French Onion Fondue

Utilization is the mother of all recipes. Once upon a time a Chef asked "What shall we do with these snails?" Voila! Escargot was born. I had a need for 5 gallons of fondue and no budget for 5 gallons of cheese. I did have 4 gallons of Onion Soup, sweet onions, smoky sherry and just the right touch of acidity. I had the Gruyere cheese. Game over.

The result was one of the better fondues I have had. The key is cooking the onions. Just when you think you have them caramelized, think again. Take them farther, cook them down a little more. Pull out the liquid, evaporate the water and leave the sugar behind. It should be able to stick to the wall when you are done. Don't confuse frying them in butter with slow caramelization.

About 2.5 pounds of diced onion before..........................and after

90 minutes total time 30 minutes active time serves 4 as a meal, lots as an appetizer Cost less than $15.00 for the fondue, more for the bread and other goodies to dip in the fondue.

You will need a large heavy bottomed pan with a nice fitting lid. I use a 5qt Cuisinart Stainless Steel. A big flat wooden spoon. You don't even need a fondue pot. I'll tell you how to make one with everyday items found around the house.

  • 2 1/2 lbs Spanish or other sweet onion, small dice. If you want to use Vidalia's, Walla Walla's or other super sweet onion go ahead
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Sherry, Port, Madeira, Red Wine or even cider.
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 lbs or more good Swiss style cheese grated. Gruyere tastes best and costs the most, go figure. Let your budget be the guide
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch mixed with 2 T or so of water
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Let's make caramelized onions. I assume most of your fingers are intact and eyes have recovered after you diced all those onions. Resist the temptation to use a food processor. If you must, do them in small batches and don't over process. They will get watery and mushy.

Heat your heavy bottomed pan over moderate heat, add a little oil and in go the onions with a pinch of salt. Stir the onions until the sizzling sound quiets down. Put on the lid and turn down the heat. The goal is to draw out the liquid. After five minutes or so off goes the lid and up goes the heat. Stir the pot often. The high heat evaporates the liquid and leaves the sugars behind to caramelize. Use the onions to clean up any bits of brown stuck to the pan. After a few minutes of this high heat uncovered and stirring nonsense turn down the heat and back goes the lid. Repeat this high heat low heat covered uncovered until the onions are nice and brown. Then do it one more time. Add the vinegar to the onions and cook until the vinegar is all but evaporated. You can make this ahead to this point and save for a week. They even freeze well.

Add the sherry or other alcohol to the onions. Over moderate heat reduce by half.

Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil

Add the chicken or veg stock, bring to a boil

Pour the corn starch water mixture (slurry) into the simmering onions and whisk. The mixture should get pretty thick

Lower the heat and add the grated cheese.

Taste, season, taste again

No Fondue Pot, No Problem

You can improvise a fondue pot using a tea candle three cans of soup or tomatoes and the pot you made the fondue in. Set up the cans so the pot fits safely on top and put the candle underneath. It works!