Simply Celebrate Life!
Gather Around YOUR Table
In a short shopping trip, you can find all sorts of cute ways to decorate your table and house for Valentine’s. But you can also repurpose items you already have, and make them fit with a few easy and cheap items. I used various red candle holders from my Christmas stash, but by adding heart paper doilies (Dollar Store), some large Conversation hearts, and even some Holiday Chocolates, it’s all about Valentine’s and we’re ready for Love!
In design – THREE is a very magic number, anything grouped in odd numbers suddenly looks fabulous! Here I grouped 3 red crackled Hurricanes and 3 pillar candles on heart doilies… Simply Beautiful!
Here is a simple footed stand with a Red Hurricane and red candle, but filling the base with large Conversations hearts adds a little whimsy for a simple Valentine’s centerpiece.
I’m usually planning how to celebrate Valentine’s with my husband, but celebrating with my kids in a special way is fun too. I decided to have a special Valentine’s dinner for the family this year, and I decided a Fondue night would be the perfect way to pull everyone together for a great meal.
A few years ago, Patty and Sonny gave us a gift certificate to the restaurant, The Melting Pot. They specialize in fondue, and that one fantastic dinner has helped inspire this ‘do-it-yourself,’ restaurant quality meal!
Fondue is fun because it’s very hands on and participatory. It would also make a great meal for two, because it can be very sensual. But it lends itself as a fun party for any get together because it is naturally a more social meal as you sit and cook your food together tableside, which becomes it’s own catalyst for conversation and interaction.
Once you’ve filled the table with a fondue pot, the sides for dipping, and sauces there is no room for cute table decorations, plus, everyone is reaching and sharing into the table, so I kept my table decorations and settings to a minimal.
There are all sorts of Fondue pots, but I’ve found that my favorite is this electrical one made by Cuisinart because of the ease of control of temperature, and it’s nonstick interior makes it great for cleanup too. I’ve seen this model at many specialty Kitchen stores and even big box stores like Target and Costco.
For my place setting, I simply used square porcelain plates, accompanied by a fork and a fondue skewer, and a stemless wine glass. But to bring in a little fun and reminder of why we’re celebrating, I found these cute Valentine’s napkins, and they were all I needed. Sometimes less, really is more.
A very traditional Fondue meal is broken into three courses, first, the Cheese. My favorite Cheese is the classic Swiss Fondue with Gruyere and Emmentaler. You can find great recipes online, your favorite cookbooks, and there are even cookbooks completely dedicated to just Fondue. Or you can experiment with your favorite cheeses and flavors. I decided to do a more familiar Cheddar fondue with the family this time.
In a bowl, toss:
3/4 lb. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked or sweet Paprika
In a frying pan over medium low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter,
add 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, and saute until softened, 1-2 minutes.
3/4 cup Pale Ale or Pilsner (or Apple Beer)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
and bring to a low simmer.
Gradually add the cheese, a handful at a time until the mixture is creamy and the cheese is completely melted.
When ready to serve, transfer the mixture to a fondue pot and place in the center of the table. Serve right away.
Great accompaniments for this Fondue are: apple wedges, crusty bread cubes, warmed cooked potato pieces, warmed cooked sausage slices (Polish, Italian, or Linguica), and cocktail franks.
Many fondues call for vegetable accompaniments but I’ve discovered that I prefer a crisp Roasted Vegetable to a raw veggie anytime. Here I used Potato, Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Carrots, but you could use anything your family enjoys. I simply cut up my veggies and tossed them in a bowl with about 4 tablespoons melted butter, and another 2 tablespoons Olive Oil, seasoned well with salt and pepper and tossed to coat. Put them all in a baking pan, and roast in the oven at 425 for 45 – 60 minutes, or until slightly browned. I also turn them about every 15 minutes. This is a great side dish for any meal, but I love dipping the Roasted Veggies in the ooey, gooey Cheese!
And I also enjoy whatever is left as a side for my second course.
Here is my family all enjoying our own Fondue night! I think the smiles say it all…
The second course is traditionally the main, or meat course. Guests will actually cook their meat in a boiling broth or oil base. Here are some of my raw meats, prepped and ready.
For this meal, I have Shrimp, Salmon, Bay Scallops, Sirloin Steak, Pork Loin, and Chicken Breast. Fresh vegetables and/or even Ravioli is fun for this method too.
For cooking the meat, you can heat oil in the pot and fry your meats and/or vegetables. Or you can cook them in a Broth base fondue. Here is some information I found in my “Fondue” cookbook by Bob and Coleen Simmons: “Broth fondues are typically consumed in two stages: First, individual pieces of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetable are cooked in the simmering broth and eaten with a flavorful dipping sauce. Then whatever ingredients remain in the pot are ladled out along with the broth and served as a soup… When you are ready to begin serving, pour the broth into the pot, filling it no more than 3/4 full… bring the broth to a boil, and adjust heat so the broth will remain at a steady simmer throughout the cooking.” Another tip, if the liquid reduces too much during cooking, stir 1-2 cups additional hot broth or water.
For my broth, I combined Chicken Stock with fresh minced garlic, diced onion, a squeeze of lemon, and simply seasoned with oregano, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper.
I served side dipping sauces of Hoisin, Honey Mustard, Homemade Tartar, Sweet Chile Sauce, and our favorite BBQ sauce for the kids.
Serve whatever you like, or accompanies the flavor profile you are going for, or be creative and try something completely new.
The final course, is of course a Chocolate Fondue course. Again, you can be creative, mix your favorite chocolate, white, milk, or dark with some cream and you are set. Or you can always add other flavors such as peanut butter, caramel, marshmallow, liquers, or toffee… you are only limited by your imagination. Mine doesn’t look perfectly smooth, because we added Toffee Bits to our Dark Chocolate fondue.
In a small fondue pot over very low heat, combine
1/2 lb. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
and cook, stirring frequently until the chocolate has completely melted.
Add a pinch of kosher salt and stir to combine.
Before serving, make sure the heat source is set to very low, just to keep the chocolate warm.
Serve right away with accompaniments for dipping.
Here are some accompaniment ideas I didn’t use this time:
Churros, dried fruit, fresh fruit, angel food cake, ladyfingers, cream puffs, mini cheesecakes, sugar cookies, shortbread, biscotti, waffles… Mmmmmm!
Everyone LOVES dipping their favorite things in Chocolate, here we enjoyed some of our favorites: pretzels, strawberries, apples, pound cake, marshmallows, and bananas.
When the kids were done, I got out one last treat for the adults, I scooped mini scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream onto skewers and froze them solid, so good! Another fun addition is to have a way to toast the marshmallows first…
Even if you don’t want to do the full three course Fondue Night, any one course is great all on it’s own…
Cheese Fondue is a fun way to start a party, and Warm Chocolate is always a great way to end it!
Patty, Chris (and I) ate, and talked, and ate, and talked some more, decided we were too full, and then ate some more, you can see we had a fabulous night! When my kids came in and just saw these pictures, they were asking if we could have Fondue tonight … I’d say this was a huge success!
Shiny, happy Chocolate faces don’t lie … Whether for Family night, date night, or party night … Try hosting a Fondue Party of your own!