the other hand, if the temperature is not high enough, nothing will happen. The intensity of the heat is essential to properly blend the flavors.
Fondue needs attention and care while cooking. It must be stirred frequently to avoid scorching. If you use a fondue pot, there is also the hazard of an open flame. Always observe the directions for the fondue pot and fuel source. You don’t want your romantic evening to end in fire. At least not those kinds of flames.
For my cheese fondue, I used a combination of Swiss, mozzarella, and Fontina cheese, which originates in the Aosta valley. Other cheeses that can be used include gruyere, gouda, or even cheddar. Sharper and “meltier” cheese works best. A splash of white wine also adds a more robust flavor.
(Serves 2-3 people)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
1 cup Fontina cheese, grated
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon corn starch or flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of lemon
1. Mix cheese with corn starch or flour, seasoning and toss well. Make sure cheese is finely grated.
2. In a fondue pot, slow-cooker or saucepan, bring the wine, milk, butter, and lemon juice to a simmer over medium-low heat. Slowly stir in cheese mixture and continue to cook over medium-high heat until mixture is smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, add more cheese.
3. Serve with an assortment of toasted bread, vegetables, or crackers. Dip these directly in the pot, and pair with a white or Rosé wine.
Chocolate fondue can be made in a few different ways. Melting chocolate is available specifically for fondue. Baking chocolate works well, too. Dark, milk, sweet, semi-sweet and white chocolate are also possible options. Chocolate and love are both complex and unique and go together well.
(Serves 2-3 people)
2 (24 ounces) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk or heavy cream
1 /2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon corn starch or flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Make sure chocolate is finely chopped. A food processor works well for this.
2. In a fondue pot, slow-cooker or saucepan, slowly stir in mixed ingredients over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until smooth and blender. If the mixture is too thick, add some more milk or cream.
3. Serve with an assortment of fresh fruit, cookies, or cakes. Dip these directly in the pot, and pair with white wine or Prosecco.
Fondue can be made with the finest ingredients and served with the most expensive wine. It can also be made using inexpensive products and cheaper wine. Quality is usually costly, but the most crucial thing about fondue is that it is a shared experience. This is how love grows.
Share this with your love any night of the year. Like fondue, there are many different flavors of love. The heat from a single flame can melt us together and fill our lives with meaning. This is the essential human experience, and sometimes it’s worth the pain. With hearts on fire, we come together for love.
Jordan Callier is an avid foodie and business owner in Glenwood Springs.
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