Family-friendly fondue will heat up those cold Chicago nights

Looking for a hearty meal that will bring the whole family together? Introduce your kids to a nearly forgotten fad-fondue. You’ll have some laughs. Everyone will leave the table with a very full belly. Best of all, you’ll have minimal dishes to clean up. So dig that dusty old fondue pot out of storage (or pick one up at a local thrift store) and plan an evening of family fondue fun.

Fondue has its origins in 18th-century Switzerland as a means of using up stale bread and past-its-prime cheese. The French word “fondue” means to melt or blend. The melted cheese was kept warm in an earthenware pot and diners dipped their utensils directly into the sauce.

This communal cooking method had its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s when it became popular at dinner parties. This social style of eating is a great icebreaker because the diners can’t help but interact with each other (which also makes it perfectly suited for a weeknight dinner at your kitchen table).

When you introduce your family to fondue, you can stick to Alpine tradition and simply dip pieces of bread into melted cheese. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to modernize this classic communal meal. For example, dip pieces of cooked pasta into the sauce and call it “deconstructed macaroni and cheese.”

Large pots of melted cheese or chocolate are obviously not exactly diet food, but you can improve the nutritional value of your meal by offering lots of healthy dipping options (see sidebar for suggestions). Try dipping fresh or steamed veggies such as broccoli or green beans into your savory sauce. Add some protein to your meal by offering slices of cooked chicken sausage or pieces of ham steak. Pieces of cut up fresh fruit make ideal dippers for a chocolate fondue.

For savory dippers, try:

  • Lightly steamed vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, snap peas, green beans or asparagus
  • Fresh vegetables such as radishes, sliced green peppers, endive leaves, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes
  • Cubes of bread
  • Small pieces of boiled new potatoes
  • Slices of cooked chicken sausage
  • Cooked pasta (such as rigatoni)
  • Cubes of ham steak

For something sweeter, try:

  • Fruit such as strawberries, apple slices, pear slices, pineapple chunks or banana slices (also try frozen banana pieces)
  • Cubes of pound or angel food cake
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Pretzels
  • Marshmallows

Check out our favorite fondue recipes (right) or for more ideas (including cheesy pizza fondue and veggie fondue), visit

Keep in mind

  • Fondue is hot, hot, hot. Use caution around the heat source and
    encourage everyone to let their food cool for a minute before
    taking that first bite.
  • Sharp fondue sticks should be used for dipping only (no sword
  • If you don’t have fondue forks, wooden skewers will work just
  • No double-dipping allowed.
  • Let the excess sauce drip back into the pot, rather than all
    over the table or your clothes.
  • Give the sauce a stir from time to time to prevent it from
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