Why settle for simply eating fondue when you can deepen the experience by also enjoying some French music, and also parlez de français (speak some French)?
À Table: Weekly Dinner Series
Each week my kids and I host a French-speaking family for a fun evening of home-cooked French food, French wine, French music and conversational French.
Both of our kids are in a dual language French program (1st and 3rd grade as of this post) at our local public school, 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 refer to 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 cook a pretty wide variety of French foods but so far our family/guest favorites are:
During appetizers and the dinner, we do our best to speak as much French as possible, with the patient, gracious help of our guests. It’s also a great way to make new friends! Just as often as we invite old friends to join us, we invite classmates we don’t yet know well, and it is always a blast.
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 waiting in the wings, just awaiting another recipe test/tweak or better photos, or the special playlist to accompany it…
But in the meantime, you could also play the game alongside a French dinner that is already posted on the site, like the galettes de Breton complète, the delicious savory, buckwheat crepes from Brittany in northern France.
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!
Our Favorite Basic Fondue
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.
Our Favorite Basic Fondue
Simple, yet versatile, when the weather turns cool, there is nothing quite as warming, comforting and filling as pot of fondue, with bites of baguette and lots of other things for dipping, and of course, lots of great friends to share it with. The recipe is so simple and forgiving, and it is perfect for guests because all the preparation can be done ahead of time, and then the fondue made in a matter of minutes when everyone is ready to eat. If I had known this about fondue, I would have started making it more often, much sooner. Make some tonight!
CourseDinner, Main Course
KeywordAlps, Melted Cheese
A fondue pot is very helpful but NOT crucial! The first few times I made it, we did not have one. See notes.
3/4lbGruyère cheese, gratedDon't stress too much about exact measurements of cheese here.
3/4lbEmmenthaler gratedOr Raclette cheese, which will yield a more melt-y fondue, so change the ratio to 1 lb Gruyère to 1/2 lb Raclete.
1 1/2tbsp cornstarch
1tspfreshly grated black pepper
1clove garlic, minced
1cupdry white wine
2tbspCalvadosOr kirsch or brandy
1/4tspNutmeg, preferably freshly gratedOptional, but tasty!
Accompaniments (Please refer to notes section)
1baguette, allowed to harden a bit and cut into 1 inch chunksat least. 🙂
1lbsmall potatoes, pricked and boiled in salted water until fork pricks easily
1lbcooked vegetablesslightly steamed carrots, broccoli; roasted broccoli or cauliflower…
1lbraw vegetables, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunkscarrots, fennel, broccoli…
3cupsraw fruits, cubed(2 apples, cut into 3/4 inch chunks, or grapes)
1/2lbsaucisson 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.
AccompanimentsAccompaniments listed above are what we typically do when having friends over for fondue, but we do vary it according to taste, season, and sometimes just what we have on hand. Cubes of baguette or other hearty (and slightly hardened) bread is a must, but to round things out you should also plan to have a selection of other items across food groups and textures. Classically, salad greens with a simple vinaigrette is also served.Cooked Vegetables: boiled potatoes; partially-steamed carrots or broccoli; roasted veggies in bite-sized chunks (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus…)Raw Vegetables: carrots, fennel spears, broccoli…Raw Fruits: cubed apple, grapes, cherry tomatoes…Meats: cubed saucisson, salami or ham; prosciutto…Other: cornishons (gherkins), olives…Fondue PotWe have run the gamut from not using a pot, to using a vintage pot from the 50s that my husband freaked out about, to investing in this solid, Swissmar Lugano pot.I will say that it is certainly a more relaxed and enjoyable experience – both as a host and participant – when a real fondue pot is used, but if you don’t have a fondue pot, here are some other options:
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.
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 a printable so that you can play with your own friends and family today.
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