Baby, it's cold outside! Here, recipes perfect for entertaining or a cosy evening at home.

We may consider fondue a tasty indulgence, but its origins were far more practical.

Fondue dates back to 18th century Switzerland, where it was devised mainly as a way to use up hardened cheese and stale bread. This hardy peasant fare was usually made with a mixture of Emmentaler and Gruyere cheese and wine, which was melted in a communal pot or caquelon. (The name 'fondue' is derived from the French verb fondre meaning 'to melt'.) Another useful benefit: as diners gathered around the communal pot, the cooking fire helped to keep them warm.

In the 1950s, fondue became popular in North America, and recently it has experienced a rebirth of sorts as, once again, tabletop cooking is trendy among some foodies.

Over the years, of course, fondue has evolved well beyond bread and cheese. Meat, seafood, poultry and veggies are all being cooked up in hot oil or broth tableside, and served with a variety of sauces. And when it comes to dessert, what can be more delicious than dipping fresh strawberries in rich, bubbling chocolate?

The traditional fondue dinner starts with a cheese fondue followed by a meat fondue served with vegetables and a variety of dipping sauces, and finally, a dessert fondue to finish. Or keep the menu simple by serving only a cheese fondue or meat fondue, balanced with a leafy green salad and perhaps, dessert.

Whether you're planning a party or a cozy evening at home, click through for three tasty fondue recipes.

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Cynthia Ross Cravit