This time of year I get so nostalgic for times past. I loved Christmas as a child. Baking cookies with my mom while Rudolph was playing on the television are memories that warm me heart and soul. My entire world revolved around the entire holiday season. I still love the holidays, but now it’s not so much about Santa and presents as it is about the food. I love to experiment with new recipes. Thanksgiving to me is about tradition, but I get to really shake things up in December!
As a cheesemonger, I am expected to dazzle my Christmas dinner guests with some sort of hoity-toity cheese board or one crazy cheese with an even crazier accompaniment. But what I really like to do is take classic cheeses and make them communal. Like the French do with Raclette and the Swiss do with fondue, I think it’s fun (and my guests usually do, too) to take cheese outside of its comfort zone.
I love these out-of-the-box fondue recipes from Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine. They are kicked up for sure and are destined to be crowd pleasers this holiday season!
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 cup dry white wine
½ lb emmentaler or other Swiss cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
½ lb gruyere, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp kirsch or brandy
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 baguette, sliced into bite-size pieces
Optional: sliced apple and pear, grapes
Rub the inside of a heavy pot or dutch oven with the cut side of the garlic. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
In a bowl, toss the cheeses with the cornstarch. Working in 3 batches, gradually stir the cheese mixture into the wine until melted. Pour in the kirsch and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is gently bubbling, about 2 minutes; season.
Serve immediately from the dutch oven or transfer to a fondue pot. Top with grated nutmeg to taste. Serve with the baguette pieces and fruit for dipping.
Stout and Sausage
Swap in stout or other dark beer for white wine. Omit kirsch. Serve with broccoli florets and thick slices of kielbasa or another smoked sausage.
Omit garlic, kirsch and nutmeg. Swap in Irish whiskey for white wine and 1 lb Dubliner cheese for emmentaler and gruyere. Serve with Brussels sprouts, roasted potato wedges and brown bread chunks.
Creamy Goat Cheese
Omit garlic and nutmeg. Swap in ½ cup heavy cream for white wine and 1 lb goat cheese for emmentaler and gruyere. Serve with strawberries, red grapes and crackers.
Beer & Pretzel
Swap in flavorful German beer (such as bock) for white wine, and whisk in 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard. Swap in 1 lb sharp white cheddar for emmentaler and gruyere. Serve with hard or soft pretzels broken into pieces.
My favorite is the traditional, served with a white wine from Alsace or a white Burgundy. For a festive New Year’s meal try the classic with the Vin Hunter Prosecco. Add a few of your closest friends and you have yourself a party!
Wishing everyone the best holiday season,
Shannon Welsh, Heinen’s Cheesemonger and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional