Not Without Salt

Chanterelle Fondue

*This post is the second in our series with Chateau St. Jean Winery in Sonoma. Wine and date nights are like peanut butter and jelly; made for each other. So we’re bringing back Date Night In here on the blog with great recipes and wine pairings to make a date night at home something to celebrate.

Our first (and only) fondue pot was green. Looking back perhaps green may not have been the best choice as the cheese that filled its deep bowl took on its olive tone. I thought we needed it. We were newly married and I was just taking a deep dive into my love of food so a fondue pot seemed a necessary investment, both for its promise of romance and heaping amounts of cheese. Somehow I overlooked the fact that we had no money and never ate fondue.

We used it once. The bowl was so large it required pounds of cheese in order to stay molten for longer than five minutes. We never figured out how to keep the tea light from scorching the cheese at the bottom while the top required a knife to cut through. What was suppose to be a romantic meal ended up causing undue stress and lots of leftover cheese. The fondue pot lived in the back of the cupboard before it was moved to the garage and then finally donated to Goodwill along with everybody else’s fondue pots.

But I wasn’t giving up on the idea of sharing a meal of melted cheese with the man I love because nothing says romance like a meal eaten with your hands. Strange? Maybe. To me it feels comfortable and and yes even just a little bit sensual (sorry, kids). It’s a meal made for lingering, for slowly dipping roasted potatoes into melted cheese and cutting the richness with slices of crisp apple. For conversations that outlast the candles on the table and for the evenings when you need the date but don’t care to spend hours in the kitchen.

Two questions always come up when people ask me about my book, Date Night In. What’s your favorite meal in the book? I love them all, truly, but the fried chicken and black pepper biscuit sandwich with the bourbon butterscotch ice cream pie for dessert is probably one of my finest moments. What’s your favorite EASY date night meal? The answer is always fondue. In the book I write about Raclette – a Swiss mountain cheese that requires nothing more than a hot oven and few things for dipping. But when there’s a bit more time (I mean we’re only talking about ten minutes here) I turn to this Roasted Chanterelle Fondue.

There’s no need to dig into the depths of your cupboard or scour the shelves at Goodwill for a fondue pot – a hearty cast iron skillet or small sauté pan will work. You don’t even need fresh Chanterelles, although that is ideal, dried ones work beautifully or use another favorite mushroom.

I really do love spending hours in the kitchen, folding butter into delicate layers, tenderly whisking olive oil and egg yolks into creamy submission, and watching sugar transform from snow to straw to copper but I also love it when a few ingredients somehow, as if by magic, turn into something that, just for a moment, takes your breath away. I love knowing that I really had so little to do with it, you know? Then I can simply sit back and take it all in as the gift it is and enjoy the company of my date. Sure I’ll take credit as he nods in appreciation, I’ll even let him believe that I worked tirelessly in the kitchen so that he does all the dishes while I slowly finish my wine.

This dish is just how I always want my dates with my husband to feel – special but simple, comfortable yet romantic. Marriage isn’t always easy but dinner can be.