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by Sandra Lewis    Sat, Jan 27, 2007, 04:38 PM
Emily joined me for dinner this past Thursday night and we indulged our mutual love of cheese with a fondue dinner.

If ever I were given the unfortunate choice of emptying my fridge of all items save one, cheese would win. But olives and eggs would give the cheese a good run for its money.

While some may wince at the fat content of such a meal, Emily and I chose to focus instead on the tray of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants served up in the form of a beautiful array of vegetables for dipping. The purple, French fingerling potatoes added the most visual appeal and tons of flavor.

A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Monkey Bay, rounded out the menu. It’s a flavorful, inexpensive wine with a very cute monkey on the front. I picked it up on whim.


I did break one of my long-standing dinner rules on this evening. While we munched and sipped, we watched “Under the Tuscan Sun.” We both had wanted to see it and it just seemed the thing to do with this weeknight meal.

In the background, Ariel had the usual parade of her violin students in and out of the house every 30 minutes. As she escorted one of her charges up to her studio, I overheard her explain that I was watching my mid-life crisis movie. While this might be true (emphasis on might) for me, it certainly isn't for Emily (below) who is the daughter of friends of mine in Utah and who is in Dallas attending Baylor’s nursing school.

I giggled at Ariel's comment. The fondue and the wine were just too good to care.

Easy Cheesy Fondue
12 fingerling potatoes, cut in 1/2, 1-inch baby potatoes may be substituted
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan, plus some for drizzling
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 jigger dry sherry
1 cup half-and-half
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
1 pound asparagus, trimmed of stems, tips reserved
2 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped or chopped
1/2 French baguette, cubed
12 cherry tomatoes

Cornichons or baby gherkin pickles
Marinated mushrooms
Pickled onions

Cover potatoes with water and bring the water to a boil. Salt the water and simmer potatoes 10 to 12 minutes, until just tender. Drain potatoes and return to warm pot to dry the potatoes. Drizzle potatoes with a little oil to keep them from discoloring and to shine them up.

Fill a second skillet or saucepan with 2 inches of water. Cover and bring the water to a boil on the stovetop. Salt the water, replace the cover and reduce heat to simmer.

To a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and the chopped shallots. Saute shallots for 2 or 3 minutes, then add sherry and allow it to almost evaporate, a minute or 2. Add half-and-half to the pan and reduce heat to low. Cut cream cheese into 1-inch slices and add it to the pot. Allow the cream cheese to slowly melt into the half-and-half, 5 minutes. Add Parmesan and shredded Gruyere or Swiss to the sauce and stir until cheese is melted and fully incorporated. Stir in lemon juice. Season sauce with, nutmeg and black pepper. Place a candle underneath a wire rack or warm a fondue pot. Transfer cheese sauce to fondue pot or place saucepan over wire rack and burning candle.

To simmering, salted water, add broccoli and cook florets, covered, 3 minutes. Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate and add asparagus tips. Cook asparagus tips 2 minutes, then remove with tongs to a plate.

Arrange the items for dipping on a large serving platter. Garnish the cooked potatoes with chives.

Sandra’s Cooking Notes:
*You have to forgive the “cheesy” recipe name (sorry for the bad pun). It is a Rachel Ray recipe and she has become quite the marketing machine lately. I don’t pay much attention to her anymore, but I’m glad I came across this before I saw her photo peppered all over the grocery store.
*While digging through the cabinet for the nutmeg, I set the cumin on the counter to search further. This was almost a disastrous decision when in my haste I scooped out a teaspoon of cumin instead of nutmeg. I realized my error just before tossing the cumin into the nearly finished fondue. Moral of the story - place all the spices you’re not using in your recipe back into the cabinet.
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