A year after I graduated from college, I backpacked by train through Europe with a girlfriend. It was a five-week whirlwind: we visited Frankfurt, Florence, Venice, Corfu, Athens, Salzburg, Amsterdam, Interlaken, Switzerland, and a charming town in France whose name I’m forgetting, staying mainly in youth hostels. I turned 23 at the Pink Palace on Corfu: no togas that I recall, but many shots of ouzo, and many subsequent plates smashed over my head. At the time, I was a developing (vs. full-on) foody, but tonight I was yanked back decades and miles by an accidental flavor.
My friend K. and I stayed at a cozy, relaxing hostel in Interlaken with a modest dining room. Interlaken, after the previous slew of cities, was like a mental rest, and we decided to stay most of a week. Now, aside from the exhalation and the beautiful hikes and views, I remember most fondly the fondue. It was such a casual thing there, not a production, simply part of the daily eating process, available downstairs in our momentary home. I’ve tried to make fondue a few times since, and it’s been okay, but tonight I stumbled upon a great and easy way to fake it. Let’s call it an homage to fondue.
Here’s what to do:
1. Get some cave-aged gruyere. I don’t know why being aged in a cave is important, but you don’t have to go to a cave to get it–it’s everywhere these days, and it worked in this case. (I used Trader Joe’s gruyere, but I’m sure any decent gruyere will do.)
2. Peel a clove of garlic. (You might need more than one clove, depending on how much toast you are making.)
3. Toast some slices of bread. I used a good multigrain, bought from Emporium in Yellow Springs. (Note: I often slice and freeze bread, then toast it unwrapped, or heat it, wrapped in foil, to good effect. But for this project, you need to toast the bread fairly crispy.) It might be good with white bread, but make sure it’s something with body. Wimpy or mediocre bread would wilt under the next steps.
4. Rub the garlic clove on the bread, effectively worrying the garlic down to a nub–sort of a way of grating and distributing the garlic on the bread. The garlic clove should disappear onto the bread. (You’ll find if the bread is not toasty enough, it won’t have a rough enough surface to do the magic of grating the garlic onto the surface. Experiment.)
5. Shred a generous amount of gruyere onto each piece of garlicked toast, and broil it–in oven or toaster-oven–until it’s melty and bubbly but not overly browned.
6. Eat it. I bet it’s even more reminiscent of fondue if accompanied by a glass of wine, but it works fine on its own with a bowl of soup.
(For another wonderful (vegan) treat, you could stop after rubbing the garlic on toast, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.)