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...and melt 
how to have a fondue party
by Stephanie Cloutier 
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We're a generation that loves to look to the past for inspiration. We raid our parents' digs for mid-century furniture pieces to adorn our space, we've fallen in love with earthy tones again, despite the fact we used to hate how brown and orange dominated our parents' décor palette. What is old is now new, and the fondue has made a comeback once again.

Before fondue parties became all the rage in the fifties, sixties and seventies, fondue had a reputation as a complicated and almost exotic meal from Europe, served only in expensive restaurants. Yet fondues are an extremely versatile dish, and are surprisingly simple to make if all of the ingredients are on-hand. It's also a dish that's meant to be shared with others, which makes it an obvious choice to be served at your next party.

If winter has graced your area, it's the perfect time to fire up the fondue pot. Invite a few friends or a special someone to enjoy some fondue chez vous. It can be a large or small gathering, a late Sunday afternoon lunch with the girls, or a funky party event on a Friday night. Organize your own fondue party and you'll be so hip you'll be the envy of all your friends, who'll wonder why they hadn't thought of it sooner when it's this easy and this fun.

i'll fondue you
Traditionally, fondue consists of melted cheese, generally Gruyere and Emmental, spiked with wine. This concoction is served in a heated pot, along with cubes of bread. Dating back to the 18th century, this Swiss meal utilized ingredients that were found in almost every household. But like your mother's own special meatloaf or your dad's unique barbecue sauce, the fondue recipe varies from home to home, region to region, making them the chameleons of the culinary world.

While the traditional pairing of cheeses is delicious, you can incorporate some of your own favorite cheeses instead, such as Cheddar or Monterey Jack. Add different wines and liqueurs, or even use vegetables as an ingredient rather than a dipper, and watch the fondue evolve into a completely different dish. And there's no need to let your culinary imagination stop there -- fondue is one of the few dishes, if not the only, where you can change all of its ingredients and still call it a fondue. Substitute hot oil for the cheese, provide some beef chunks for dipping, and have yourself a beef fondue, also known as fondue bourguignionne. Or transform it once again into a chocolate lover's dream, and serve melted chocolate and fruit chunks as a dessert fondue. By swapping a few ingredients, you can create a new world of flavor without changing much of the preparation.

back to the basics
First of all, you'll need a fondue set; there's no other way around it. While you can technically melt the cheese in a regular saucepan, a fondue pot or a caquelon as it's called, has a heavy bottom, which promotes heat distribution and heat retention. This is essential when you're trying to melt the cheese to the proper consistency. Most fondue pots available are made of earthenware, glazed ceramic or enameled iron. Use a regular saucepan to combine the ingredients and once it's ready to serve, pour the mixture into the fondue pot. Depending on how thick-bottomed your pot is, you can use it directly on the stove, however do check the product directions first. Otherwise, you might be cleaning up your fondue from your kitchen floor rather than serving it at your party.

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