*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.
Chanterelle and Gruyere Fondue
Pair with Pinot Noir
6 ounces fresh chanterelles, cleaned and roughly chopped or 1 ounce dried chanterelles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 pound/ 2 cups grated gruyere
Slice apple or pears
Chef 1: If you’re using dried chanterelles soak them in hot water for 10 minutes then drain.
Chef 2: Roughly chop the chanterelles.
Chef 1: In a medium saucepan sauté the shallots in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes over medium high heat. Add the chanterelles along with a hefty pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Chef 2: In a medium bowl toss the grated gruyere with the cornstarch until evenly coated.
Chef 1: Turn down the heat and carefully add the white wine.
While Chef 1 stirs, Chef 2 slowly adds the cheese, waiting until it melts before adding the next addition.
Chef 1: Add the cheese to a fondue pot, or if that’s not available simply pour the cheese into an oven-safe bowl and rewarm as needed.
Chef 2: Pour two glasses of Pinot Noir.
Serve the fondue with baguette, roasted potatoes, apple and pear slices, cornichons, and dijon.
*This post was created in partnership with Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. In the below recipe Scharffen Berger’s bittersweet chocolate, with a floral brightness and a deep roasty flavor, pairs beautifully with toasted pepitas sweetened with honey to create festive and seasonal chocolate pepita butter bites. If you’re partial to a sweeter, creamier chocolate that’s fine too – check out all of the chocolate offerings on Scharffen Berger’s website.
Last year was our first year trick-or-treating with the kids the way I remember it from my childhood. The sort where the parents stay on the sidewalk bundled up with something warm to drink, chatting with the other parents while the witches, Harry Potter’s, princesses, and dragons go off to collect their loot.
As rain pelted our faces we slowly wandered down the winding streets knowing which house to knock on by the amount of Halloween flair that littered their windows and lawn. The kids, timid at first then quickly understanding the routine, would make their plea, “Trick or Treat!” and in return individually wrapped packages of childhood happiness would tumble into their pillowcase/candy receptacle for the night. On their way back to the sidewalk to meet up with us they bury their face in the bags examining their loot and confer with their siblings as they begin scheming their trades.
Batman tipped us off to where we could score the full candy bars while the adults urged one another not to miss the house at the corner where they were passing out pulled pork sandwiches for the grown ups. Rumor has it the year before the adults got shots of bourbon.
This neighborhood knows how to do Halloween.
In an ideal world these spiced pepita butter bites would be just the thing I’d like to tuck into the trick-or-treaters bags that came knocking on our door. I can just hear it now, the giddy murmuring along the sidewalk, “that house has homemade candy!” But homemade treats are frowned upon when the one passing them out is a complete stranger – I totally get that. So we reserve these treats for lunch boxes, parties, or the 3:00 pick-me-up in celebration of National Chocolate Day. I mean a day reserved for chocolate celebrating is a great day in my book. And I will gladly take any excuse to praise chocolate.
Of course these are very reminiscent of a peanut butter filled candy with the same shape but these are stuffed with a toasted pepitas that have been blended until smooth with a bit of warming spices and honey. The Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate offsets the sweetness with a good bit of brightness. A pinch of flake salt on top is never a bad idea.
With two sweet-centric holidays – National Chocolate Day and Halloween – right around the corner these are practically begging to be made.
In a 350°F oven roast the pepitas until golden and fragrant.
Let them cool for about 10 minutes before adding them to a high power blender like a Vitamix or a food processor.
Grind the pepitas until extremely fine. Add the honey and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Blend more until a stiff peanut butter consistency. You may need to add more oil and scrape down the sides of the container quite a bit. It should be sticky but not runny.
Finish with the salt (and please do feel free to add more if you’d like) and the spices.
Melt the chocolate with 1 tablespoon neutral oil.
Line a mini-muffin pan with candy liners. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of melted chocolate to the bottom of the paper cup then add about 1 teaspoon of the pepita butter. Top the pepita butter with more chocolate. Once they are all filled whack the muffin pan on the counter to help settle the chocolate and pepita butter.
Add flake salt to the tops of the candies if you’d like.
Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes.
Repeat the process until all of the chocolate and pepita butter have been used.
Any leftover chocolate can be melted and reused as you need. I like to pour the leftover melted chocolate on a parchment lined sheet pan. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set and chop up fine to be stirred into cookies and cakes or into larger chunks to be used later.