Friday, February 11, 2011
Okay, so fondue is hot now. You’ve read about its comeback in recent national cooking magazines. And you’ve gotten out and dusted off your old fondue pot, bought the compulsory three Swiss cheeses, the little bottle of Kirsch and had your friends in for a fondue party…now what do you do with it?
How about an oriental-style fondue? Recently, I found an electric wok, still in its box, at an estate sale for no money. How could I pass it up? I had seen an article about fondue in one of the French cooking magazines I love, Elle à Table, and one of their suggestions was a Thai fondue. Using their recipe as a guideline and making adjustments for American ingredients, a few friends and I decided we would try it recently, using the wok for our fondue pot. I had found some adorable little wire basket scoops at an oriental market and thought they would be perfect accessories for cooking the ingredients.
After some trial and error (“Add some garlic,” or “Add some cilantro.”) we came up with our version. We made a lot of changes, but I think we got it right.
We made the fondue right in the wok, using peeled and deveined shrimp, monkfish and lightly steamed broccoli to cook. We steamed some basmati rice and put little bowls of it on everyone’s plates. One of my cooking buddies made a salad with sliced cucumbers, radishes, diced tomatoes and a little minced cilantro. The dressing was made with the juice of a lemon and about 1/4 cup each of olive oil and dark oriental sesame oil. I thought it was a perfect accompaniment.
We gathered around and had a great time cooking our bits of food, then dumping them on our rice. When we had had all we wanted we ladled some of the fondue liquid into our rice bowls and it made a great soup. For dessert we sliced bananas and kiwi, drizzled with a little sweetened rum and dusted with crushed pink peppercorns. It was a perfect meal and we were all happy.
You can use the fondue pot you have for this. Or you can do what I had thought of doing before I found the wok. I have a small camp stove that would be perfect for cooking at the table. If you don’t want to go the fondue route, simply make up the fondue mixture, dump in the seafood and broccoli to cook in the hot liquid for a few minutes then ladle into bowls like soup. However you do it, it’s bound to be a hit!
1 lb firm white fish, such as monkfish, swordfish or halibut
2 lb large shrimp
12 oz broccoli florets
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 stem lemongrass, very finely minced
1 small hot red pepper, minced (optional)
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1" square, peeled and grated
1 tbsp curry powder
1 can condensed cream of shrimp soup
1 can (14 oz) unsweetened coconut milk
2-1/2 cups chicken or seafood stock
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped
Rinse the fish and cut into 1” cubes. Peel and devein the shrimp. Steam the broccoli for about 4 minutes. Set all aside. All these can be done ahead and refrigerated covered, until dinner.
In your pan, wok or fondue pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, lemongrass, hot pepper (if using) and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, without browning, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook one-minute more. Whisk in the soup, then the coconut milk. Add enough stock to make a fairly thin mixture. Sprinkle with the cilantro. Arrange the fish, shrimp and broccoli on a platter and let everyone dig in. Serves 6.
NOTE: Although lemongrass is a staple in oriental markets, I have seen it in almost every local supermarket recently in the packaged herb section of the produce department. Be sure to mince as finely as possible; it is a bit woody in texture. I've also seen tubes of lemongrass paste in the herb section, which would make preparation even easier. I haven't tried it for flavor though. It could turn out to be as useless as that already chopped garlic in oil and artificial preservatives, which should be outlawed!