05 January, 2012

The Rewards of Research

One of the perks of writing a "foodie" mystery is the research, not only for recipes but also techniques and unusual food items. This happy pursuit involves a lot of buying, testing, eating and drinking -- my kind of work!  Although I admit that when I researched fugu (blow fish) for my first book, I wasn't tempted to try it -- I wanted to live long enough to write a second book.

My current manuscript required a lot of research on wines, ranging from homemade to the ones I could never hope to afford.  Last year, 12 bottles of Chateau Heat Brion 1995 sold for $6,325, or $527 per bottle -- more than slightly out of my price range.

Hong Kong is, apparently, the new hot spot for wine auctions, edging out New York and London. Sotheby’s, Acker Merrall & Condit, and Christies all hold wine auctions there several times a year.  Wonder if I could write off a trip as business related?

Recently I've had discussions on food and wine pairing with local restaurateurs and liquor store owners - several of which ended in wine tastings.  I never cease to be amazed at how generous people are with their time and knowledge. 

Since I can't share with you a glass of the 2004 Kongsgaard Judge Chardonnay I sampled, here's a delicious recipe for cheese fondue instead. In Switzerland this would be served with a green salad and a plate of Swiss dried meats, cornichons, and pearl onions, with a fruit salad for dessert.

Cheese Fondue
1/2 pound imported Emmentaler cheese, shredded
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch or ¼ cup flour (cornstarch makes a lighter mixture)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
3 Tbsp Kirsch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch nutmeg
Crusty bread, cut into cubes

In a small bowl, toss the two cheeses with either the cornstarch or flour, and set aside.

Rub the inside of a ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard the garlic.
Place the pot over medium heat and add the wine.  Bring to a slow simmer.

When the wine starts to bubble, slowly add cheese by the handful, stirring between each addition. The fondue can bubble gently, but do not boil. Once the mixture is melted and smooth, add the Kirsch and nutmeg, and move the fondue pot onto a flame at the table.

Serve with bread cubes for dipping.  Small, boiled potatoes may also be dipped in the cheese.

Don't forget to pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay to go along with dinner!

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