pink goat cheese fondue

like this, except pink

i discovered/created a fondue recipe that i think is kind of awesome and offbeat.  the (possible) problem with it is that it’s pink.  sort of mauve actually.

traditionally, fondue has 2 – 3 cheeses: gruyere and emmentaler are pretty standard.   you can also use appenzeller or raclette (swiss, not french, although french would do in a pinch if you needed to) or even jarlsberg if the stinky feet cheeses are getting to you.  also traditionally, those of us even remotely lactose-sensitive are going to be bent double after eating a large enough portion (say, half a fondue-pot full).

the other thing is that, while fondue typically calls for a dry white wine, a good, bold red (like a pinot noir or cabernet of syrah) pairs better with with the sort of aged cheeses used in fondue (or so says my wine and cheese book).  i’ve decided the white is strictly for aesthetics.

my first foray into throwing the rules out the window was for Valentine’s day, for which pink fondue could be considered somewhat thematically appropriate.  that wasn’t the goal, of course — the idea was just to make a goat fondue (goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk and has been found to not cause the symptoms of lactose intolerance) and pair it with a wine that both went better with the cheese (the same wines that pair well with gruyere and emmentaler also pair well with goat cheeses, especially aged goat cheeses) and that we both liked better (we prefer reds to whites any day).

thus began the first experiment.  for this, i got cypress grove lamb chopper and a mahon reserva.  my first choice to go with the lamb chopper was cypress grove’s midnight moon, but that was unavailable pretty much everywhere (my theory is that the goats were “kidding” — a time of year when goat dairies do not produce as much milk because the goats are giving birth to and nursing their kids, something i learned when i was working in grocery).  i had forgotten (until i got home) that mahon, unlike a lot of other spanish cheeses, was cow milk, not goat or sheep.

the result was really good.  the cheese didn’t melt as smooth as fondue usually does, which i’m guessing was because the aged mahon was pretty dry and goat cheese, in general, has a less smooth texture than cow cheese.  we used a smoking loon pinot noir and, aside from the pinkness, it was really good.

so last night i thought we’d go for an encore, and last night’s ended up being even better.  so here’s the recipe, more or less:

8oz (1/2 lb.) cypress grove lamb chopper
8oz (1/2 lb.) young (6 mo.) manchego
1 cup red wine (in this case it was Goats Do Rome South African red)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp corn starch
1 clove garlic
pinch of pepper
dash of nutmeg

my recipe says to get a clove of garlic and rub it on the inside of the fondue pot.  well, i didn’t have a single clove of garlic lying around, so i got some crushed garlic and scooped some with a spoon and rubbed it onto the pot with my fingers.  the result was garlic-y but tasty (if you like garlic).

next, mix the wine and the lemon juice and heat on medium until bubbly.  pour yourself a glass.  turn the heat down to low and stir in the cheese.  mix the corn starch with 1 Tbsp more wine.  the original recipe says kirsch, but the idea of cherry liqueur sends e running for the hills.  pour corn starch/wine mixture into the fondue.  stir regularly.  drink profusely.  add pepper and nutmeg to taste (original recipe called for white pepper but using black pepper didn’t seem to hurt anything).

serves two with room for dessert

the manchego melted a lot better and fit the goat theme.  the fondue still doesn’t have the same elasticity that you get with the traditional cow’s milk cheeses, but that’s goat cheese for you.  i’m still holding out to try this with midnight moon, an aged goat gouda, but that will most likely have to wait until next time.

i have this philosophy about fondue that you can’t really screw it up.  some cheese melts better than others, and some pair better than others, but cheese is pretty much cheese, and if you have a few cheeses you like, why not throw them together in a pot and melt it?  if you like cheese and you like fondue, you’ll probably like what comes out regardless of if it’s by the book.  for this reason, i think that fondue is the ultimate anything goes gourmet food; you don’t need to be an iron chef, you just need to like cheese.

fondue season

image credit: J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd./EB Inc. via Encyclopedia Britanica onlinethe wheel of gruyere that i found in the produce section during our last trip to whole foods reminds me that it’s fondue season, which reminds me that once upon a time i had resolved to write more about food on this blog, and reminds me of the number of times people asked me what cheeses they needed for fondue.

it’s easy.  the fairly standard, traditional formula for fondue consists of three cheeses:

appenzeller
emmentaler
gruyere

you take roughly equal parts of each, grate them into a fondue pot, add some wine, and voila, fondue. the proportions really depend on how much you want to make.  probably a half pound of each would suit two people.  the thing about fondue, though, is that the fun part is making it your own, or using variations, or making it to taste.  for example, appenzeller is one of those really foot-stinky cheeses; a hard swiss cheese you probably wouldn’t want to eat by itself.  for a milder flavor, you could substitute raclette or jarlsberg and still be pretty authentic.

image via Wiki Commonsthis time of year is also raclette season, and i remember distinctly not being able to keep raclette in stock between thanksgiving and sundance (which is right about now-ish) when i worked the cheese department in park city.  i’ve never had raclette, as in, served as raclette — a specific swiss dish — but my understanding of it is that it’s traditionally a sort of peasant food (although now it’s all gourmet), where you take a specific type of frying pan (well, specific for the 20th century gourmet version, that is — probably originally it was whatever was lying around) and melt the raclette in it.  the idea is that it’s supposed to cooked until brown.  like fondue, you dip bread and assorted meats in it.

fondue is a great way to warm up the cold months and everyone loves fondue, making it a hit a both sports- and non-sports related holiday and/or family and/or other festivities.  i particularly like fondue as a romantic valentines day thing.

the only problem with fondue, of course, is that most of us are, in some way, lactose intolerant, meaning that much cheese is bound to wreak havoc on our intestines later.  for those of you concerned about that, i’d like to direct your attention to cypress grove creamery or any number of spanish cheeses (manchego, mahon, drunken goat, murcia curado (aka “naked goat”), etc).  both cypress grove and various spanish cheeses have both aged and not-so-aged varieties, so you could probably concoct a fairly decent lactose-free fondue (because sheep and goat’s milk do not contain lactose — rather, they contain lactase , a related enzyme that is more closely related to what our stomachs produce naturally, meaning it doesn’t cause the same problems).  some combination with midnight moon and lamb chopper sounds yummy to me…