Easy Cheese Fondue

Prep for this no-mess treat is more complicated than boiling water—barely.
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Prep for this no-mess treat is more complicated than boiling water—barely.

“One of my all-time most memorable meals was a pot of fondue after a snowshoe walk in the eastern Sierra,” says Trail Chef Jennifer Bowen. “This classic Swiss dish is typically consumed during winter, but the satisfying flavors and flexibility of choices in dipping foods make it universally loved as a trail meal. It’s great for kids, who enjoy choosing what they dip in the rich cheesy sauce. (By the time the dish is fully cooked, no alcohol remains).”

Step 1
At home Carefully shake about 6 ounces (this will be 3/4 of a standard 8-ounce package) of shredded cheese into a quart-size freezer bag—without handling the cheese. Choose a soft cheese like Jack or cheddar; hard cheeses like parmesan and the more traditional Gruyere won't emulsify as well using this method. Pre-shredded cheese is best: It’s less work, cheese stays fresher when it hasn't been handled much, and the shreds come lightly coated in starches which keep them from clumping too much.

Add ½ tsp garlic powder to the cheese. Also pack: 2 ounces cream cheese (packets are great, otherwise wrap carefully in plastic wrap, then in a plastic container or zipper seal bag), 3 Tbps white wine in a small plastic screw-top container (or better yet, bring enough to consume the leftovers with your dinner!), and 1/3 cup mayonnaise (about 8 packets).

Step 2: Pack your accessories
Ideas
10 fingerling potatoes or 20 sturdy, kettle-cooked potato chips
8 celery sticks
1 apple or 8 dried apple slices
6 dried black mission figs
4 pepperoni sticks, or a small log of salami to cut into thick slices.
4 large pretzels (or one hoagie-size roll per person)
shortbread cookies

Pepperoni sticks and shortbread can go in a zip-top bag with the pretzels. Potatoes will do best wrapped in a trimmed paper lunch sack. Make sure to bring at least 2-3 quart-size, zip-top bags

Step 3: In camp
Fill a 2-liter pot about 3/4 full of water. Add fingerling potatoes (if using; no need to wash) and bring to a boil.

Step 4
Add cream cheese, mayonnaise, and wine to cheese bag.

Step 5
Knead well, being very careful not to puncture. Ingredients should be well combined, but some lumps and unmixed cheese may remain.

Step 6
Checking that the bag is fully sealed, seal it inside a second bag. Place both bags in boiling water (yup, on top of the potatoes!), making sure the corners are inside the pot. Allow to boil undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Step 7
Carefully remove bag by grabbing the seal top end and set bottom-side down on a flat surface that is not cold, like your plate in your lap. Open both bags and gently combine the contents with a spoon, being careful not to scrape or catch the bag. This is essential to avoid burns, and a get the fondue to mix more thoroughly. Re-seal and replace in water.

Step 8
Cook fondue and potatoes another 6 minutes. In cool weather, a semi-propped lid will be helpful, but be careful of the water boiling over and extinguishing flame. Check potatoes for doneness (a fork should pierce them easily). Use a large spoon (or a fork), remove them. Do not empty water, but carefully pour enough out so 2 inches remain.

Step 9
Carefully open fondue bags and fold the first inch or two of bag over itself to create a sort of bowl. Stir again, folding sauce from the bottom up to fully incorporate all ingredients, being careful not to overstir (which will cool the mixture and cause it to re-solidify more quickly; about 10 seconds is good). Leave the cheese bag in the 2 inches of water to keep it warm while dipping.

Step 10
Arrange potatoes and dipping foods in a bowl or on a plate. Dunk away and enjoy!