I wait 11 months of the year to touch noses with October. There's nothing like the shiver of turning leaves and the chilling kiss of the air to reset my internal clock and draw me indoors to the literal autumnal fire: my hearth. I light candles, I rev up the stove. There's something inside that's urging me to shake off the old and prepare for new growth. It's the beginning of a season that brings many opportunities to hunker down indoors and entertain with close and comfy company.
As the harvest draws to a close, I find myself drawn to cheese, Wisconsin's golden child. Cheese loves companions.
With cheese on my mind, Ken Monteleone was my go-to man. His European-inspired specialty shop, Fromagination, 12 S. Carroll St., just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Monteleone sources from some of Wisconsin's brightest dairy farmers, and supplements with a handsome entourage of imports.
A few years ago, Monteleone provided me with Fromagination's fondue recipe. And I've asked him to share another one, because it's one of the tastiest treats I can think of for cool nights and warm exchanges.
"What I like about fondue is the communal aspects," he says.
The very nature of fondue is communal. Everyone gathers around a single pot of melty, wine-tempered cheese. It can be highfalutin enough for fancy affairs, yet crowd-pleasing enough for the most casual get-togethers. There's a universal humility too, that comes with dipping hunks of bread or roasted vegetables or even cured and smoked meats into a vat of cheese.
Fromagination will reconvene its fondue dinners in 2013 at its communal table for 12. "It really encourages strangers to get together," he says.
The recipe, too, encourages improvisation. Monteleone fashioned an all-Wisconsin lineup for this version: Uplands Cheese Company of Dodgeville's Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Bruce Workman's Emmentaler from Monroe's Edelweiss Creamery, and Roth Käse Grand Cru Gruyère Surchoix, also out of Monroe.
"We keep it very simple and let the cheese speak for itself," says Monteleone.
Grab a pot. Melt some cheese. Invite people over. Enjoy the remaining contents of the bottle of wine you bought for the fondue. Be merry.
Fromagination Artisanal Blend Fondue
You don't need to own a fondue pot; Monteleone says any heavy pan will work. A cast iron crock is especially convenient as it can be heated on the stove and transferred to the table for service. Serves 6.
- kosher salt
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
- 1 cup Edelweiss Emmentaler, grated
- 1 cup Roth Käse Grand Cru Gruyère Surchoix, grated
- 1 cup Pleasant Ridge Reserve, grated
- 1-1/2 cup dry white wine (recommended: Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc)
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon
- pinch of nutmeg
- black pepper, freshly ground
In a medium bowl, mix the cheeses and combine with one cup of wine and the lemon juice. Let the cheese mixture soak for at least 45 minutes (Fromagination soaks its overnight). When ready to prepare the fondue, add a pinch or two of salt to the pot. Starting in the salt, vigorously rub the cut end of the garlic over the entire interior surface of the pot. Discard garlic.
Add 1/2 cup wine into the prepared fondue pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Slowly add the cheese mixture, whisking continuously.
The fondue is ready to serve when the cheese is completely melted and the fondue takes on a smooth consistency. Serve with bread, roasted or fresh vegetables, cured and smoked meats and/or pickles.