Champagne Spinal Tap Fondue

A toast to the first week of neurology after which I am proud to report that I am batting a thousand in my lumbar puncture record. Three for three glistening champagne spinal taps. I credit the success to having had a surgery rotation preceding—my hand has been steadied to some degree from holding things far sharper than a 22 gauge hollow needle.

After two call nights this week, on Saturday when the hospital spit me out, a wad of blue scrubs and bleary eyes, I implored KP to gather the necessary items to celebrate my week of stellar lumbar punctures, which are, of course, the following ingredients: Image

Champagne Spinal Tap Fondue with French Bread

Adapted from Bon Apetit

4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups dry (brut) Champagne (I got the stuff from Trader Joes)
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 7 ounces)
1 1/3 cups coarsely grated Emmenthal cheese (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup diced rindless Brie or Camembert cheese (about 3 ounces)
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground white pepper
1 French bread baguette, crust left on, bread cut into 1-inch cubes — to make this French Bread, keep in mind that it will take two days in advance… so if you haven’t started on the bread and you need the fondue, like now, you might need to pick up a baguette at the nearest patisserie. Otherwise, try to time things so your bread goes in the oven as your cheese goes into the melting pot. Fresh fresh fresh– tastes better. ImageImage

Stir cornstarch and lemon juice in small bowl until cornstarch dissolves; set aside. Pour champagne into four test tubes and try to imagine the joy of pulling such liqueur from between two lumbar vertebrae. Contemplate for a moment your own CSF. Do you appreciate this particular bodily fluid as often as you should? I should say not. We all have a crystal geyser bathing our spine–be grateful for that which you cannot see, but which sustains your neurology. Which is, ahem, more than just your CSF. That’s as close as I’ll get to a Sunday sermon, I promise. Image

Combine champagne and shallot in fondue pot or heavy medium saucepan. Take a swig if you are also heading out to jazz band rehearsal, as I was this afternoon. It got me one or two riffs closer to Billie and Eva, I believe. Simmer over medium heat 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Add all cheeses and stir to combine. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Return fondue pot to medium heat and stir until cheeses are melted and smooth and fondue thickens and boils, about 12 minutes. Resist the urge to dip the entire baguette you just made into the cheese sauce. It’s harder than you think. Okay, I did it. Caught in the act. Image

Season fondue with nutmeg and white pepper. Place over candle or canned heat burner to keep warm. Serve with French bread cubes. Watch This is Spinal Tap, the movie, while you munch.

I brought this dish to my bread guru for approval. He judged it a quality product, so it stands. 5 stars. The fondue was a little too chi-chi-poo-poo, rich and fancy for my taste. If it were CSF, it would mark a concerning tap, high in protein, suggestive of meningitis or Guillain-Barre, or some other curious encephalomyelitis. But the French bread was excellent. And the fondue, just champagne and cheese. Fondue, as far as I know, is good for the nervous system. So is jazz—as such, I’ll be singing guest vocals with Driven by Rhythm at Johnny Mango’s next Sunday (Oct 13). And the Redwood Room the Friday after that (Oct 18). Bring your nerves, and I’ll work on them with the soothe of sound.

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