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Winter entertaining recipes.

If your friends are willing to venture from their cozy homes and brave the chilling cold outdoors, there isn't a better way to spend a winter evening than entertaining them indoors. Invite a group over for a few hands of bridge or bid whist, or to watch Super Bowl XXVI on your wide-screen, surround-sound, stereo home-entertainment center. The primary ingredients you'll need for a successful evening: something tastey to eat and warm to drink.

Of all of winter's foods, fondue is the most communal, bringing friends together around a simmering chafing dish. The fun of fondue is having guests sit around, dipping their forked cubes of bread into the simmering mixture of cheese, wine and cognac.

Swiss Fondue

1 clove garlic 1 1/2 cups Swiss white wine, preferably Neuchatel or Fendant. 1 pount shredded Swiss, Gruyere or Emmentaler cheese 2 teaspoons cornstarch 2 tablespoons cognac Freshly ground pepper Salt

1. Rub the inside of a chafing fish with the garlic, and put the chafing dish on a burner. Add the wine and heat until it reaches the boiling point; but do not let it boil.

2. Add the cheese slowly. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the cheese is melted, creamy and barely simmering.

3. Blend the cornstarch with the cognac; add to the chafing dish and stir until the mixture bubbles. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove chafing dish from stove and place over a sterno with a low flame. Keep the fondue hot, but not boiling. If it becomes too thick, add a little more wine.

5. To serve, place the chafing dish and sterno on a dining table or better, on a low coffee table. Set out baskets of crusty cubes of French or Italian bread and provide guests with long-handled, long-tined forks.

If fondue is substantial winter fare, so is soup. Serve it steaming hot along with warm breads, butter and an assortment of cheeses. The abundant choices in soups range from vegetable, tomato and onion to borsht, chowder and gumbo. Stews and casseroles are equally satisfying for winter entertaining. Beef, lamb or fist stew or bouillabaisse served with steaming mounds of rice, make hearty one-pot meals that serve many.

Warming Drinks

Finish the evening with the most warming gesture of all-cognac. Float two teaspoons of cognac on the surface of a cup of hot coffee. Put a lump of sugar on a tablespoon, fill the spoon with cognac and warm it over the flame of a candle. Then ignite the cognac on the spoon and addit gently to the surface of the coffee. Stir until the flame burns out. Serves one.

Or serve a Cafe Brulot. Place the peel of an orange and a lemon, a two-inch stick of cinnamon, six whole cloves, sugar (to taste) and six ounces of cognac in a heated bowl. Ignite the cognac. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Slowly add hot coffee. Stir and ladle into demitasse cups. Serves eight.

As an alternate finale to any brisk winter affair, offer brandy snifters with an ounce or two of cognac to savor: Hennessy, Hine, Courvoisier, Martell, Ferrand, Remy Martin, Prunier. Any of these choices will deliver warmth and finish your evening entertaining with flair.
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Author:Fried, Eunice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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