When winter’s cold, dark days drag on, staying in with comfort food seems so appealing. Cozy up your winter get-together with the Alpine favorite go-to: fondue.

“The Swiss people love fondue — we are real cheese and chocolate fans,” Christine Streich, owner of Coyote Blues Village B&B in Hill City, said with a laugh.

Streich and her husband, HansPeter, are natives of Switzerland, and enjoy the tradition of fondue as part of their homeland’s culture.

A classic cuisine in the Alps, fondue is a melted mélange of cheeses and flavorings simmered in a tabletop chafing dish. Chunks of bread or other delicacies, such as vegetable, potato, or pineapple, are submerged into the hot dip with special forked skewers.

“It’s definitely a winter thing, and more of a special event, like four times spaced out during a season,” Streich said. “Usually fondue is something you eat with friends in your home, maybe inviting another couple to make four around the pot.”

The preparation process is very simple, and adds to the fun of the evening.

“Everyone hangs out in the kitchen, around the stove, while the host will add the wine and cheeses,” she said. “We were always told the old method was to keep stirring in a figure-eight shape until everything is melted together. Then everyone moves to the table.”

Streich said when it comes to the blend of cheeses, the Swiss take their fun tradition seriously. “If you go to a Swiss cheese shop and ask for their fondue cheese, it will be made up of between two to four types of shredded cheese. They call it ‘moitie moitie’ — literally, half and half. But just ask for ‘mild’ or ‘strong’, don’t ask what the blend is. Every shop has their own secrets.”

Fortunately, a trip to Switzerland is not necessary to make good fondue, since Streich advises that local stores carry acceptable imported cheeses for fondue, such as Emmentaler and Gruyere.

If everyone still has room for dessert, another pot would be filled with thick, melted chocolate, into which fruit or cake would be dipped.

“Remember that the two enemies of chocolate are heat and water,” said Kaitlinn Verchio, production manager of Mostly Chocolates in Rapid City.

“You’ll burn chocolate if you get it too hot too fast, and if any water is in your pot, the chocolate will seize up,” Verchio said.

Verchio cautions against a cheaper chocolate, since the flavor of paraffin wax or other emulsifier ingredients may come through. “Even added vanilla will weaken the taste of the chocolate,” she said.

Verchio instead recommends melting a high-quality chocolate, such as Guittard, which is higher in cocoa butter content. “This creates the ‘snap, sheen, and smooth’ consistency you want in a nice, creamy chocolate, and you’ll get a more intense chocolate flavor.”

According to Swiss tradition, a dry white wine or black tea is often served with fondue, Streich said. “The die-hard traditional will drink a ‘coup de milieu’ shot glass of kirsch (cherry brandy) halfway though and then at the end to help the digestion,” she said.

However you incorporate fondue into your own mealtime traditions, Streich offers one cheerful warning: “You will always overeat. It’s that delicious.”

Traditional Savory Fondue

Recipe courtesy of Christine Streich, owner of Coyote Blues B&B

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4-6

14 ounces Swiss cheese (Emmentaler) coarsely shredded

14 ounces Gruyere cheese coarsely shredded

12 ounces dry white wine

One, 7-ounce Kirsch (also called Kirschwasser)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 clove garlic

Nutmeg

Pepper

Cubed (about one-inch pieces) baguette bread ...  pieces of pineapple, pear, cooked potatoes, mushrooms are being used more and more.

Rub the fondue pot with the garlic. You can add more cloves to cook with the cheese. Add the cheese and the white wine. Stir continuously on stove.

Mix the cornstarch and the Kirsch. Add to the melted cheese. It should be a creamy consistency. You can add just a pinch of baking soda to make it thicker. Add nutmeg and pepper to your taste. Have the burner ready on the dinner table. Transfer pot.

Each guest takes a handful of bread cubes and fruit on their plate. Then put a piece at a time on your fork and then into the pot, stirring until you have enough cheese on your piece. Several people can do that at the same time.

It used to be a big deal if you lost your cube of bread in the pot (women had to kiss all the men, and men had to donate a bottle of wine). As the amount gets smaller, try to stay out of the middle so the cheese can form a crust which can be removed at the end. Some people really fight over that.

Outbrain