Smoked Gouda and Provolone Piccante Fonduta with Figs and Pistachios – a hot, smokey Italian cheese dip perfect for dipping bread and dried fruit. The Italian version of French fondue, made with milk and egg yolks instead of wine and cornstarch. It’s the perfect romantic appetizer, and is both beautiful and simple to whip up!
A few weeks ago we went out for Restaurant Week with our friend Alex. After drooling over all the different Restaurant Week menus online and narrowing our favorites down one by one, we settled on Muse, even though they didn’t have a table for three open until 9:30 p.m.
Their menu just sounded SO GOOD and it’s one of Mike’s and my favorite restaurants. The food is delicious, the service is excellent, and the building is beautiful. The late reservation was actually great because we all got to spend an hour at the weekly swing dance before walking down to the restaurant for our reservation.
Normally, Mike and I order different meals so we can have tastes of each other’s dishes and we can sample more of the menu. Alex is on board with this plan as well, so it worked out well and we got to taste almost the entire Restaurant Week menu. For the entree, Mike got the roasted pork shoulder, I got the duck confit with oyster mushrooms and house-made pasta, and Alex got the catch of the day, grilled swordfish. For dessert, Mike got the olive oil cake, I got a salted caramel panna cotta, and Alex got tiramisu. But for the appetizer, while Alex got the crispy proscuitto wrapped apples, Mike and I BOTH got the same thing – Provolone piccante fonduta with grilled bread, figs and pistachios. And Alex was a little jealous.
Needless to say, it was delicious. They served it to us in shallow bowls with figs and pistachios sprinkled on top and oblong slices of beautifully grill-marked bread extending out of the bowl gracefully, like feathers on a hat.
I was wondering what the difference was between fondue and fonduta, and erroneously supposed based on our meal that perhaps fondue was served over a flame with skewers with which to dip things, while fonduta was served in a bowl like soup. When I looked it up later, I discovered fondue is the French version of a hot cheese dip and is typically made with cheese, wine, garlic, and butter, with cornstarch to thicken it, while fonduta is the Italian version, made with cheese, milk, and butter, with egg yolks to thicken it. Fonduta is typically made with fontina cheese but this was made with a sharp provolone — the good stuff, not the kind you get sliced in a baggie for sandwiches.
The cheese was smokey and creamy and rich. The grilled bread was crispy and slightly salty on the outside and soft on the inside, and the dried figs and pistachios provided a little sweet and a little crunch to accompany the smooth dip.
I decided to try my hand at making it at home. Seemed easy enough. So Alex, you can tell John you brought back TWO recipes from your visit this time, although this one’s a little delayed. (The other one is the Greek Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Kale, which I’ve made again since I posted the recipe, it’s just that good.)
When I was shopping for the ingredients, I misremembered the dish as smoked provolone fonduta, rather than provolone piccante fonduta. The store didn’t have smoked provolone, probably because it doesn’t exist, so I bought both provolone piccante and smoked gouda so I could get some of that smokey flavor I remembered. It may be a nontraditional combination but it was very good!
I also added a little garlic to the cheese — only one clove, albeit a large clove, but it was a little overpowering at first! I really think this particular head of garlic I have is like supercharged mutant garlic. I used a clove from the same head in another recipe and again, a normal amount of garlic had SO MUCH garlic flavor. I do like the garlic in this, but I wouldn’t add more than a normal sized clove.
I grilled the bread brushed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and garlic powder in a panini press (The Griddler, which I love oh so much, and not just because it has a name that sounds like a pro wrestler).
So I present to you my version of Muse’s provolone piccante fonduta with figs and pistachios — romantic, not difficult to whip up, and with a beautiful presentation. If you’re still undecided on what to make for your Valentine’s day appetizer, it’s a good option!
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What’s your favorite romantic appetizer? Let me know in the comments!
Smoked Gouda and Provolone Piccante Fonduta with Figs and Pistachios
Smoked Gouda and Provolone Piccante Fonduta with Figs and Pistachios - a hot, smokey Italian cheese dip perfect for dipping bread and dried fruit. The Italian version of French fondue, made with milk and egg yolks instead of wine and cornstarch. It's the perfect romantic appetizer, and is both beautiful and simple to whip up!
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz provolone piccante (Sharp provolone) rind removed, thinly sliced or grated
- 6 oz smoked gouda rind removed, thinly sliced or grated
- 1 clove garlic pressed
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 loaf French or Italian bread sliced diagonally in half-inch slices
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- garlic powder
- dried figs tough stems removed, halved
- shelled pistachios
Make a double boiler using a heatproof bowl set on top of a small saucepan. Bowl should hold at least 3 cups. Bring an inch or two water to a boil in saucepan, then reduce to a simmer (medium low) and set bowl on top.
Melt 3 tbsp butter in double boiler. Add 1/2 cup milk and a handful of cheese. Heat on medium low, whisking frequently, until cheese is incorporated. Repeat with remaining cheese until all cheese is incorporated. Add garlic.
In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining 1/2 cup milk with 3 egg yolks. Slowly pour egg yolk mixture into cheese mixture, whisking constantly until combined. Heat over medium low, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly on one side with kosher salt and garlic powder. Grill in a panini press or indoor grill, or broil on a baking sheet until toasted.
Serve fonduta in shallow bowls with toasted bread slices, figs, a sprinkling of pistachios, and freshly ground pepper.
Do cut off the rind of the gouda, even if you'd be fine eating it. It does not melt well and won't incorporate into your dip.
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