Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fondue - Festive and Lazy at the same time

Start with potatoes, they take the longest.
When I was a child, the traditional meal on Christmas Eve was fondue bourgignon, a meat fondue. It´s a very festive kind of meal, takes a while to eat, and it feels a bit primordial to gather round "the fire", as it were. My siblings and I all still make it, but more or less modified from how my parents made it. For example, my father disliked potatoes, so my mother served rice. The only one who still insists on rice is my middle sister, who is the most conservative of us and maintain family traditions for her little boys. My youngest sister, who moved to Switzerland some years ago, sometime eats it with crisps (chips for Americans), because that´s done there. We have been influenced by having fondue in Paris, and will gladly have potatoes au gratin or chips (French fries for Americans). We usually have it on the 27th, but it´s not a deliberate tradition, it is just that it´s hard to make for more than six people, and it´s a great break from the regular, Swedish Christmas food.

So, this is what we do: We often buy ready-made potatoe wedges (sometimes sold as Pommes Chateau = Palace Potatoes), particularly when I´m all cooked out after the holidays. They just go into a casserole dish and into the oven for 25 minutes. While that bakes, we make a tray with small or wedged onions, fresh mushrooms (champignons), bite-size pepper, and sometimes baby corn. We mix a sauce from mayonnaise and chopped up capers (I use about 100 ml of capers to half a jar of mayo, but use your own judgement) and get out a bottle of barbecue sauce.

We were keen to try my home-pickled onions, but they
 are not a regular constituent of the fondue table.
We heat 750 grams of coconut butter (1½ packet, it´s enough to use one if there are only the two of us) in the fondue pan, on the stove. You know it´s hot enough if you dip a wooden toothpick in it and it bubbles. You can use cooking oil, or stock even, but oil spatters dangerously and stock makes the meat more boiled than fried. Also, the coconut gives the meat a really nice flavour. With the sauces and the salted potatoes I don´t find it necessary to put salt and pepper on every piece of meat, but I know some do. Whatever makes you happy.

Oh yes, almost forgot, we dice up the meat, of course. We use filet of pork and beef, and, if we can find it, horse and reindeer and elk. You can use chicken or turkey as well, but I wouldn´t think fish is particularly suited to this method of cooking. The pieces should be about 2 x 4 centimeters or thereabouts.

We used to use methylated spirits (T-sprit), but now we use a kind that´s special for these kinds of burners - it produces less soot, which makes washing up easier.

Lazy people mix the caper sauce straight in the mayo jar.

Love the blaze! There is reindeer to the left and pork in the forefront. 

It is important to mark all the fondue forks differently, so that each person can recognize their own.

We keep the potatoes warm under a lid - this meal easily take an hour, or more.


  1. Fondue was a late 1960s fad here, but it never became part of our regular eating habits. It was "special" -an event more than a regular meal. The forks had different colored handles or different colored decorations on the ends of the handles.

    And horse meat! I've never understood why there's so much opposition to allowing horse meat to be sold and eaten here. We effectively ban horse slaughterhouses here. And yet people eat lamb and veal. Go figure.

    1. Odd that about horse meat, I didn´t realize it was tabu in the US. I have always eaten a smoked and sliced version of it as a sandwich meat (when I grew up we had sandwiches and tea both for breakfast and evening meal) and my mother called it "horse meat", but in the store it is sold as "hamburger meat". We buy that quite often now as well.

      It is rarer to find fresh horse meat in the stores (but I am sure it can be ordered), and I imagine it´s because horses are "cute" and companion animals, like dogs (we are, in this culture, not keen on eating those either, but they do it in parts of Asia). Horse meat is also used in sausages like "medwurst" and other types of delicatessen foods. It was quite a scandal a few years ago, particularly in the UK when it was revealed that a Swedish food manufacturer used horse meat without declaring it openly on the package, which I think is fair, although we Swedes were not terribly upset about the use of horse meat as such.

      In early Christian Sweden horse meat was banned because it was charged in heathen religion - it was an important sacrificial animal in religious rites and the eating of it put one in connection with the gods, so banning it was part of the missionary strategy.

      Bottom line is, it´s very tender, lean, and tasty. I would eat it more often if I could get it all the time. The Italians and Japanese love it, or so Wikipedia tells me.