As a child of the 70’s; I fondly recall our much loved floral patterned fondue regularly making its way off the shelf and onto the table with a big steaming well of cheese inside it. We dunked all manor of edible objects in it; steak on special occasions and vegetables more often than not. Sadly now though, the fondue has become more ornamental than fundamental and unless you are in Switzerland (or in particular on skiing trip) it’s a very rare sighting. The fondue celebrates all that is wonderful about the art of eating; it’s immersive, its interactive and its communal. We are in an age of “small plates” with a tapas style mentality that is about sharing; seeing food as a means of discussion.
You only need to look at how children love to gather round a fountain of melted chocolate with their spears of marshmallows or bananas in hand; this is the adult equivalent but this experiment got my kids talking and boy are they now Brussels sprouts converts.
Those clever masters of professional cookware; Staub, have introduced the fondue to their repoiotoire and I just had to get my hands on one. Given that the festive season is upon us, and the age old challenge of making the brussels sprout sexy begins, I had this crazy hair brain idea of coming up with a fondue recipe incorporating sprouts and my favourite cheese; Comte.
I was lucky enough to work on a project with the talented TV chef Phil Vickery and he had learned of a lovely way to cook sprouts in America – of course it had to involve deep frying! The gist is you soak them in iced water for 24 hours, then dry them properly (preferably with a salad spinner) and then deep fry them. So that got me thinking……..
The theory begins with fact that everything tastes better with cheese (if you like cheese and are not lactose intolerant!) So if we start with getting some nice flavour and texture onto the sprout; once we spear it onto our fondue fork and immerse it into a bubbling pot of gooey, unctuous melted cheese; we should have a combination that isn’t just palatable; but actually really enjoyable. So that’s the theory. below is the practice.
Trim the ends of the sprouts slightly, then cut in half lengthwise and add to a bowl of iced cold water. Leave to soak for 24 hours.
Drain the sprouts and dry them really well, preferably with a salad spinner.
Add the white wine to your fondue bowl, or a heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add the cheese, a handful at a time stirring to melt in between each addition.
Once all the cheese has melted, add the Marsala wine and stir.
Add the cornflour and continue to stir for a another 2 minutes until the cheese has nicely thickened.
Keep on a low flame while you prepare the sprouts.
Heat oil to a depth of around 3cm in a wok or shallow pan.
Test the temperature of the oil by adding a sprout, if it starts to bubble nicely, its ready!
Fry the sprouts in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, until nicely browned.
Remove the sprouts with a slotted spoon onto a paper lined tray and sprinkle generously with sea salt.
Set up your fondue and take it over to the table along with your tray of sprouts and watch them disappear.