Posts Tagged With: Switzerland

101/365: National Cheese Fondue Day

I’ll spear you the suspense and get right to the point: April 11th is National Cheese Fondue Day!

Fondue originated in Switzerland as a method of using up hard cheese. One can only have so many paperweights, you know? It comes from the French word fondre, which means “to melt.” OK, logical enough. It was a traditional peasant dish, made with white wine and served in a communal pot; stale bread is most often used for dipping. Stale bread and old, hard cheese, eh? Those Swiss really knew hot to stretch leftovers. Fondue really took off in the 1950s when Konrad Egli introduced it at his Chalet Suisse restaurant in New York. We’ve discussed him before; he’s the dude who invented chocolate fondue as a promotion for Toblerone. Before long, every bell-bottom and polyester-clad cook in the 1970s was serving fondue; it’s as much a symbol of that decade as disco, Watergate, and Farrah Fawcett. It remains popular in Switzerland, too, where it is a symbol of Swiss unity; the Swiss Cheese Union promotes it aggressively with marketing campaigns featuring slogans like Fondue isch guet und git e gueti Luune – “fondue is good and creates a good mood.”

I happen to agree. Fondue IS good and it DOES create a good mood. Tara and I met for lunch at Gustav’s, a German restaurant down the street, midway between where we both work. It doesn’t get more convenient than that. This is the second food holiday we have celebrated here; we also had the fondue for National Cheese Lover’s Day. What can I say? Their fondue is really good! And I’m thinking Tara and I need to break down and buy our own fondue set already. Hey…maybe we’ll get one as a wedding gift!

When the check arrived, I asked our waiter if he knew it was National Cheese Fondue Day, and he had no idea. Then he said, “The cheese fondue is our most popular dish…this would be a great marketing idea!”

Yeah. No kidding. It still amazes me how rarely people in the food business realize when there’s a food holiday celebrating a dish they are known for. Talk about a lot of missed marketing opportunities. Maybe I should consider becoming a food consultant or something…

Cheese Fondue

Categories: Dairy | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

94/365: National Cordon Bleu Day

You’ll get a blue ribbon if you guess what today’s food holiday is! Give up? April 4th is National Cordon Bleu Day!

If you hadn’t already guessed, “cordon bleu” translates to blue ribbon in French. This scrumptious dish refers to a cutlet of meat – traditionally chicken, veal, or pork – that is pounded thin, stuffed with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese, breaded, and either baked or fried. It’s a relatively recent creation, and not even French, despite the hoity-toity name. A schnitzel with cheese first appeared in Switzerland (naturally) during the 1940s. The earliest mention of “cordon bleu” in America dates to a veal recipe in 1955, while the chicken version appeared in a New York Times article in 1967. A future version – “soylent green cordon bleu” – is expected in 2022. Don’t ask what’s in it. Sometimes prosciutto or bacon is substituted for the ham, and any soft cheese can be used. I’m partial to Swiss myself. I believe that’s the traditional cheese type used, probably in honor of the dish’s place of origin, but that theory could be full of holes.

I’ve made chicken cordon several times in the past, and had actually planned on cooking it for Tara soon anyway, so this food holiday gave me the perfect excuse. It’s easy to make, and the results are always delicious. I use this recipe from allrecipes.com, with a few minor variations (add paprika to the bread crumb mixture and coat the entire breast in it before cooking). Turned out great!

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Categories: Poultry | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

36/365: National Chocolate Fondue Day

Anybody longing for the 1970s should get a kick out of today’s food holiday: February 5 is National Chocolate Fondue Day!

Fondue pots (along with disco, polyester, and Bert Reynolds movies) might be synonymous with the 70s, but fondue has been around for a lot longer. The Swiss have a lot of cheese, you know, and needed a way to use it up once it became hard, so they figured they could melt it down and dip things in it. Surprisingly, even though Switzerland is just as well known for its chocolates as for cheese, it was a restaurant in New York City called Suisse Chalet that actually created chocolate fondue. Chef/Owner Konni Egli was looking for inventive new dishes to promote his restaurant in 1966, and turned to the Swiss National Tourist Office, conveniently located a block away. They were looking to promote a new chocolate bar called Toblerone whose oddly-shaped triangular pieces were meant to be eaten individually, each one resembling the Matterhorn (the mountain in Switzerland, not the theme park ride in Disneyland). Konni hit upon the idea of melting down the chocolate and creating a new type of fondue, one that was sweet instead of savory.

Incidentally, Toblerone chocolates were at the heart of a Swedish political scandal in 1995 when Mona Sahlin, a candidate for Prime Minister, used taxpayer money to purchase two Toblerone bars. She ended up dropping out of the race. Which begs the question: if the chocolate is known for its distinctive shape and tastes so good you’d risk your political career for a bite, why were the chefs at the Swiss Chalet trying to melt it down in the first place? But they were, and they did, and the rest is chocolate fondue history.Chocolate Fondue ingredients

When we were discussing what to dip in our chocolate fondue, I suggested apples. Tara thought that was an odd choice, but it turns out apples and other fruit (strawberries and bananas) are popular accompaniments, as are marshmallows, pretzels, and graham crackers.

I decided, in the interest of authenticity, to make Konni Egli’s original chocolate fondue recipe, using Toblerone, heavy cream, and a splash of brandy. We don’t own a fondue pot, which is a bit shocking considering our (ok, MY) penchant for anything retro. But I set up a poor man’s double boiler (a small pot inside a big pot), melted the chocolate, added the cream, and – voila! We had a chocolate fondue dish that would make ol’ Mr. Egli proud.

By the way, the Toblerone chocolate bar itself? Out of this world! I balked at the $2.69 price tag, but man, that’s some seriously good chocolate. And the little chocolate triangles really do look like the Matterhorn. Groovy.

Dig the fancy plating, yo.

Dig the fancy plating, yo.

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Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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