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.

Overstuffed Olive & Pimento Grilled Cheese

I was big on dirty martinis from an early (note: legal) age.

This olive juice craze gave rise to many abandoned, juiceless jars of olives. I began to look for recipes to use up this massive surplus. In little time I was routinely making batches of – you guessed it – pimento cheese dip – that included the olives as well as the pimentos inside.

I have historically relied on Southern cooking tradition in assuming there are few acceptable ways to serve pimento cheese.

On crackers.

In a sandwich.

But even with its alleged limited applications, I would list pimento cheese as one of my top desert island foods. When you’d eat it with a spoon, that’s when you know.

The other reason to love pimento cheese so much? There’s barely any ingredients! So it’s an ideal whip-together-at-the-last-minute dish made of things you very likely have in your fridge right now.

So as a service to both you and I, I put my head to paper and came up with a list to get me ruminating on how I can justify eating more of it, for those occasions when I make it in alarmingly huge quantities.

  • Mixed into macaroni and cheese
  • Stuffed in enchiladas
  • Mixed into broccoli cheddar soup
  • Mixed into mashed potatoes
  • Topping fries
  • Mixed into a soufflé
  • Topping a burger
  • Mixed into risotto
  • On pizza
  • On a Philly cheesesteak
  • Mixed into cream cheese
  • Stuffed in chicken breasts
  • Mixed into grits
  • Rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs
  • Mixed into pasta carbonara
  • Stuffed in homemade ravioli
  • Melted inside quesadillas

Let me know if you have, want to, or will give any of these a try. I’d love to hear what the results were!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

I like my grilled cheese to have much more “cheese” than “grilled.” You may see me dipping my sandwich into the cheese that oozes out from time to time. So if this recipe is a bit too cheesy for you, just halve the cheese quantities to make it a bit less melty and more manageable.

  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 oz. pimento-stuffed olives, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. On medium-low heat, heat one tablespoon butter in a skillet. Place one piece of the bread down, slathering with the entirety of the cheese mixture, being sure to cover the edges completely. Top with the second piece of bread, smush down, and cover the skillet with a lid to allow for the cheese to melt.
  2. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the sandwich, adding the additional tablespoon of butter to the pan. Cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the grilled cheese, cut diagonally, and serve oozing and hot.

Cheeseburger à la Big Mac

I have a love connection with Big Macs from McDonalds.

Who doesn’t.

I rarely let myself indulge because I tend to feel sick afterward. And that was even before I watched Super Size Me. But I still crave them all the time.

Which has motivated me to find a way to recreate the same mouth-watering, sans-additive version that can be made at home, where you know full-well what foods and ingredients you are ingesting.

The key is to up the fat and salt factor as much as possible. Warning. This is not healthy. I repeat. Not healthy.

There is a fun, trendy ingredient I included as well. Black garlic. It elevates the standard Big Mac sauce into smokey, ferment-y & slightly funky sauce.  I wouldn’t use in place of fresh garlic, but since I’m big into funky foods, I will be experimenting more with it. It certainly worked here.

A cast-iron pan works just as well as a griddle that may be used at Micky D’s, especially a nicely, seasoned worn-in one that you barely (or never) wash with detergent soap.

I did not know this was a thing at first.

Lodge, a great brand that I buy from, has a guide on how to properly maintain your cast iron cookware. It involves just gentle scrubbing, rinsing with water, drying immediately afterward and applying a bit of whatever neutral cooking oil you have on hand to prevent rusting and discoloration.

In my case, my pan has built up so many layers of savory flavor that the foods I cook on it taste more complex and developed. Like a fine cheese or wine, it just gets better with time (in this case, usage).

So go with me on this one – live your best life and pig out. At least it’s “healthy” because you’re not eating the McDonald’s, right?

Here is a picture of my sweet puppy, Ina. Her favorite toy is her squeaky cheeseburger. I bet she wishes she could have one of these cheeseburgers, but she’ll have to stick with her puppy chow instead. For now. 😊

Ina

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 1 1 / 2 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean to 20% fat ratio
  • Sesame seed hamburger buns
  • 1 / 8 head iceberg lettuce, sliced to a chiffonade
  • 8 slices American Kraft Singles
  • 1 / 2 small white onion, minced finely
  • 1 jar kosher dill pickle chips
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

F o r  t h e  S p e c i a l  S a u c e

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 pickle chips, minced finely
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pickle juice
  • 2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 clove black garlic, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Prepare the beef patties. Take portions of the ground beef, rolling each to the size of a large golf ball and place on a plate.
  2. Chiffonade the iceberg lettuce very finely. Mince the white onion. Prepare to have 2 pickle chips per cheeseburger. Unwrap the American Kraft Singles and have on hand nearby.
  3. For the special sauce, combine all ingredients and set in the fridge to chill. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt (or hot sauce 😊) if desired.
  4. Heat the cast iron skillet with one tablespoon of butter. Make sure the pan is searing hot, but not so hot that the butter begins to burn.
  5. Place as many halved buns as possible in the skillet and allow to soak up the butter and brown, probably 2 – 3 minutes per batch, making sure they do not burn. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of butter as necessary until all are toasted. Once toasted, remove the buns from the skillet to another plate.
  6. To cook the patties, add yet another tablespoon of butter. Once heated through, place two rounds of beef in the skillet, and flatten with all the strength you have with a metal spatula. Sprinkle both with 1 /4 teaspoon (a dash or so) of salt. The irregular shape will not matter. Just make sure the patty is as flat as possible, while still being thick enough to hold together.
  7. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the burgers. Place the cheese on top of each. Allow the cheese to melt completely so it oozes over the edges, cooking for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Once cooked, set aside to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  8. Continue to cook the patties in batches until all are done, adding a tablespoon of butter to the pan before each new batch. There should be two cheese-covered patties per cheeseburger.
  9. To arrange the cheeseburgers, spread 1 tablespoon of the special sauce on the bottom of the bun. Place two pickle chips on top. Then add the first cheese-covered patty, and then the second. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of minced white onion, then a thin layer of iceberg lettuce. Top with another 1 tablespoon of the special sauce.
  10. Smush the cheeseburgers down a bit so that the cheese and special sauce have a chance to ooze together and mingle.
  11. Serve immediately. You know you can’t wait any longer!