Fondue parties are my favorite way to socialize with family or friends over a nice dinner. The meal itself takes a long time, and is always a relaxed, easy going, casual gathering, with everybody just sitting around chatting and laughing and trying different things. When having a fondue for six or more people, I like to set up a fondue pot at each end of the table to make it easy for everyone to not only reach the food, but to have room in the pot for cooking. Everyone gets a few fondue forks, plus regular forks for use in eating, not only to prevent double dipping, but to prevent bad burns on lips from hot fondue forks. I also put a smaller cheese fondue in the middle (see my recipe at the bottom of this blog), and a bowl of bread cubes for frying, then dipping in cheese sauce. Next to it I place a large turntable with containers for six different kinds of food for cooking. I will have a few other bowls of food randomly placed around the table for passing around. I then add a variety of dipping sauces interspersed around the table, and a bowl of tempura batter near each fondue pot. Just try to arrange most things so people don’t have to reach far, and a few things will just have to be passed around.
Fondue parties can be a lot of work, but if you don’t like to do it all yourself, and have a bunch of family or friends who want to participate, its easy to do it pot luck and have each party participant bring a bag of marinated meat and/or chopped veggies or bread cubes for cooking. Just make sure you have an option or two from each serving category to be on the safe side. For a meat, vegetable and cheese fondue, its best to have at least one kind of meat, poultry or seafood dish per person, plus three or four kinds of vegetables, and I usually do one kind of bread and one cheese sauce.
I typically use oil in my fondue pots, but many people use broths, or a combination of broth and wine. If you have more than one fondue pot you can try red wine and beef stock for thin strips of beef or for vegetables in one, and another with either chicken stock for chicken and shrimp, or one with oil, mix and match! As far as the actual pot goes, for use with oilespecially, I can’t recommend electric pots enough, and try to have one pot for 3-4 people. I typically try to arrange for a total of six people and use both of my electric pots. In my experience fondues can go on a long time, and when you get a lot of people using them at a time, only the electric ones seem to be able to keep a pot of oil hot enough. Extra forks are a good thing too, I find three per person works out great. Here are a few items I recommend.
The 3-quart non-stick pot works for chocolate, cheese, broth or oil. It includes:
- Eight individual fondue forks
- Fondue ring
- Fondue bowl
- Qt. Stainless steel bowl with non-stick interior
- Brushed stainless steel housing
- Adjustable temperature control probe
- Dishwasher-safe fondue pot
- 1000 watts of power
- Non=stick interior
- Adjustable temperature probe with eight settings
- Stainless steel fork ring
- Instruction/Recipe book
- Limited 3-year warranty
This set includes 6 stainless-steel forks with stainless steel handles in a bright array of colors. I like to have 3-4 forks per guest, so I got an extra set to go along with my two pots. Please remind your guests, especially those who haven’t been to a fondue party before, not to eat from the fork, I’ve seen people burn their lips badly that way.
The time saved in passing individual bowls of food around for people to try is worth the investment in a Lazy Susan style server if you don’t already have one. People can just spin the tray around to reach what they want easily. Two would be even better at a large table.
Fondue plates are separated for a couple of purposes. If you are offering raw meats for cooking, people can use one of the spots on their plate for anything raw prior to cooking, and set cooked food down in another partition, while still having other spots for various dipping sauces.
- 9 3/4″ x 10″
- Special section for cooked foods and sections for uncooked foods and assorted sauces
- Integrated fondue fork notch
- Dishwasher safe
Marinades and Rubs
Typically beef, chicken and pork are cut into bite-sized pieces. Chunks stay on the forks a lot better, but thin strips cook faster so might work better in broth. If you have a lot of people, you can keep things moving along by cutting the pieces a bit smaller. I’ve posted a few suggestions for flavoring the meat here, and I’m sure you have some of your own well-loved marinade or rub recipes, or you can always try one of these books (click link to open for a further look):
- Dip Into Something Different: A Collection of Recipes from Our Fondue Pot to Yours – By Melting Pot Restaurants Inc.
- The Everything Fondue Cookbook: 300 Creative Ideas for Any Occasion – By Rhonda Lauret Parkinson, Rhonda Lauret Parkinson
- Great Party Fondues – By Peggy Fallon
Chicken seems to be the most popular item at a fondue. I would recommend serving three or four different kinds. You can marinade or add a dry rub to chicken the morning of the party, or even just a couple of hours ahead. A half teaspoon of oil or fruit juice in a baggy, plus enough diced chicken to almost fill the baggy, generously sprinkled with rub, is an easy way to marinade. You can just put all the baggies in one container and take it out a few times to recirculate. The bags can be massaged and flipped a few times to ensure even distribution. Some rubs or marinades to try:
- Curry – rub liberally with your favorite curry powder
- Jamaican jerk – try Jamaican Dry Jerk Rub – grilling spice from Neera’s
- Lemon pepper – sprinkle liberally, don’t marinade this more than a couple of hours
- Honey garlic – use a few tablespoons of liquid honey, a few cloves of diced garlic, and a tablespoon each of soya sauce and ketchup (can be heated up by adding a teaspoon or so of chili lime spice)
- Cajun – try Walker & Sons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning
Beef seems to be the second most popular item, so two or three kinds is a good idea. Marinades for beef are better done the night before or the morning of the party. Some rubs or marinades to try:
- McCormick Montreal Steak
- Mr. Yoshida’s Original Gourmet Sweet and Savory Marinade and Cooking Sauce63 Fluid Ounces
- Ginger beef – tablespoon soya sauce and diced ginger (or teaspoon ground ginger), two teaspoons red wine vinegar, diced clove of garlic, dash of pepper and Worcestershire sauce
- Teriyaki – try Mrs. Dash Marinade Salt-Free Sweet Teriyaki
- Greek rub – try Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning 8 oz
One kind of shelled shrimp is probably sufficient. Let them sit over a colander for a while, no additional liquid or oil needed. These don’t need to be marinated for long. Some rubs or marinades to try:
- Lemon pepper
- Tablespoon each of hot pepper sauce and ketchup, and a dash of lemon juice, salt and pepper
- Emeril’s Herb and Lemon Shrimp (click to open recipe)
Pork can take a lot of seasoning and is fine either the day before or the day of the party. One kind is usually sufficient. Some rubs or marinades to try:
- Jamaican jerk
- Spicy honey garlic – as in chicken, use a few tablespoons of liquid honey, a few cloves of diced garlic, and a tablespoon each of soya sauce and ketchup and add a tablespoon of chili lime spice
I put a variety of dipping sauces on the table, but do try to put at least a few. I encourage my guests to pour a few kinds on their plate at the beginning of the fondue to minimize passing later. In addition to recipes, you can use many pre-made dipping sauces you probably already have in your refrigerator, such as the following:
- Sweet Thai Sauce – try Thai Kitchen Dipping Sauce, 6.79-Ounce (Pack of 6)
- Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- Peanut Sauce – try Thai Kitchen Sauce Peanut Satay
- 1 cup sour cream + 1 package Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
- Chili sauce – try Nando’s Hot Peri-Peri Sauce (2 x 125ml Pack)
- Barbecue Sauce
- 1 cup sour cream + 3 tablespoons horseradish
- Honey Mustard – try Sweet Baby Ray’s, Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce, 12oz Bottle (Pack of 3)
These vegetables are great for cooking at fondues, either with or without dipping in tempura batter or a batter of your choice – or use your imagination, almost anything goes!
- zucchini, cut in small fingers
- sweet peppers
- banana peppers
- broccoli florets, steamed 3-4 minutes
- cauliflower florets, steamed 6-7 minutes
- onion rings (you can even use frozen battered onion rings)
- small mushrooms, or halved large mushrooms (warning – these stay hot in tempura batter)
- green beans, steamed 3 minutes
- carrots, potatoes or turnip should be parboiled until almost soft
Tempura Batter Recipe
One recipe of tempura batter doesn’t seem like much when you make it, but is more than enough for a fondue for six. I split it into two bowls for each end of the table.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1-1/2 cups soda water
Combine all ingredients.
At a fondue, rather than offer a fondue pot with cheese to cook vegetables in, I do my cheese sauce and move it into a crock pot to keep it hot at the table. I have devised my own cheese sauce recipe that is very popular. My guests cook their vegetables in oil (I’ve already partially cooked anything that takes longer than a couple of minutes), either in tempura batter or just fried, then dip the cooked vegetable into the cheese sauce (yes, fondue is definitely an indulgence). People usually prefer first to cook bread cubes in oil, then dip the hot bread cube into the pot of cheese sauce and let it cool a minute before eating, but its also popular to dip cooked zucchini, peppers or other vegetables, whether first dipped into a tempura batter or not. Some people even put some of the cheese sauce on their plate and dip meats into it. Its good stuff, make enough to refill the pot!
Debbie’s Cheese Fondue Sauce Recipe
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons butter
- quart of cream (you probably won’t need all of it)
- dash of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup finely chopped spinach, frozen or fresh
- 1/2 small block Philadelphia cream cheese
- 2 cups mixed cheeses according to your preference, I usually use Monteray Jack, Cheddar and whatever else I have
- 1 teaspoon (or to taste) lemon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- dash of sea salt
Make a rue with a few tablespoons each of butter and flour, and cook for a minute or two. Then gradually whisk in about a pint of the cream and let bubble until slightly thick. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and spinach. Start gradually stirring in cheeses until melted, then add lemon pepper and cayenne pepper and simmer for ten minutes or so. At this point you can add as much cream as needed, or thicken with a bit of cornstarch in cold water, to produce a good consistency for dipping, or add wine or stock if preferred. For the fondue, I preheat this sauce, then pour it into a mini crock pot to keep it hot on the table, and just leave the rest of the sauce on low heat on the stove (I have a simmer burner on my Bertazzoni, you may have to heat some in a microwave instead), and add more sauce later as it depletes.
I would love to hear about your favorite vegetables, food choices, sauces or marinade recipes for fondues!