A few weeks ago, I posted a story about the now-defunct Captainâ€™s Steak Joynt chain of restaurants that were popular in Milwaukee in the '70s and '80s. Many readers remembered these nautical-themed bar / restaurants and mentioned one of its signature dishes, the cheese fondue.
Leslie Heinrichs, the archivist for the Marcus Corporation (Marcus owned the Captainâ€™s chain) was actually able to dig up the recipe. Last night, my co-worker Carolynn Buser, her sister Kathy, my partner Royal and I put it to the test.
The recipe calls for two packages of S&M Old Fashioned Pepper Gravy Mix from Pepperidge Farm. We could not find this in grocery stores or online, so we substituted with McCormickâ€™s Peppered Country Gravy â€“ a similar white gravy with an abundance of black pepper flakes.
Otherwise, we were able to easily find the remaining recipe items which include Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and two pounds of processed American cheese.
I have an electric fondue pot, but opted to use a double boiler because thatâ€™s what the recipe calls for and because itâ€™s larger. However, the double boiler wasnâ€™t large enough either, and we transferred the mixture into a large pan instead. This worked out fine.
At first, we were concerned the consistency of the 'due was too runny, but we stirred it constantly for about 15 minutes and it thickened to perfection. Itâ€™s important to have a thermometer on hand in order to keep the heat at 150 degrees and not let it reach the boiling point.
We also made the Captainâ€™s "chips" which were included with the fondue recipe. We accidentally overcooked them for a few minutes but the majority of them were delicious "dippers." Here they are before getting slightly scorched in Kathy and Carolynn's oven:
We also dipped browned beef chunks, bread chunks from Lopez Bakery rolls, fingerling potatoes, hot pretzels, rye chips, broccoli and cauliflower.
All four of us found the fondue to be really good. It did not taste too Velveeta-y thanks to the peppery gravy and the sauces, and it was the perfect consistency. We would definitely make it again. Next time we would add roasted mushrooms to the list. It's really important to have many items so the thick cheese fondue doesn't become overbearing and also because it turns out that variety is not only the spice of life, it's also the spice of a fondue dinner.
Whether or not our fondue tasted like the original Captainâ€™s Steak Joynt fondue is unclear. I was the only person in our group who had actually eaten it, and I realized last night that, after 25 years, my palate doesnâ€™t have quite the memory I was hoping. The fondue did, however, taste familiar, and I will confirm it was at least close to the original recipe.
After dinner, Royal summed up the experience well. "Fondue is fun; it brings people together," he said. "And this particular cheese fondue is simple and good regardless of whether you remember it from the Captain's Steak Joynt."
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