Yep, it’s National Cheddar Cheese Day. My first thought was a cheese board. Love creating Cheese Boards. But then, Cheddar wouldn’t be the star of the recipe. What about Cheese Sauce? You know, like my Onion Cheese Sauce for Broccoli. Again, good but . . .
The sauce made me think of Fondue. I know, it’s very retro. And these days retro means chic and that’s a good thing. I remember growing up there was a Fondue Pot (a beautiful shade of Avocado Green in an otherwise Harvest Gold and Burnt Orange kitchen) and a Chafing Dish sitting side by side on top of our refrigerator, collecting dust. Nearly every kitchen in America had at lease one of these, and nearly all were collecting dust. I remember my mother put the Copper-Clad Chafing Dish on a table near the front door for a while. It was the “catch all” dish. Lift the lid and there you would find an assortment of keys and coupons and savings stamps. I must confess, I have a Chafing Dish in our dining room. It’s on top of my tea cup hutch. A few times a year I take it down, polish the silver, then up it goes. In all fairness, it’s not very big. I got it because it reminded my of my childhood and not for any practical purposes. When I need to keep foods warm, it’s usually at a big gathering like Cinco de Mayo or the Super Bowl. So I have those “disposable” chafers you get from the party supply store with aluminum pans and Sterno warmers.
What does get used in our house are the fondue pots. And not necessarily for fondue. You know those little smokies in barbecue sauce? Fondue pots are great for those if you don’t have small crock pots. Yeah, thinking outside the box again.
I love fondue. I love any “communal” event. I think that’s why I like Paella or Galinha Assada Português (Portuguese Braised Chicken) because these are served communal style. Fondue is another of these communal events. In this day and age when spending time together is something akin to a video conference, the idea of gathering around a pot of warm, gooey cheese and sharing a good laugh really appeals to me on a deep level.
So here’s to National Cheddar Cheese Day and gathering ’round the fondue pot!
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
3 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Mild Cheddar Cheese
1 tablespoon Flour
1 cup Beer
1-1/2 teaspoons Ground Mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse Black Pepper
16 oz Beef Sticks
1 bag Pretzel Sticks
Peel and finely mince the garlic. Set aside.
From blocks of cheese, shred both the sharp and mild Cheddar Cheeses. Cheese from a block will melt more easily and smoothly than pre-shredded cheese in the bag.
In a large bowl, combine cheese and flour. In a small saucepan, heat the beer, garlic, mustard and pepper over medium heat until bubbles form around sides of pan.
Reduce heat to medium-low; add a handful of cheese mixture. Stir constantly, using a figure-eight motion, until almost completely melted. Continue adding cheese, one handful at a time, allowing cheese to almost completely melt between additions. Keep warm.
Cut beef sticks into 1-inch bite-size pieces. Place in bowls surrounding fondue pot. Place thin pretzel sticks in bowls to use as edible skewers.