Fondue is a Swiss and French dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a small burner (rechaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union in the 1930s and became popular in North America in the 1960s. Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to a variety of other dishes where a food is dipped into a hot liquid, including chocolate fondue, where pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, where pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil. There are about a hundred and more varieties of cheese fondue, each of them bearing a unique name and different combinations of cheeses, wine and seasoning.
Cheese fondue consists of a blend of cheeses, wine and seasoning. To prepare the caquelon it is first rubbed with a cut garlic clove. White wine, cheese, and often kirsch are added and stirred until melted. A small amount of cornstarch or other starch is added to prevent separation. The mixture is stirred continuously as it heats in the caquelon. When it is ready, diners dip cubes of bread speared on a fondue fork into the mixture.
A cheese fondue mixture should be held at a temperature warm enough to keep the fondue smooth and liquid but not so hot as to allow any burning. If this temperature is held until the fondue is finished there will be a thin crust of toasted (not burnt) cheese at the bottom of the caquelon. This is called la religieuse, literally translated as the nun. It has the texture of a thin cracker and is almost always lifted out and eaten.
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Fondue Recipes, www.fonduerecipes.org