As winter settles in, there’s no better time than now to enjoy fondue. The Swiss specialty involves all the ingredients to a comforting, joyous meal: bread, wine, and melted cheese — lots of it.
To help you recreate the fondue experience at home, we spoke to Stable DC’s general manager Silvan Kraemer and executive chef, David Fritsche. The duo, both of whom grew up in the German-speaking region of Switzerland and trained as chefs there, opened their restaurant four years ago. While the restaurant is known for Swiss specialties like vol-au-vent, rösti, and spatezli, locals particularly love partaking in Stable’s classic fondue, both inside their cozy chalets and from the comfort of their own homes.
“It brings back childhood memories of when the first snow is falling outside,” Kraemer says. And they both agree that it’s something that can be enjoyed year-round, or anytime you want to feel cozy. In fact, before the pandemic struck, they were working on developing their own premium at-home fondue kit, which they now sell at the restaurant.
Here are their tips to perfect Swiss fondue at home.
Tip No. 1: Pick the best ingredients for your cheese fondue.
Whatever you do, never settle for sub-par cheese. Quality matters.
At Stable DC, Fritsche uses a blend of three types of cheese — Schlossberger Old, Schlossberger Young, and Vacherin cheese — and adds garlic and white wine (the drier the better). The ratio he generally uses is a 1:0.75 ratio of cheese to wine. If someone in your party is opposed to using wine in the fondue, feel free to substitute that with vegetable stock.
Always use at least two or more different cheeses. At least one should be stronger in flavor and aged, like a Gruyère or Comté, for example. The other should be creamier, like Emmental. Grate them and then add to your pot, slowly, in small handfuls at a time.
When you start to heat your cheese mixture, Fritsche warns “don’t cook it for too long.” And make sure you keep the temperature low enough to warm the cheese, not boil it. Boiling it will separate the fat in the cheese, making it lumpy. And whatever you do, don’t ever use a whisk.
Tip No. 2: Get the right equipment.
“Ideally,” Kraemer says, “you would have a fondue set with the ceramic fondue pot that has a stand where you can place it above a Sterno can or a fire.” But, he says, any pot will do. And for heat, a plate warmer or even just a tea light underneath the pot works, too. “You want to find a way to keep it warm — not boiling.”
Long forks for dipping are also recommended and, well, that’s basically it.
Tip No. 3: Plan your spread accordingly.
Kraemer and Fritscher are purists; they love nothing more than to dip the traditional bread into the molten cheese. But living in the U.S. has made them more open to other ingredients.
“There’s no right or wrong,” Kraemer says. He says popular choices include sliced apples, pickles, boiled potatoes, and even pre-cooked brussels sprouts. They have, however, politely drawn the line at adding seafood to the fondue they serve at the restaurant.
When it comes to the bread, Fritsche says anything with a “soft center and a nice, hardy crust” works best. Every day, he and his team bake fresh white wheat loaves of bread and cube them for fondue.
Tip No. 4: Keep the sides on the lighter side.
“The fondue is the meal in itself,” says Kraemer. So, if you must, keep your starters and sides to a minimum. He suggests a salad, or maybe a charcuterie plate of cured meats.
Tip No. 5: Don’t lose your bread!
There aren’t too many rules for how to consume fondue, but one general rule of thumb is to not lose your bread in the communal pot after you attach it to your fork. Otherwise, you’ll have to face some form of punishment or a penalty, like taking a shot of Schnapps (the punishment aspect of this is debatable, however), running around the house, or giving a kiss to the person on your left.
“Different families have different rules and punishments,” Kraemer says. Another tradition, he says, is a superstition to not drink water or cold beverages with your fondue. Kraemer’s family always drank hot tea and white wine, or Kirsch, a cherry brandy, with their fondue.
Some families also love to add Kirsch to the fondue pot itself, sip it on the side, or dip their bread cubes into it before they dip the bread into the pot.
Tip No. 6: Or support your local fondue restaurant.
If you want to have fondue, whether at home or at one of your favorite fondue restaurants, there’s no better time to do just that. A number of restaurants, Stable DC included, offer fondue experiences you can enjoy at home or from the comfort of their outdoor dining setups.
And wherever you decide to enjoy your fondue, don’t forget Fritsche’s three fondue commandments: “Pick a good quality cheese, at least two. Pick nice company. Make sure you have enough wine.”