Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fondue Feast - Other Ideas

There are some great combinations at The Melting Pot. If you choose to have your own Fondue Feast Night, maybe some of their offerings may inspire you!

Cheese Fondues

Fondue a la France - Baby Brie, Gruyere, Raclette, bacon, onions, white truffle cream and fresh chives

Spinach Artichoke Cheese Fondue - Fontina, Butterkase, spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic

Fiesta Cheese Fondue - Cheddar cheese with Mexican herbs, spices, jalapeno peppers, and salsa (served with tortilla chips)

Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue - Fontina, Butterkase and buttermilk bleu cheeses, white wine, scallions and sherry

Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue - Gruyere and Emmethaler, white wine, garlic, nutmeg, lemon and Kirschwasser

Chocolate Fondues

White Chocolate Creme Brulee - white chocolate and caramelized sugar

The Original - milk chocolate with crunchy peanut butter

Disaronno Meltdown - White chocolate with Disaronno (flambéed)

Cookies N Cream Marshmallow Dream - Dark chocolate with marshmallow cream, flambéed, and topped with Oreo cookie crumbs

Flaming Turtle - Milk chocolate, caramel and chopped pecans (flambéed)

Pure Chocolate - the title says it all.

Bananas Foster - White chocolate, bananas, cinnamon, and flambéed.

Yin and Yang - Half dark chocolate, half white chocolate

Chocolate S'mores - Milk chocolate topped with marshmallow cream, flambéed, and topped with graham cracker crumbs.

Other add ins they suggest are Baileys, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Chambord, or Tuaca.

Fondue Feast - The Recipes

At this point, I feel I need to throw out some warnings.
- Don't eat right off the fondue fork (it could be stupid hot). Put your food on your plate and eat with a regular fork.
- If you're doing the meat course, take necessary food safety precautions (because you're dealing with raw meat), and never put raw meat on the plate you'll be eating off of.

Cheddar Cheese Fondue

Half a bottle of lager (or so)
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 clove (or more) garlic
3 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
80% sharp cheddar cheese
20% Emmenthaler cheese
1 tblsp corn starch (optional)
Freshly cracked black pepper

Grate cheeses and toss with a little cornstarch (this will both absorb some moisture, keeping the cheese shreds apart, and help thicken the fondue a little - it's not absolutely necessary).

Pour beer into your fondue pot and crank it. Add mustard powder, and grate in garlic (or drop in finely minced garlic). Once boiling, lower heat a bit and add cheese, bit by bit, stirring in a figure 8 motion, until melted. Continue adding cheese until fondue reaches desired consistency. It's better to be a little on the loose side than too thick. It will thicken a little as the course goes on. Top with a little freshly ground pepper.

Serve with bread (cubes of french, rye, and pumpernickel, soft pretzel nuggets, cubes of granny smith apples, baby carrots, celery sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, whatever else you can imagine would be great with beery, garlicky melted cheese)

Spinach Salad

Baby spinach, hard boiled egg slice, sliced red onion, sliced cucumber, sliced roma tomatoes, shredded Emmenthaler cheese

Don's Favourite Dressing

1/2 cup oil
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch salt

Put all ingredients into blender (except oil) and blend, then add oil slowly while running blender and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Coq Au Vin Cooking Liquid for Main Course

3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup burgandy wine
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tblsp garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced

Heat vegetable stock in a fondue pot until it begins to simmer. Add all other ingredients and bring back to a simmer.

Serve with filet mignon, marinated (or not) cubed chicken breast, marinated (or not) sirloin or NY strip steak, marinated (or not) pork tenderloin, ravioli, partly cooked fingerling potato pieces, mushroom caps, etc. and various sauces.

Make sure to have a slotted spoon at the table for fishing out ravioli and veggies. Don't leave the slotted spoon in the fondue pot when you're not using it because it will get ridiculously hot.

Reminder again: Use all necessary food safety precautions when handling the raw meat and cook to safe temperatures (chicken to 165 degrees and beef at least to 145 degrees)

Green Goddess Dressing

This is one of my favourite things about fondue night. It needs to be made in advance.

8 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tblsp finely chopped onion
2 tblsp finely chopped parsley
2 tblsp finely chopped chives

Microwave cream cheese and milk for 2-4 minutes, whisking after each minute until cream cheese melts and mixture is smooth. Stir in sour cream, onion, parsley and chives. Refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools.

This is really good spooned into cooked mushroom caps and served with the potatoes.

Chocolate Fondue

10 oz chocolate chips (milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, or a blend...up to you)
1/2 to 3/4 cup half and half cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
(we stir in Skor bits, but you can stir in marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, Bailey's Irish Cream, espresso powder, chocolate cookie crumbs...the sky's the limit)

Melt chocolate in the microwave (medium power, 2 minutes). Stir occasionally to keep from burning. Pour into heated fondue pot (I use my stoneware one for the chocolate) and stir in your choice of add ins.

Serve with pineapple, strawberries, banana slices, brownie bites, pound cake bites, mini cheesecakes (you'll want to put the cheesecake on your fork and spoon chocolate over won't stay on your fondue fork), pretzels, marshmallows, graham crackers...whatever goes with chocolate!

Fondue? Yes Please!

I was introduced to fondue in 2004, by some coworkers. Our Christmas party was cheese and chocolate at The Melting Pot at the Charlotte University location.

I was hooked...and I wanted more.

For the next few years, I ate there once every month or so. You know you are a "regular" when the manager sends kitchen staff out to get Heath Bars at the store so they can make your favourite chocolate (it had been removed from the menu). I mean, I never had to ask for it...they would just bring it "my way".

When I moved back to Canada, I was sad to find out that there wasn't a Melting Pot anywhere nearby. They have since opened one in Grand Rapids, MI, but that's a long way to travel just to get melted cheese.

So I set to making my own "Big Night Out". This has become a New Years Eve tradition for the past 3 NYEs and it will continue tonight.

I'll probably break this up into a few posts, because it's going to be long...let's call this one:

My Inspiration

When you go to the Melting Pot, you are given a menu. You could do just cheese, just chocolate, or the whole shebang.

I recommend the whole shebang.

WWJD? (What Would Jacy Do?)

It's a lot of prep, but it's totally worth it, and there are ways to make things easier on you. Plan ahead.

Today is Wednesday, NYE is Friday. I'm making my shopping list today, and will be doing the shopping tomorrow (to avoid the "day of" rush). I will prep the food Friday, and when suppertime rolls around, all I'll need to do is throw it together.

So here's the menu:

Appetizer - Beer & cheddar fondue with granny smith apples, soft pretzel sticks, french bread, carrots and celery

Salad - Spinach salad

Main course - Coq au Vin cooking method with filet mignon, meatballs, chicken, potatoes, mushrooms (sauces: green goddess, bbq, teriyaki, anything else I can find)

Dessert - Milk chocolate and Skor bits, with brownie chunks, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, graham crackers

Drinks - Red wine of Don's choosing and possibly a girly martini style cocktail.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Candy Cane Marshmallows

This is a Martha Stewart gem. It takes a little bit of effort but man, it tastes ridiculously good!

If you're going to make these, keep in mind that you need to let them set for at least 3 hours but overnight is best. It makes 16 GIANT marshmallows. You can obviously make smaller ones (but they won't be as much fun).

Every sip of your hot chocolate gives you a little slurp of gooey melty minty marshmallow.


Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4 packages unflavoured gelatin
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (though cinnamon would be really good too!)
2 large egg whites
Red food colouring (optional)

Coat an 8" square baking pan with cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and spray that too.

Put sugar, corn syrup and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Raise heat to medium high, pop in a candy thermometer, and cook until it reaches 260 degrees. That's "firm ball stage" btw, if that's how you do things.

As the sugar cooks, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl. Let stand about 5 minutes, to soften. Meanwhile, put a pot of water (the right size to pop the heatproof bowl into, to create a double boiler) on to boil. Place bowl onto simmering water and whisk until all the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and add peppermint extract. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff (but not dry) peaks are formed. With the mixer running, slowly add the gelatin into the egg whites. When sugar has reached 260 degrees, remove from heat and (with mixer still running) slowly (but steadily) add sugar to egg white and gelatin mixture.

Mix on high speed until very thick, about 12-15 minutes.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and very quickly drop a few drops of food colouring (if using) on the surface, and drag through with a toothpick, skewer or knife to create a swirly design.

Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for at least 3 hours but preferrably overnight, to set up.


Cutting these fluffy squares of deliciousness was a real pain in the rear. My solution was the same as cutting the cheese...uh, I mean cutting soft cheese.

Dental floss. (How's that for irony?)

Run a knife along the sides of the pan to loosen the edges, then get the tip of the knife under the parchment paper and slip the whole thing out onto the counter. Take a length of dental floss and slide it between the parchment and the bottom of the marshmallow. It should go very easily. Position both sides to the approximate center and lift both ends to meet in the middle. The floss will slice cleanly through the marshmallow. It might not look like it, but it did.

Repeat, repositioning and slicing until you have the desired number of marshmallows.

Martha, of course, has these goodies all perfecly packaged in cellophane bags. I tried to put one of mine in a cellophane bag and it looked like a bit of a marshmallow crime scene.

My solution was to cut a length of parchment paper (because they are still fairly sticky), lay out four marshmallow squares side by side, fold the long sides up and over, and fold the short ends into a triangle, rolling to secure.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White Trash

Some call it Puppy Chow, some call it Christmas Crack...I call it "addictive". It's easy to make, and I guarantee that if you put this out, people are going to keep going back to it.

Unless they are allergic to nuts, in which case, I'd maybe avoid it. That might end badly.

If you are a purist, you'll just use cereal...and that will make people plenty happy. I like a little variety.


What you need...

1 box of Chex (or, if you're in Canada, Crispix)
1 cup thin pretzel sticks, snapped in half
1 cup holiday coloured M & M's
(you can really put anything you like in here...peanuts, almonds, popcorn, whatever...just make sure you have enough coating. It's probably against the law somewhere to skimp on the coating.)

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

1 big ziplock bag
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner's sugar, powdered sugar, whatever you call it)

In a very large bowl (I usually use 2, so I have room to mix), toss together your snack ingredients.

Lay parchment paper on 2 baking sheets and have them ready.

In a microwave safe bowl, toss in butter, chocolate chips and peanut butter. Nuke on high until melted, stirring often (burnt chocolate is no one's friend). Stir in vanilla quickly, and pour into bowl with all the cereal goodness in it. Mix to coat as best you can, maybe get your hands into it? Whatever works.

Lay out on parchment lined baking sheets to set up 20 minutes or so.

I usually shake the White Trash in 3 batches. Put some powdered sugar at the bottom of the ginormous ziploc bag, scoop some chocolate covered stuff in the bag, top with some more powdered sugar, zip up the bag (securely - it sucks when you *think* it's closed but it's not...ask me how I know) and shake. Feel free to dig into those chunks of chocolate to break them up a bit. Add more sugar if needed.



Sunday, December 19, 2010


I have been on a quest to make "the" tortiere that I will always make. It's a tradition in the Courtemanche household to have one (or 3) meat pies at Christmas, so the past few years, I have been playing with recipes.

I think this is the one.


I made four, so divide the measurements as needed. I cooked it all up in a stock pot (browning the meat in a couple of batches in a frying pan). If you are making one pie, you could do it all in a frying pan, I'm sure. If you don't want to do the math, they freeze really well, and are great "cozy food" for those cold winter nights.

I also used all beef this time, but you could use a combination of ground meats (beef, pork, veal, venison, moose)

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large yellow onions
30 or so crimini mushrooms
3 stalks celery
1 family size package of ground beef (just under 2 kg)
4 cups beef stock (1 tetra pack)
8 cloves garlic
3 stalks fresh thyme
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
Salt and pepper
1 egg yolk

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash. Set aside. You don't really need to add cream or butter, because it's going to be used a binding agent and will soak up all the gravy. Having said that, I did add a little milk to make it easier to mash, and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

I chose to chop up my veggies in a food processor because I didn't want chunks of veggies, but I did want the flavour. If you would rather dice your veggies by hand, go nuts. It's your pie.

Chop mushrooms, celery, and onions and soften in a stock pot with a little bit of olive oil. At this point, I was also browning the ground beef in a frying pan. Add stock, garlic, honey, thyme (if you have fresh thyme, just throw the whole twig in...the little leaves will come off and all you'll need to do is remove the stalk), cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. When meat is browned, drain and add to the stock pot with everything else (except the potatoes). Simmer for a while until stock is reduced (you don't want it too soupy, but you don't want it too's that for vague?). Remove bay leaves and thyme stalks. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.

Mix in potatoes, spoonful by spoonful, until it's a good consistency. I didn't need to use all my mashed potatoes, maybe had 1/2 cup leftover, but next time it could be a different story.

I used premade pie shells (the TenderFlake deep dish dealies), so if you make your own pastry, do what you do. I use two premade pie shells per pie (one for the bottom and one for the top) and because there was one year the bottom crust was still a little soggy, I took my Mother in Law's advice, and prebaked the bottoms before filling.

So, I put the oven on 400, pierced 4 shells with a fork, and popped them in the oven for a few minutes, until the bottoms were dry (but not completely done). Once they were done, I filled them full of filling.

I tipped one of the unbaked and thawed pastry shells onto the counter and cut out shapes (for the steam vents). This year, I used a Christmas tree cookie cutter. Gently placed the top onto the pie, pinched the edges to seal, and brushed it with a wash of 1 egg yolk and a tsp of water.

I baked my pies (2 at a time) in the bottom third of my oven, at 400, for about 30 minutes.

Remove them, allow them to cool, and wrap in foil. I usually throw them back in the pie shell boxes to store in the freezer.

To reheat, either cut a slice and pop in the microwave (blech!) or pop the thawed pie in the oven, foil still on it (so you don't burn the crust) at 350 for about 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through. You can pull the foil off for the last few minutes to crisp up the crust.

Don likes to eat his with ketchup and yellow mustard, my Mom likes to eat hers smothered in HP sauce (steak sauce).

Chai Chocodoodles

I saw a woman on Good Morning America making these and they sounded so good! I like chocolate, I love chai, and I like snickerdoodles, so why not give them a try?

The original recipie can be found here, and I only made one adjustment. I didn't see any salt in the ingredients, so I added that.

Chai Chocodoodles

2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 and pop a silpat on your baking sheet (or parchment).

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice and white pepper. Remove 1/2 cup of this mixture and place in a shallow bowl and put aside. Add cocoa powder to the bowl with the remaining sugar mixture and combine.

In a large bowl, cream butter until fluffy, add spiced cocoa mixture and beat until combined. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix at low speed until just combined.

As usual, don't overmix.

Using a small cookie scoop, form balls and roll in the sugar and spice mixture you put in a shallow bowl earlier, and place on your baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

I am not sure how many this makes, but if I remember, I might be able to come back and jot it down. The original recipe says "4 servings" but seriously, how much is a serving of delicious cookies?

I immediately made 16, and while they were baking, continued to roll the dough into balls and coating with sugar, and placed them on a piece of parchment in my freezer. Once all the balls were individually frozen, I popped them into freezer bags and put them in the freezer. Individually freezing them will mean I won't have a giant glob of dough to contend with. When I'm ready to bake them, I'll pull out what I need, let them thaw which won't take long at all, and pop them in the oven.

Why would I do that? Well, a couple of reasons.

First, you never know when you're going to be invited at the last minute (or remember at the last minute) to someone's house, and you should never go empty handed. In 20 minutes, you can have homemade cookies.

Second, if you're like me and plan to make a few different types of cookies but have a full day with your other responsibilities, making a batch of dough and getting it ready when you have the chance (say, the weekend before), takes a little stress off. I don't like making cookies a week in advance, so this is my compromise.

I may look like I'm all discombobulated, but this girl has a plan!

Spice Rub

I made an all purpose spice rub for my Dad. He loves to cook and experiment with flavours. It was a quick and easy gift, and I'm sure he'll find some awesome things to do with it (besides putting it on chicken or sprinkling it on freshly popped popcorn).

Spice Rub

1/3 cup course sea salt
1/4 cup smoked paprika
1/4 demerera sugar
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Place in a jar and shake well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Salmon, Hodgepodge, and Cheddar Dill Crackers


Hodgepodge is basically a bunch of veggies, covered in a white sauce. It's not hard to do. Boil a few potatoes and carrots until almost done, throw in broccoli and peas and cook about 3 more minutes. Drain and put pot back on the stove.

Add 2 tblsp butter, chopped onions, and thyme to soften. Grate in a clove of garlic and sprinkle in 2 tblsp flour and cook a minute or two to cook out the raw flour taste. Slowly add 1 cup hot milk, whisking to incorporate, toss in a tablespoon of dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and allow to thicken (stir often!).

Throw cooked veggies into the pot and coat with sauce. When ready to serve, sprinkle with a little fresh herbs (dill was great!).

Crackers are easy to make, and can be flavoured however you like.

Cheddar Dill Crackers

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1/4 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup butter (cold or frozen, depending on your method)
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Set oven to 350 degrees.

There are two ways to do this: You can make it in a food processor, or you can make it in a bowl with frozen butter. The latter will result in much flakier and more tender crackers. Your choice though...

Combine flour, cheeses, dill (or your choice of herb), garlic, salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine 1 cup flour, seasonings, and cheese. If using the food pro, cut cold butter into small cubes and pulse just until contents of the bowl resemble course cornmeal. Don't overwork it.

If you're using the frozen butter technique, grate frozen butter into dry stuff and gently stir to combine.

For either method, now add milk, a bit at a time (I needed a little more than 2 tblsp) until dough forms a ball. Use flour as needed to keep things from sticking.

Roll out to about 1/4" thickness (more if you like a more biscuit type deal, less if you like crispy goodness). Cut into even shapes (squares, triangles, whatever, but make them around the same size for even cooking). Pop onto a silpat (or parchment, or lightly greased) covered baking sheet and slide into the oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

They will crisp up as they cool.


I did a nice and easy salmon last night...rinsed and dried the filets, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and pan fried in a hot pan with olive oil until just done. I added a squirt of a balsamic glaze at the last minute for a little kick.