New Year’s Eve and Chocolate Fondue

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When I was a kid growing up in New England, New Year’s Eve was a very special family holiday. My parent’s best friends would come for dinner, which was typically fondue. All the rage in the ‘60s, we would start with meat fondue. My mother would prepare small bites of raw beef, chicken, and pork that each person would cook in the fondue pot using a long, slender fork. Once the meat was cooked, an array of unique condiments was passed to adorn the tender morsels. Following this would be a cheese fondue. Like molten lava, the cheese would be kept warm in the fondue pot, and small bits of bread, fruit, and potato would be dipped into it, according to each individual’s preference.

Between each course, we would play games. My favorite was a card game that involved anteing up into a “pot” that was divvied up by winning a series of quasi-poker hands. We played for pennies, but to a child it was the next best thing to a “snow day” reprieve from school.

Because it was a special occasion, my sister and I were allowed to stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year. There was champagne for the adults and something sparkling, but non-alcoholic, for the kids. And then came dessert.

Dessert, of course is always the best part of the meal. But dessert on New Year’s Eve was something truly special. In keeping with the theme of the evening, my Mom served chocolate fondue. She would cut up a variety of fruit…bananas, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, plus bite-size pieces of buttery pound cake. Into the fondue pot she poured melted chocolate sauce that tasted like heaven on earth. Dipping the fruit and cake into that sauce is one of the fondest memories of have of holidays with my family.

So, Happy New Year everyone! May 2010 bring peace, good health, and prosperity. And, here for good measure, is the recipe for that chocolate fondue sauce.

Fantasy Fondue

This delicious chocolate fondue is the perfect accompaniment to fresh fruit and buttery pound cake. For Valentine’s Day, we use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the pound cake into small, bite-size pieces and serve the fondue with fresh strawberries and bananas. For an even more festive event, like New Year’s Eve, serve with champagne.

2/3 cup half-and-half
¼ cup granulated sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 ½ cups)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
½ teaspoon rum extract

Directions: Stir half-and-half and sugar in a medium-size saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add chocolate; stir over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in butter until melted. Stir in extract. Makes 2 cups. Will keep up to 1 month in a tightly covered glass jar. To reheat, remove lid and place jar in a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until warm.

To serve: Prepare chocolate fondue and pour into fondue pot, keeping the pot warm with sterno. Cut up fruit and pound cake into bite-size pieces. Arrange on a glass plate next to the fondue pot. Provide guests with dessert plates and fondue forks, allowing them to select fruit and cake to dip into the fondue using the forks provided.

Serves 8-12