Gruyere is a type of Swiss cheese that originated in Gruyere, Switzerland. Fondue is a dish of melted cheese or chocolate, but it can also refer to a cooking method in which chunks of meats and vegetables are submerged in oils, broths or wines. A Gruyere fondue, then, is a fondue made of melted Gruyere cheese. It is most often served with an assortment of breads for dipping.
The word "fondue" is derived from the French "fondre," which means "melt." In the case of Gruyere fondue, this refers to the melted cheese. While this type of fondue can be made strictly of Gruyere, the result would be a bit too mild for most tastes. For this reason, Gruyere is often blended with Emmentaler, a much sharper Swiss cheese. Other common ingredients paired with Gruyere for fondue include white wine, brandy, butter, mushrooms, milk, flour, cider and roasted garlic.
Like other fondues, Gruyere fondue is prepared in a special pot called a "caquelon." These may be earthenware or metal, and are available in a wide range of styles and sizes. Home cooks generally use a lighter, less expensive version while restaurants use a heavier, commercial version.
The Gruyere fondue ingredients are placed into the caquelon, which is set directly over the heat source. Traditionally, this was an open fire. In modern day, fondue restaurants often have heat sources built directly into the tables. Fondue sets made for home use include a small rack below the pot. A container of gel or liquid fuel is placed in the rack and lit so that it provides a continuous source of heat throughout the meal.
Bread is the traditional accompaniment for Gruyere fondue. It is cut into chunks and served in bowls or on platters. Firm breads, such as baguette and pumpernickel, work well for fondue, as softer breads can fall apart. Diners use a specially designed fork with a small head and a long handle to spear a chunk of bread and dip it into the melted cheese. Dining is communal, so it is considered polite to transfer the dipped bread onto a plate or another fork rather than eating it directly off the dipping fork.
Restaurants often serve other accompaniments with cheese fondue. These can include vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, as well as slices of apple or pear. Gruyere fondue and other cheese fondues are often the first course of a three-course fondue dinner that includes a meat fondue and a dessert fondue.