À Table: Fondue
Don’t settle for simply eating fondue when you can also enjoy some French music, and also parlez français (speak French)!
Both of our kids are in a dual language French program (1st and 3rd grade as of this post), and I am also working towards being fluent as well. To practice our spoken French, two years ago we began a weekly dinner series that we will refer to here as “À Table,” which is the call to the table for a meal (literally “to table,” as in “everyone come to the table now!”).
At these dinners (and occasionally brunches, as schedules dictate), we invite a French-speaking family to come over for dinner, we cook a French meal, enjoy some French wine (bien sûr), and do our best to speak as much French as possible, with the patient, gracious help of our guests. It has been so fun to perfect some of our favorite French recipes, while improving our French speaking skills, and best of all: make new friends.
Out of this weekly tradition came a game we developed to encourage speaking with one another during the meal. We found that with varied ages, levels of friendships – not to mention varied French abilities – having a game to fall back on increased the speaking immensely, and was also simply lots of FUN!
This is the first post, but there are so, so many more coming, just awaiting another recipe test/tweak or better photos, or the special playlist …
We have one Spotify playlist that we put on for almost every French dinner – simply on shuffle repeat – unless there is something in particular we are celebrating that week (like Oktoberfest, where we might make Tarte Flambée (aka Flammekueche) and enjoy with music that celebrates the French/German border).
We keep adding to this large and varied one below, so make sure you click “follow” to keep connected to the updates.
And feel free to send us your suggestions of what we should add! We love suggestions from friends and readers about new artists to check out.
Your fondue will taste better with French-language music on in the background. But I guess you have to try it to see!
It’s great to offer a variety of accompaniments, across the starch, veggie, fruit, and meats spectrum. For cheese fondue, we offer some combination of the below, depending on the dietary restrictions of our guests. bold text signifying a favorite accompaniment.
Our Favorite Basic Fondue
- A fondue pot is very helpful but NOT crucial! The first few times I made it, we did not have one. See notes.
- 3/4 lb Gruyère cheese, grated Don't stress too much about exact measurements of cheese here.
- 3/4 lb Emmenthaler grated Or Raclette cheese, which will yield a more melt-y fondue, so change the ratio to 1 lb Gruyère to 1/2 lb Raclete.
- 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tbsp Calvados Or kirsch or brandy
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg, preferably freshly grated Optional, but tasty!
Accompaniments (Please refer to notes section)
- 1 baguette, allowed to harden a bit and cut into 1 inch chunks at least. 🙂
- 1 lb small potatoes, pricked and boiled in salted water until fork pricks easily
- 1 lb cooked vegetables slightly steamed carrots, broccoli; roasted broccoli or cauliflower...
- 1 lb raw vegetables, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks carrots, fennel, broccoli...
- 3 cups raw fruits, cubed (2 apples, cut into 3/4 inch chunks, or grapes)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 lb saucisson or salami cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Preparation (can be done ahead)
- Prepare accompaniments: Prep/cook any roasted, boiled, steamed vegetables, as needed. Cube the meats and keep aside in serving bowl. Wash and chop fresh vegetables, and keep in serving bowls. Chill meats/vegetables according to waiting time before eating. Cube the baguette and keep aside. We prefer to cover it so it doesn't get super hard, but true French way would be to let it get hard. 🙂
- Grate cheeses. Food processor makes extremely quick and easy work of this, even considering cleaning time for the machine. Toss grated cheese with cornstarch and fresh-grated black pepper and keep aside.
- Mince garlic and prepare liquids and spice measurements and keep aside.
Making the Fondue
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pot to medium. When hot, add wine and garlic until the smell of alcohol subsides and garlic is fragrant. then add cheese to simmering wine, one handful at a time, constantly stirring until cheese is fully melted.
- Reduce heat to medium low, and add Calvados and salt/pepper/nutmeg as desired.
- Dutch Oven - The first time I made fondue for one of our French dinners, we used our large Le Creuset pot for cooking and eating. We placed it in the center of the table and stayed warm for a good amount of time. It was slightly awkward to get to the cheese at bottom of the large pot, but 2 adults and 4 young children managed to do it fine, and no one got hurt. A smaller Le Creuset pot to cook and serve would be great, so long as you eat relatively quickly before the fondue passes oozy, melt-y goodness into re-hardened phase.
- Warmed smaller Le Creuset pot - We tried warming this pot in the oven while making the fondue on the stovetop and transferring it to the smaller pot for easier access. For this option, the warmed serving pot needs to be really rally hot and isn't my favorite suggestion.
- Smaller heavy bottomed pot, on a stand with a candle. I'm NOT advocating for precarious food hovering over open flame in your kitchen, but it's possible if you have something you think can help it stay warm and melt-y.
- Cheese choice - Raclette is a softer cheese that lends itself to staying more oozy and melty, longer.
Bonus FileParlez Français: Le Jeux!
The first printable French conversation game: Parlez Français: Le Jeux!
Out of this weekly tradition came a game we developed to encourage speaking with one another during the meal. We found that with varied ages, levels of friendships – not to mention varied French abilities – having a game to fall back on increased the speaking immensely, and was also simply lots of FUN! We’ve prettied it up, and made it printable so that you can play with your own friends and family today.
Check out the Etsy listing for more information, and to download it, print it, and play it today!
Et merci à La Mini Frenchie & Rima for her help editing this first official version of the game.