Green Bay Cheddar Fondue with Soft Pretzels & Beer Sausage

Fondue is a amazing concept. I feel like I’ve said that already.

We don’t eat it frequently because we think of it as a special occasion dish, something for a crowd.

In reality, it’s so much less complicated than many recipes we make on a regular basis. And because the dippers are up to you, the whole process can be as simple as you want it to be. My whole point being, I think I’ll be making fondue more regularly, because I &^%*ing love it. And I can.

During our trip to Lexington, VA, I was brought along to a local country shop near the Natural Bridge landmark by my parents – they were right in thinking I would love it there. I walked out with a locally packaged version of HamBeen’s 15 Bean Soup, some blue raspberry jam, and most importantly – a just cut-off-the-wheel wedge of Wisconsin-sourced Hoop cheese.

I had big plans for this cheese. My boyfriend is a Packers fan – I mean it. All the TV yelling, furor over bad calls, and green and yellow trinkets in our living area. I’ve never seen anyone like something, so much.

The cheese’s meltability wasn’t the best – but all that meant was that we were going to have to eat the fondue screaming hot, to allow for the cheese solids to remain pull-able.

I had to bake soft pretzels to bring home this Bavarian-esque theme, along with beer-flavored sausages. Had to.

For the soft pretzels, having never made them before, I went with Alton Brown’s recipe. For some reason, I trust the guy on baking-related escapades like these. I am not a baker, so I rely heavily on well-tuned recipes when I do. They turned out great. Except, the portions of liquid to flour were a bit off, and I ended up adding about a half cup more flour than suggested. In the event anyone wants to make them, I’d recommend doing the same and it’s reflected in the recipe.

This recipe go-round was a fun test for me. First, making soft pretzels for the first time, which reminded me of the Amish store owners and bakers in Germantown, MD who can twist pretzel dough into shape in half a second and throw others into the baking soda water bath simultaneously with their other hand. Mine did not come out as uniformly as theirs. Next time, maybe.

The second lesson – a rule in melting down cheese. Not all cheese is going to get to that gooey state. There were several rounds and strategies used to melt the cheese that turned into the pot of scalding gold you see here.

Ultimately, know that the more notoriously meltable, softer cheeses – mozzarella, gruyere and processed stuff are your safest bet, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have your cheddar cheese and melt it too. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6. Soft pretzel recipe makes 8 pretzels.

  • 1 lb. cheddar cheese, of your choosing, grated
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 / 4 bottle Heineken beer (3 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
  • 4 beer-flavored sausages
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse mustard, if desired

F o r  t h e  S o f t  P r e t z e l s ( a d a p a t e d  c / o  A l t o n  B r o w n )

  • 1 1 / 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1 / 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 1 / 4 cups flour
  • 2 ounces butter, melted
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 / 3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt or kosher salt, as needed
  • Vegetable oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

( S o f t  P r e t z e l  D i r e c t i o n s  a d a p a t e d  c / o  A l t o n  B r o w n )

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Brown the beer sausages on medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, turning often, until all sides are deep brown and the sausage is cooked through. Remove from the heat, and slice on the diagonal. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 450*. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the 1 1/2 cups warm water, the sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the mixture foams.
  4. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, then oil it well. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Bring the 10 cups water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saute pan or a roasting pan (something wide and shallow is best).
  7. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, and, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place on a half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  8. One by one, place the pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return them to the sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, and sprinkle liberally with salt.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown in color, 12 to 14 minutes. Allow to cool.
  10. To make the fondue, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add the garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes or so. Add the heavy cream, beer and cheese, and allow to melt, stirring constantly. Allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. While the cheese is scalding hot, serve the fondue, and eat with the soft pretzels, beer sausage and coarse mustard.

Brie Wheel Fondue with Wacky Dippables

Who doesn’t remember their first trip to The Melting Pot?

We ordered the traditional fondue with the garlic & white wine and a separate pot with Wisconsin cheddar & beer. I remember undercooking the beef, on purpose, by an unsafe margin. That, and being so full that I felt sick for the next three days.

I’m going to eat like a goldfish if you put a pot of boiling cheese in front of me – I will eat until I explode.

But all that aside, I loved it. I recognize that as an American food chain, the dippers are going to have to appeal to just about everyone. Enter the beef, chicken, shrimp, slices of bread, pasta, crackers, broccoli, asparagus and mushrooms. And don’t forget – you can get the ahi tuna and lobster platter for an extra $7.50!

This is dandy for a family with picky eaters, and me for that matter – but I wanted to do something unconventional here. Which was essentially an exercise in me imagining all the foods I want to, but haven’t yet smothered in cheese.

The dippers I made here are the weird cousins of the family, but each has an element that balances out the heaviness of the cheese – the char of the peppers, sharpness of the pickled shallots, crunch of the ramen noodles, acidic tang from the chips, and the hot dogs and corned beef are there because… I mean, doesn’t that sound good?

And the cheddar-fried green tomatoes are just overkill, and I know it.

A wheel of brie (or in this case, cube) is the perfect, money-saving solution for those of us who are fondue pot-less – because it comes in its own pot!

I don’t know about you, but I love wheels of cheese. I’m looking into serving pasta like they do at Cacio e Pepe in New York, where they mix the oozy pasta inside a cheese wheel.

I’d also wear a cheese wheel as a hat.

I hope you have a “fun”-due time making this – now eat up! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S  &  D I R E C T I O N S

Serves 2 – 4 as an hors d’oeuvre or light dinner.

F o r  t h e  F o n d u e

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 wheel brie
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut into the brie wheel (or cube) around the edges, leaving the outside rind and being sure you don’t cut through the bottom of the wheel (this will ensure the melted cheese doesn’t escape).
  2. With a spoon, remove the cheese and put into a microwave-safe bowl, being sure to discard the top of the rind. This will not melt well. Fold in the minced garlic.
  3. Heat the cheese in the microwave for 1 minute and thirty seconds on high heat, immediately pouring the cheese into the brie mold. Plate the fondue wheel in the center of a large platter, circling with the dippers.
  4. Serve while the cheese is bubbling hot!

F o r  t h e  W a c k y  D i p p a b l e s

  • Charred Shishito Peppers, recipe below
  • Pickled Shallots, recipe below
  • Cheddar-Fried Green Tomatoes, recipe below
  • Corned beef, cubed
  • Cooked hot dogs, cut into pieces
  • Uncooked ramen noodles, broken into chunks
  • Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, recipe below

F o r  t h e  C h a r r e d  S h i s h i t o  P e p p e r s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 bunch Shishito peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the Shishito peppers in a very hot skillet. Allow peppers to char, turning a few times in the pan. The entire process should take 5 to 7 minutes.

F o r  t h e  P i c k l e d  S h a l l o t s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 10 small shallots
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Peel the skins of the shallots, removing the ends. Cut the shallots in half and put in a bowl.
  2. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Pour over the shallots, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

F o r  t h e  C h e d d a r – F r i e d  G r e e n  T o m a t o e s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large green heirloom tomato
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 / 4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper and put in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  2. Shred the cheese and put in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the tomato. Set aside.
  4. In a line, dip the tomatoes in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the cheese mixture, being sure to press down the cheese so it sticks to the tomato on both sides.
  5. Add olive oil to a non-stick pan, and sautee the cheesy tomatoes on medium heat until the cheese begins to brown. With a metal spatula, flip the tomato, letting the cheese brown on the other side.
  6. Remove from the pan and cut each tomato in half.

F o r  t h e  S a l t  &  V i n e g a r  P o t a t o  C h i p s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large Yukon gold potato
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 4 cups canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Slice the potato with a mandoline, placing the slices in a large bowl with the vinegar. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the canola or vegetable oil in a large shallow pan. To test the oil, put a slice of the potato in the oil. When it bubbles and starts to fry, add the rest of the potato slices.
  3. Fry on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the chips are golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle immediately with salt.