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Food

Leave Your Fondue Pot Behind (but Keep the Fondue)

Posted December 4, 2018 3:25 p.m. EST

Acorn squash with cheese sauce in New York, November 2018. You don’t need to break out anything special for a rich, creamy fondue: Instead, a roasted squash is its serving vessel. (Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times)

Fondue is not something you serve at a party; fondue is something that defines the party.

Invited in as a part of the meal, that alluring attention-grabber will always dominate, demanding its own pot and forks and elbowing all other dishes out of the way. A classic fondue needs to shine alone.

But if you eliminate the fondue pot, and ladle the same gooey cheese mixture into a roasted squash, it becomes a far more demure addition to the menu — without losing a speck of its rich, creamy charm. Instead of being the centerpiece of a meal, fondue-stuffed squash is an integrated part of it.

This is not to say it’s not still stunning — it is. If your guests don’t ooh and ahh at first, just wait for the carving. Slice open the squash, and watch the cheesy insides gush out, emitting a heavenly steam. (Using a rimmed serving platter eliminates any tablecloth-staining mishaps.) Then spoon the fondue over the squash and serve it forth. It’s a more theatrical version of squash with cheese sauce, but one that won’t end up stealing the entire show.

Along with the squash and oozing cheese, I’ve added some breadcrumbs. Fried until golden with garlic, chile, lemon zest and some optional but very delectable anchovies, it’s a crunchy and pleasingly oily garnish that replaces the usual bread cubes dunked into fondue, albeit with a lot more flavor.

Unlike a traditional fondue, which will eclipse any roast or braise you try to pair it with, this version makes an excellent side dish. Or it can be served as a rich appetizer, with something light to follow. I like to bring it out before roasted fish, with sorbet and cookies for dessert.

Although you do have to whisk the fondue right before serving, the rest of the dish can be made ahead. The breadcrumbs can be fried the day before and stored airtight at room temperature without losing their crunch. And the squash can be roasted earlier on the day of serving. Just reheat it until piping hot before pouring in the fondue, so the cheese stays melted and runny.

You won’t need to break out fondue forks, but spoons will guarantee your guests get every last, silky drop.

Recipe: Roasted Squash With Cheese Fondue

Yield: 8 servings

Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

For the squash:

2 medium carnival or acorn squash

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Kosher salt, as needed

Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

For the breadcrumbs:

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 4 anchovies, minced (optional)

1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced

1 teaspoon lemon thyme or regular thyme leaves, finely chopped

Pinch of red-pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the fondue:

6 ounces grated Gruyère

6 ounces grated Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Fresh lemon juice, to taste (optional)

Preparation:

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the stem ends off the tops of the squash, then cut a small slice from the bottoms, if needed, so they stand up level. If you can’t access the seeds from the top (if there’s still some squash flesh blocking your way), cut a small round in the flesh and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

2. Drizzle squash with oil and season the insides with salt and pepper. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until tender and edges are golden, 25 to 35 minutes. (Squash can be roasted 8 hours ahead, kept at room temperature and then reheated just before serving.)

3. Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs: In a medium bowl, stir together breadcrumbs, oil, anchovies if using, garlic, thyme and red-pepper flakes.

4. Heat a dry small skillet over medium heat, then stir in breadcrumb mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Scrape back into the bowl, and stir in lemon zest. (Breadcrumbs can be made a day ahead, and stored airtight at room temperature.)

5. Just before serving, make the fondue: In a large bowl, toss together Gruyère, Emmenthaler and cornstarch.

6. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in shallot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in wine and cream, and bring to a simmer, then stir in mustard powder, nutmeg and a generous amount of pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add cheese, a handful at a time, stirring occasionally and waiting until melted after each addition.

7. After cheese has all melted, leave pot on stove over low heat until mixture starts to bubble, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. (Resist the temptation to stir too frequently or vigorously, as this can make the fondue grainy.) Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like.

8. Place squash on a rimmed serving platter, pour cheese sauce into cavities, and top with breadcrumbs. To serve, slice each squash into quarters and scoop onto plates or bowls, spooning up the sauce.