In 1982 my husband and I joined a weekly wine-tasting group. The wine expert was pretty full of himself, but he always put out nice hors d’oeuvres before the tasting. And that is when I first discovered Fontina. It quickly became my go-to cheese. Buttery, nutty, and perfect to serve with crackers, charcuterie, and fruit. But, I never melted it.
The cheeses I have served melted have mostly been Brie and Camembert, often in a crust, served as luscious hors d’oeuvres. Baked Provolone and Panela are more recent, melty cheese discoveries of mine.
I found this baked fontina recipe by Marissa Mullen on Food 52. “Get ready for the most decadent, cheesy snack ever to be invited to a holiday party. Savory caramelized onions come together with sweet fig jam, to contrast the cheesiness—your friends and family will love this one so much, you might have to make two.”
Marissa Mullen is a Brooklyn-based food stylist, recipe developer, photographer and cheese lover. She is the founder of That Cheese Plate and creator of the Cheese By Numbers method. She is also the author of the best-selling cookbook, That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life, a step-by-step styling guide for crafting beautiful and delicious cheese plates as a form of creative expression.
It’s still cold out where I live, and even though this recipe would be perfect for fall or during the holidays, It’s also perfect now.
Baked Fontina with Caramelized Onions and Fig Jam
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (only 2 are necessary)
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces fontina, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used 16 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, plus more for garnish
2 ounces fig jam
1 baguette, or another loaf of crusty bread, for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add the onions, toss, and let cook for 10 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and cook for an additional 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes and adjusting the heat to avoid burning, until caramelized. Remove from the heat.
I forgot the caramelized onion photo, but I also added some sweet paprika.
When the onions are finished, place a rack in the upper third of the oven (about 5 inches from the heat) and heat the broiler to high. Place the fontina in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, thyme, and rosemary. (I only drizzled 1 tablespoon of oil on top; the fontina lets off a lot of fat by itself.)
Broil for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned. I actually chickened out after a couple of minutes. I didn’t want burnt garlic and herbs, so I lowered the oven to 350 degrees and waited until the fontina was completely melted.
Remove from the oven and top with the caramelized onions, a dollop of fig jam, and additional rosemary and thyme to garnish.
Serve immediately with crusty bread, or in my case, grilled bread.
Well wow. What a fabulous recipe for baked cheese.
The onions really work well, and of course the fig jam is perfect.