Classic Fondue Neuchateloise

1 loaf of stale country-style bread, such as sourdough
2 C. fruity but dry white wine (preferably a Swiss wine)
1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. really good Swiss cheese, cut into small cubes
2 T. flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 T. kirsch
Apples, cut into thin slices (optional)

Cut the bread into bite-size cubes, leaving a bit of crust on each cube. If the bread is not already fairly dry, arrange it on a baking sheet and bake in a 250 F. oven for about 1 hour.

Combine the wine and garlic in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.

Toss the cheese cubes with the flour.

When the wine is hot, reduce the heat to low and begin to add the cheese, stirring in one direction only, until the cheese melts, then adding a little more. The cheese should melt and become one with the hot wine.

When all of the cheese has melted into the wine, season with the cayenne and nutmeg, then add the kirsch.

If the cheese mixture has not come together, mix a little cornstarch -- say a teaspoon or two -- with a tablespoon or so of cold water and stir until it is smooth. Stir this into the hot cheese mixture until it all comes together.

Light the fondue pot and place it at the center of the table, along with a plate of apple slices -- for a fresh respite from all the cheese and bread dipping -- and a basket of the bread cubes. Sit down and dip. Other options for dunking are chunks or slices of Granny Smith apples, pears or miniature meatballs.

Serves 4.


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