By Lara McCormack
Now, I know many of you are looking at the title of this article and thinking that this is an oxymoron. In many ways it is, but with some professional advice and know-how, my gift to all of you is a stress-less holiday season.
Whether you are entertaining a large family, local couples from your social crowd, or having a quiet night in, there is some degree to planning that has to go into creating that special meal. Planning your menu, shopping ahead of time, getting some prep done on the food items and setting up your dining room are obvious ways of keeping organized. But why on that day are there times of franticness?
There is a desire for perfection in many of us where we have an expectation on what things should look and taste like. It’s very rare for your guests to notice there was something missing: a recipe was not quite followed or you wanted different flowers for the centerpiece. Go with the flow; don’t fight what presents itself as you are following through on your evening. Remember it’s about who you are with, and the food is the accessory to what you are experiencing over that time.
Have a few recipes you are really good at preparing, love to eat and that are easy to find ingredients for. The only way to get good at them is to practice throughout the year. Keep them simple and learn to perfect them in your own way. In our household, the holiday season comes upon us during a very busy period at our restaurant. So I like to keep things simple, focus on little details like a fun table seating and make a dessert that can be made earlier in the week so I am not exhausted getting ready for the evening. I also go around to other food-based businesses in the holiday season and Christmas markets to fill up my pantry with locally made food that not only supports the local economy, but is often made with ingredients grown in our valley. Don’t forget: food items like these make great gifts for others visiting you from outside this valley.
The following meal has become a staple in our family that we enjoy usually with many others on Christmas Eve. It is a fabulous entertaining meal over the winter months that I usually theme with lots of ‘hygge’. Think lots of candles in the room, some soothing jazz or chill out tunes on the stereo, cozy slippers, soft blankets and warm drinks to create an overall experience in this meal. Dessert is usually local chocolate broken into bite size pieces, with Christmas baking from the markets, friends and family.
Serves 4 / prep time 40 min
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
250g Emmental cheese, grated
250g Gruyère cheese, grated
150g Vacherin cheese, grated or Swiss cheese, grated
2 tablespoons (30 ml) flour
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) white wine
2 tablespoons (30 ml) kirsch or white wine
Nutmeg to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Green apple pieces
Fresh (your favourite) bread cubes
Slices of your favourite meat – chorizo sausage is ours!
1. Rub the fondue pot with the garlic clove.
2. In a bowl, combine the cheese and flour.
3. Pour the wine and kirsch in the fondue pot. Heat. Add the cheese and stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. Season with pepper and nutmeg. You can also make this in a pot on the stove and transfer it to the fondue pot for ease.
4. Place on the fondue stand. Serve with your favourite accompaniments.
If the fondue is too thin, add some cornstarch mixed with white wine, or add more grated cheese. If, on the contrary, it is too thick, add white wine. If it curdles, or appears to be broken, bring it to a boil it, whisking vigorously with a dash of lemon juice.
When the fondue has been eaten, there will be a golden crust at the bottom of the pot. It’s the “religieuse”. It was named so in honour of the nuns who wore several layers of clothing, called “crusts”. Fondue connoisseurs fight to eat the “religieuse”. Remove it gently and wait one minute for it to becomes slightly crispy. A delight!
Some parts of the recipe/tips are copyright to Ricardo with a few of my own changes!
Lara McCormack is one of the owners of From Scratch – A Mountain Kitchen in Fairmont Hot Springs where one can savour fabulous, seasonal food, sip from a selection of B.C. wines and enjoy the views of our gorgeous valley landscape.