On Valentine's Day, cooking for the one you love is a pleasure.
Instead of a four-course gourmet meal, though, consider the romantic fondue, with cheese fondue as the main course. Or serve a great meal with chocolate fondue for dessert — or even for breakfast.
Fondue parties were big in the 1970s, and the pleasure of cooking food at the table is trendy again — and it's perfect for Valentine's Day.
Caterers have taken the chocolate fondue pot to a higher level by offering chocolate fountains, which are "very popular at large events," said Melissa Buck, an event planner for Seasons Catering & Special Occasions.
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Buck has found individual fondue pots to be "fabulous."
"I love the fact that they can fit on a tray and be delivered to your Valentine for a morning treat," Buck said. "Most people think of this as an evening romantic treat, but why not start Valentine's Day off with a morning surprise?"
Individual stoneware pots warm quickly and easily in the microwave, and they hold heat for as long as 45 minutes for table-top dipping of fresh fruit, biscuits or marshmallows.
Today's fondue dinner calls for contemporary flavors and ingredients, such as roasted garlic, fresh ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and espresso, Rick Rodgers wrote in Fondue: Great Food to Dip, Dunk, Savor, and Swirl.
Typical fondue recipes include sharp cheeses, such as Cheddar, or pungent cheeses, such as Swiss. Additional liquids in the recipes can include alcohols — wine, brandy or sherry — which balance out the cheese flavors, or creams and milks, which give depth and thickness.
Fondues can include savory foods, such as ham and garlic, but they also can include chocolate and fruits. Use them as an appetizer, dessert or even as the star of the meal. Experiment with flavors you usually enjoy in a stew or casserole, but incorporate them into the fondue style, Rodgers said.
Here are some tips from Food Network and Fonduebits.com for making a great sweet or savory fondue:
■ Prepare fondue on the stove before transferring it to the fondue pot. It will never get hot enough to eat if heated over an alcohol burner or candle.
■ Stir the fondue pot frequently, whether it contains cheese, chocolate or oil. Stirring distributes the heat, keeps the cheese or chocolate fondue smooth, and prevents scorched spots in the center of the pan.
■ Don't serve more than one type of fondue at a meal. After a rich cheese or meat fondue, serve something light for dessert, not chocolate fondue.
■ If you're doubling a cheese fondue recipe, don't double the liquid. Increase the liquid by 11/2. Otherwise, the fondue will be soupy, not thick.
■ Don't throw away the golden crust left on the bottom of the fondue pot. It's considered a delicacy, to be peeled off and shared among fondue aficionados.