Mouthwatering treat
Mouthwatering treat. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Warm and delicious

By Anna Marie D'Addarie - February 8, 2006

Valentine's Day and chocolate are so intertwined that it's hard to think of one without the other. Before you buy the ubiquitous red-foil heart, often filled with tasteless candy, consider making a chocolate fondue for the love of your life.

Allow me to set the scene for you. The room is candlelit, the music is romantic, a fondue pot, filled with a dark, molten blend waits to envelop a plump strawberry. Slowly raise the luscious enrobed berry to awaiting lips. Be careful not to drip.

Fondue 101

Now that your interest is peaked, let's get down to fondue basics. You will need a small fondue pot or a small crockpot to serve up the chocolate. Inexpensive fondue pots are available. I bought a brand new, still-in-the-box fondue pot at the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven last week. I also have a stainless steel fondue pot, part of a set of pots and pans from the late '60s. It uses sterno or candles to keep things hot.

I cook the mixture on the stove and then move it to the fondue pot for serving. There are many recipes available for chocolate fondue, and so it should be easy to find one that fits your level of cooking experience. Don't be afraid of fondue. It's fun and easy.

electric fondue pot
An electric fondue pot keeps the chocolate at the perfect dipping temperature.

Now consider what dippers you would like. For Valentine's Day keep it simple and sexy: strawberries, cubes of pound cake, and marshmallows. Other fresh fruit can be used, but it must be patted dry before dipping or the chocolate won't adhere to it. How sad to dip a slice of apple only to have the chocolate slide back into the pot with a plop.

Advanced training

Your fondue set should be used often and not relegated to the top shelf with one-hit-wonder appliances. Put a cheese sauce in it (homemade or out of a jar) and dip vegetables (patted dry), pretzels, and nacho chips.

Fill the fondue with boiling broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable), set the pot on high to keep the temperature up. Skewer small cubes of chicken, fish (firm varieties), or shellfish and cook them thoroughly in the boiling liquid. When cooking at the table, be sure to take all necessary precautions - such as never leave the fondue pot unattended if there are children or pets in the house.

The reward for fondue meals is it allows you to relax and slow down while you wait for your morsel to cook. Conversation flows and fun follows.

Venture into the world of fondue. Begin with a romantic Valentine's Day chocolate, and soon you will be wondering how you got along without a fondue pot all these years.

Chocolate fondue

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

8 oz. dark chocolate (Nestles, Ghirardelli, or other premium chocolate) chopped or broken into small pieces.

1 tsp. fruit liqueur (optional) (Amaretto, orange, etc.)

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, just to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add chocolate, stirring until smooth. Add liqueur and stir. Transfer to the fondue pot and place on low heat setting. Skewer a dipper, plunge it into the fondue pot and enjoy.