Basic Fondue (Fondue Neuchateloise)
and gruyere cheese*
kirsch (cherry brandy)
(Note: the above measurements are for each person. Multiply by your number of guests.)
- Grated and mixed half and half.
** This is Swiss cherry firewater: clear, dry-tasting -- not "cherry brandy", which is dark and sweet. Most good liquor stores should carry it, at least one of the US brands like Hiram Walker, or else maybe Bols. The best Kirsch is "Etter" brand from Switzerland, but the odds of your finding it are minuscule.
In Switzerland, fondue is usually perpared in a "caquelon", an earthenware dish with a handle, glazed inside; but any enamelled saucepan can be used, or a not too shallow fireproof dish.
Rub the inside of the pan with half a cut clove of garlic, and let it dry until the rubbed places feel tacky.
Put the wine in the dish and bring it to a boil.
Slowly start adding cheese to the boiling wine, and stir constantly until each bit is dissolved, then add more.
When all the cheese is in, stir the kirsch into the cornstarch well, then add the mixture to the cheese and keep stirring over the heat until the mixture comes to a boil again.
Add freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Remove the dish to on top of a small live flame (Sterno or alcohol burner) and keep it bubbling slowly.
Bread should have been cubed ~- about 1-inch cubes -- for spearing with fondue forks and stirring around in the cheese.
The old custom is that if you accidentally lose the bread into the cheese from the end of your fork, if you're male, you have to buy a round of drinks for the table: if you're female, you have to kiss everybody.
Other fondue info: Do not drink water with fondue -- it reacts unkindly in your stomach with the cheese and bread.
Dry white wine or tea are the usual accompaniments.
Another tradition: the "coupe d'midi", or "shot in the middle", for when you get full: a thimbleful of Kirsch, knocked straight back in the middle of the meal, usually magically produces more room if you're feeling too full.
Don't ask me how this works. it just does.
The crusty bit that forms at the bottom of the pot as the cheese keeps cooking is called the "crouton", and is very nice peeled off and divvied up among the guests as a sort of farewell to dinner.