Valentine’s Day is Friday: Wine? Check. Flowers? Check. Fondue? Check it Out

Oh, Valentine’s Day. You look so innocent – all sweetness, hearts and flowers.

It’s unfortunate that such a seemingly simple day of love, friendship and affection has grown into a Godzilla-sized emotional super-power day of extremes. It can bring joy and elation. It can wreak sorrow and heartbreak. The same office where one woman cries tears of happiness as she walks a delivery of a dozen roses to her desk can also contain a woman weeping silently in a bathroom stall over the unfairness of it all.

Regarding the latter, a friend jokes that Valentine’s Day is best described as SAD: Singles Awareness Day. 

In some ways, we singles have it made. No performance pressure. No expectations. Especially on Valentine’s Day I concur with William Shakespeare, who said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

True, it did take me a few post-divorce years to get over my desire for a self-administered Daktari tranquilizer to knock me out from February 13 through February 15. So painful.

That’s behind me. Now I’m in a better place where I can appreciate February 14 as a day to feel gratitude for all the love in my life. My heart is full.

And like many of you, for me, love equals cooking.

What better time than Valentine’s Day to prepare something special for those you love, I mean, other than heart-shaped pancakes? I’ve shared my trio of favorite chocolate recipes for Valentine’s Day here before.

But for romantic food, you can’t beat the communally fun fondue. Whether it’s chocolate or cheese fondue, it forces people to share as they dip and bump fondue forks.

But fondue can be tricky. I’ve had bad cheese fondue, haven’t you?  Too gloppy or way too rich or too much booze or so heavy it pulls the little bread cubes into the vat where they drown and sink and are hopelessly lost until it’s time to wash the fondue pot.

This recipe comes from friend Karen, who got it from one of her friends. This fondue coats the bread nicely, and doesn’t leave it feeling like a wet cheese bomb. I love the taste, with the option of the classic addition of kirsh – a cherry-flavored liqueur, which is fairly pricey for the good stuff — or light rum.

So, here you go. A little fondue for two. Or just you. Either way, it’s simply lovely.

Swiss Cheese Fondue

1 clove garlic, split in half
1 lb. natural Swiss cheese, grated
Dash salt
Dash pepper
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons light rum or kirsh

For making the fondue, use a rather deep baking dish with a glazed interior, a flame-proof glass saucepan or a crockery utensil. (Note, see my comments about the pot, above.)

Rub the bottom and side of baking dish with garlic. Put cheese, salt and pepper into dish, and add enough wine to almost cover.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until cheese melts – no longer. Cheese and wine will not be blended yet.

Now make a smooth paste of cornstarch, rum (or kirsh), and about 2 tablespoons water. Using a wire whip, stir cornstarch mixture into melted cheese and wine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring 2 to 3 minutes, or until fondue is as creamy and thick as medium white sauce (think gravy).

To serve: Set fondue over a chafing-dish flame or candle warmer. Each bread cube should be speared with a fork and dipped into warm fondue. Makes about 3 cups.

Note: This is a best-of Valentine’s Day column that was first published Feb. 5, 2014. 

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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