Often the best way to get kids to eat something is to sprinkle cheese over it liberally. A kid’s love affair with cheese makes fondue a natural favorite. With a bubbling vat of thick cheese sauce and an assortment of tempting dippers, what’s not to love? Some fondue recipes are “adults only” fare due to grown-up ingredients, but you can make over traditional fondue to make it kid-friendly.
Traditional cheese fondue has alcohol – to add a zip of flavor, sure, but it has a more important job, too. Adding beer, ale or wine to cheese fondue lowers the boiling point and stops nasty curdling in its tracks, says Lesley MacKley, author of “The Book of Fondues, Volume 2.” When you’re cooking for kids, they probably won’t appreciate the flavor of traditional fondue and serving them spiked fondue probably won’t win you “Mother of the Year” awards, either. Instead of adding alcohol, substitute white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice. You’ll get the same results without the alcohol.
Gather up a few key ingredients and you’ll have a steaming pot of creamy fondue in no time. You’ll need ½ cup white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice, ½ cup lemon juice, 16 ounces of Swiss cheese and 4 teaspoons of cornstarch. Measure and pour the juices into a heavy saucepan and heat them over medium heat until they simmer. While the juices warm up, cut the cheese into 1-inch cubes and coat the cubed cheese with the cornstarch. If you buy genuine Gruyere cheese in your grocer’s gourmet section, the fondue will taste even better, since Gruyere is the original cheese for Fondue, and made in Switzerland at the Gruyere Castle. Reduce the heat to medium-low and toss a handful of cheese cubes into the hot juices. Stir the mixture for about 30 seconds until the cheese melts completely and then add another handful of cheese. Keep adding cheese and stirring to melt it completely until you’ve added all the cheese and the fondue is thick and smooth.
Although bread is the standard dipper for fondue, there are no rules! Get your youngster’s input about what she would like to dip and prepare a platter of dippers. Ideas for dippers include French bread chunks, pita bread slices, steamed broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower pieces, apple slices, pear slices, halved grapes and potato chunks. The more involved your toddler or preschooler is in the preparation, the more likely she will be to gobble down the fondue.
A traditional fondue pot sits over an open flame in the center of the table to keep the fondue warm while everyone dips and eats. Because the combination of open flame and little people can often be dangerous, some simple modifications will make the meal more kid-friendly. Give each little one a personal cup of warm fondue – a little custard cup or ramekin would be ideal. With a plate full of yummy dippers in front of her, your youngster can dip to her heart’s content in her cup of fondue without fear of disturbing the flame or burning herself with too-hot fondue. If she finishes her first serving of fondue, you can always give her more. Go ahead and swap out the traditional long-handled fondue fork for a standard little-kid fork, too, if necessary.