Friday, December 30, 2016

Holiday Fondue, it's a Retro-Family thing

Fondue, it's a very Winter Holiday, Ski Lodge, Group Meal kinda thing. I think when we think of fondue generally nowadays it's got a sort of "Retro" feel to it. 

It's a dish I first really experienced at the homes of family friends while growing up. It was one of those dishes that people would make for open house parties in the 70's and 80's when large groups of friends from work or the neighborhood would pass by for a drink, a nosh, and a chat.  Fondue was simple because it could be prepared and then placed in a big fondue pot or crock pot and left warming for guests to help themselves. As a kid I loved it because it was unlimited melted cheese goodness on crusty bread cubes. I mean what's better?

My first experience with real Swiss Fondue as an adult came through the invitation to dinner at a Swiss family's house in the town where I was working. The wonderful thing about Fondue in Switzerland is has none of the intimate romantic notions that surround it here in the US. Somehow,  here in the states fondue and fondue restaurants created the cache for Fondue as a "lovers mealtime". It was proffered in restaurants and nightclubs as  a sexy way for two people to share a meal. 

Not so in the land where cheese was born. It is a communal meal meant for simply for sharing and creating yummy convivial times with family and friends. The rules traditionally are simple, if the lady drops the bread in she had to wash the pot which she used to prepared the fondue, if the gentleman drops the bread in he has to wash the pot and kiss the lady! Kinda fun and I guess somewhat romantic but when it's a family around the table it's just fun good eats and if Mama doesn't have to do dishes and gets a kiss out of it so much the better.

So Fondue, is according to Wikipedia SwissFrench, and Italian dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s but its origins stem from an area that covers Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta valley).

Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to other dishes in which a food is dipped into a communal pot of hot liquid: chocolate fondue, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil.
Konrad Egli of the Chalet Swiss Restaurant is credited with introducing it as a mainstay in New York in the 1950's. He also is credited with the introduction of beef Fondue at Chalet Swiss and the  invention of chocolate Fondue which made it's appearance in the 1960's. 

Throughout the 50's 60's and 70's home cooks entertained with Fondue pots and other cookware that could make them the champions of table side cooking for their dining guests. Such meals like the famous "Steak Diane" made the guests feel like they were part of the "action" and certainly Fondue was one of those meals. 

So here is a simple Swiss recipe I have from my host family in Switzerland I have carried around all these years. As you entertain this holiday season think about Fondue as a wonderful way to share a meal with friends and loved ones. 

Easy and Authentic Swiss Fondue (serves 2 to 4)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Gruyère cheese
  • 4 triangles double cream (laughing cow) cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy (Kirsch)
  • Cubed French bread, ham and vegetables 

  1. Rub garlic clove into the inside of the fondue pot. Bring wine and lemon juice to a low boil in a heavy saucepan; add cheeses, pepper, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and cherry brandy. Stir mixture into cheese; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a fondue pot, and keep warm. Serve with cubed bread, cubed ham, raw mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and steamed brussel sprout halves.
  3. Enjoy Ya'll!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas, 2016 and Keeping the Faith

2016 has been a hard year for the Hedden Family. We have a a long year of recognizing how fragile we are as humans. A seeing of how dependent we really are on our faith in God's providence and power. Oh, and how wonderful it is to love and be loved unconditionally. But also how hard that is to make manifest in one's world or sometimes to live up to that ideal and very sweet thought in real life.

Some of you who follow this may know that in May my brother Christopher had a brain aneurysm which resulted in his being in a coma fro 10 weeks. We had almost given up hope of his waking up when he finally came out of the coma. It was somewhat of a medical miracle that he had survived.

What has followed is a long and arduous journey for my family. My mother, myself, and of course my brother. The real heroine in all of this has been my sister in law, Jenny. She has proven to be the most amazing care giver and a stauncher support for my brother than he could ever have wanted or needed. Being married for 25 years and having a great marriage, relationship and love may have been a platform for this but her love and devotion and strength has proven to be beyond what one should expect or ever be asked to do. But sometimes that is life. It just asks a lot of you. I continue to be inspired by her.

Faith is a funny thing. Sometimes you don't know how much you have until it's tested. Sometimes you lose it. Sometimes you find it when you least expect it. I can say that I have experienced each of these relationships with faith during the last 8 months. But one thing has remained and that is that I have found faith to be a necessity during this time. Faith is not always just in God. It's the faith you have in people, the doctors, your family members, your friends and even yourself. Faith is finding the vision and strength to go on even when you don't think you can. It's that part of ourselves which somehow exceeds what we see as our limits. It is the thing that we hope for and that drives us on. it's the thing we hope to find when we can't see a way forward any more.

I have only been a supportive bystander to the horror show that has consumed my brother and my sister in law's lives. As such I have tried to go and support them in person. Weakly giving time and attention to my brother while he was in was in the hospital and trying to support Jenny with dinners out and time spent holding her hand while my brother lay unconscious. Trips that were no pleasure, but hopefully helpful, to the west coast but were the only way I could give my brother any support. I went gladly but still found that being so far away proved to be very hard in helping my sister in law with any of the day to day needs she had while tending to my brother.

My mother also needed tending to. And so that brings me to Christmas. In July after helping her to travel out to California, staying with her, and driving her around for the 10 days she was visiting out there, I felt like she was drowning in the pool of helplessness she was feeling. I cannot imagine the feelings a mother must have seeing a child go through the health issues my brother has been facing. She is a tough person but this was almost too much to bear. So as the holidays approached we discussed what I should do. The thought of going out to again a 4th time to California seemed like it was on the table until I realized that my mother really needed some love and attention. So I decided that the holidays would be for her. And my journey there which, while lovely, had seemed to become routine in the past years, now seemed both important and needed.

So I have come home for the holidays and am spending time with my mother. I am making food to bring some joy and pleasure and conversation to bring some laughter and cheer to this house which has known too many tears in the past year. I plan on sharing some of these dishes with you all over the next two weeks so stay tuned.

May you all find faith and peace along the roads you travel. And may you find ways to make food and conversations with people who are important to you or those you encounter who need some love in a world that this year has known too many tears for all sorts of reasons. I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cheese and Relish Tray- An Easy How To for Your Holiday Entertaining

So you're having friends over. And I have to say I am always surprised how many people are not sure how to put things together to make cocktail hour simple and tasty. and sexy.

SO I'm offering up this quick cheese and meat and pickle board to help you offer your guests a tasty and simple and good looking board.

So here's what you need for 2 to 4 ppl.

1/4 to 1/2 wheel of soft french style cheese like a brie but there are more interesting and funky one's just ask your local cheese monger.

1 big dollop of a soft sharp or herby flavored cheese spread. Like wine cheese or horseradish or Boursin Cheese normally found in the cheese selection in your grocery store.

10 to 15 pickles can be any like you have or like here I used cornichon or little french ones but you can use sweet and sour or bread and butter pickles whatever is your favorite. I would suggest a sour pickle because it plays against the creamy and fatty flavors of the cheese and meats.

Smoked ham, speck, salami folded on the board or artfully shingled or arranged. Be sure to have serval kinds so people can taste different things with each one.

Mustard. Well Dijon is a winner here but some German or Swedish types are also nice. Just be sure like the pickles you avoid sweet mustard. Unless that's your thing. Again there are no rules just what you like.

Bread or crackers. Again whatever you like. There are no rules. Here I have butter crackers which I adore. But baguette or water crackers are also great.

A few other things like are weird but good could be thin rounds of sliced red onion or try rounds of cucumber instead of crackers of bread.

To set it all up you want to create some drama by dropping your big dallop of mustard on your board and then dragging your spoon through it artfully to create a nice swirl. Suggestive of the paint on a painters pallete.

Next cut you cheese and stack and fold and crimp you meats into a nice arrangement. Mound the soft cheese in the center and garnish the board with the pickles. \

Place out with a knife and paper cocktail napkins and maybe some plates and you are good to go.

So I hope if you are looking to make your cheese board look beautiful this helps this season. Enjoy. And Happy Holidays from Taste and Tales!!

Friday, December 9, 2016

California Dreaming on Such a Winter's Day - San Diego Chilliquiles For Breakfast

Ok lets face it making breakfast for the family during the holidays is not always an easy thing. I mean it's early, it's cold, it's your holiday too! But none the less those of us who are the designated breakfast makers know that we have to come up with tasty filling fun food that will delight and uplift and celebrate the spirit of the holiday season for those we love.

Traditionally my family like most have gone a true American direction embracing the traditions of those who went before us and making up mounds of pancakes, waffles, frittatas, hash brown casseroles or sweet breads baking fresh and served up warm and sugar ridden. They take work, prep, overnight rising, setting up and while all good are often a lot of work.

So this year I offer up an alternative to that whole all American breakfast effort. I discovered a dish while in San Diego this past Summer visiting my friends Tom and George that was so tasty and easy that I've decided to make them into a holiday season breakfast. Maybe not for the big day. That's still the domain of Monkey bread and Truffled Scrambled eggs and bacon, but for any of the other days when we are having people over for brunch or breakfast these will be on standby. What is this dish? Well if you read the title you know it's Chilliquiles!

SO for those of yo who don't know chilliquiles are really a breakfast scramble of fried tortillas and eggs, cheese and other Mexican ingredients. It's basically a big mess of good stuff served up hot and delicious. And what's the best part my version of them (which is far from authentic) is SO easy. And they have a mild flavor and are not offensive to people who don't like spice.

Basically you start with some basics then go holiday fridge diving and add whatever you have that make sense. Like gouda cheese, well not maybe Mexican but hey this is a melting pot dish throw it in. Last nights horseradish sauce, hm....not so much. So you get the idea.

So here's the recipe and I hope that this will help you with that holiday breakfast preparation for your crew. It can be expanded for more than the 6 the recipe feeds. Just add in more of everything and get a really big pan! Or make two batches, yeah maybe that's better. Happy holidays everybody.

Easy Chilliquiles

1 Bag Tostitos Brand Scoops Dipper chips
10 eggs
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup cheddar cheese 1 /2 cups if only using cheddar
1 medium onion diced
3 medium tomatoes diced
1 8oz jar salsa from the store ( I like Chi chi's brand...don't laugh) Medium heat
4 green onion diced
3/4 cups extra cheese like gouda, brie, swiss, even cream cheese anything mild and not strong
2 tablespoons sliced pickled jalapeno peppers from the jar ( optional ) as garnish
hot sauce
1/4 cup cooking oil like safflower or corn


Beat eggs with the spices and sour cream till creamy and combined
Add oil to a very large Saute pan with high sides
Add onions and tomatoes and cook till almost soft
Add 3/4 Chips and stir coating with the onion mixture and oil
Cook till well coated and starting to soften
Add 1/2 of the Salsa and combine
Stir in cheeses and let start to melt
Stir in Egg mixture stir the pot calmly so as to not smash the chips but constantly till the egg is just soft cooked and the cheese are melted into the egg
 (this may seem strange not to cook the eggs hard but please don't because they will form a sauce sort of like a hollandaise. The eggs will continue to cook in the hot chip mixture)
Fill 6 large wide bowls with the rest of the chips and salsa divided between the bowls
Serve into individual bowls over the chips and salsa in each bowl immediately, and top with a few really good shakes of hot sauce (unless you have eaters who would rather add their own)
Garnish with the chopped green onion and jalapenos ( if using)
Enjoy right away while hot