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A New Year’s fondue for people who fon-don’t

Want to know my go-to recipe for hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration? Cheese fondue! Here’s a scrumptious party food that’s festive enough for any special occasion. It’s easy to make, adaptable to suit any party plan, and communal so guests will mingle.

This all-purpose fondue recipe is very versatile. You can use either wine, beer or apple cider as your liquid base. Add your cheese of choice, a little cornstarch ensures your fondue won’t separate, and you get luscious fondue.

When you think of cheese fondue, you may think of Swiss cheese as the principal ingredient. In my quest to keep things frugal as well as fabulous, I learned inexpensive Swiss cheese from the deli doesn’t melt properly into the wine but stays stringy and clumpy.

I tried several varieties and ended out with a clump of gooey cheese bathing in milky wine. Not very Diva. So rather than busting the bank on really good (read: expensive!) Gruyere or Emmental cheese, we’re using other, more affordable cheeses.

The cheeses that I found worked best are all varieties of cheddar, (yellow or white, mild, medium or sharp) Muenster, Monterey jack, pepper jack, Colby and a mix of those varieties.

Since this recipe consists of only cheese and wine or beer, please be sure to use a dry white wine or beer you enjoy drinking. And the better the cheese, the better your results. I found the stronger in flavor the cheese, the less pronounced the flavor of the wine or beer became. Apple cider was delicious with all the combinations I tried. It added a lovely fruity note but was less complex in flavor. My tasters liked the aromatic “boozy” essence brought by the alcohol. Bear in mind, most of the actual alcohol will evaporate as the fondue cooks. So, no worries of getting the kiddies blotto by bedtime.

For a white cheese fondue, use three cups white cheddar mixed with two cups muenster. It’s mild-flavored enough to let the essence of the wine shine. Wines I suggest include dry Riesling (taste test winner), or Chenin Blanc.

If you choose beer as your liquid, use medium or sharp cheddar and add a little dry ground mustard for some zing. To spice things up, try an IPA beer with pepper jack cheese.

EASY CHEESY FONDUE

What You’ll Need:

1 ½ cups dry white wine, beer or apple cider

5 cups shredded cheese

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Here’s How:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, bring your liquid of choice to barely a simmer. If you’re a temperature kind of person, aim for 150°F degrees. Don’t boil the fondue! Meanwhile, toss the shredded cheese with corn starch until it’s evenly dispersed.

Reduce heat to low and slowly add the cheese, one small handful at a time. Stir each addition until it’s melted before adding the next handful. Repeat until all the cheese is melted. If you’re adding any additional ingredients, stir them in now.

When all the cheese is melted, transfer to a fondue pot set on low, if you have one. Alternatively, use a small crockpot set on low. Serve immediately.

Optional ingredients: 1 clove garlic, minced, ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon brandy or kirsch.

Dippers can be as simple or as elaborate as you desire, or your budget requires. Cubes of bread, roasted potatoes or steak fries, slices of apple and pear, red bell pepper, broccoli florets and smoked sausage are classic.

For a variety of affordable breads; haunt your local bakery’s “oops, we baked too much” racks in advance of your party. Happy New Year!

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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