Beer & Cheddar Fondue

If fondue seems like a project, you might be surprised at just how easily it comes together. In fact, it's a perfect dish for casual entertaining, even on a busy weeknight. Just grab a fondue pot, set out a few dippers (see Serving Suggestions, below), and invite friends over to dig (or rather, dip) in.

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  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces Emmentaler cheese, coarsely grated (about 3 lightly packed cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar, coarsely grated (about 2 lightly packed cups)
  • 4 ounces Gruyere, coarsely grated (about 1 lightly packed cup)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (such as Coleman's)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, coarsely ground in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 12-ounce can lager-style beer, preferably Budweiser
  • 3 tablespoons Amontillado sherry
  • Kosher salt
Melt the butter in a 1-1/2- to 2-quarts flameproof fondue pot over medium-low heat. (If you don't have a fondue pot that's flameproof, use a heavy, narrow saucepan.) Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely soft and beginning to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the Emmentaler, Cheddar, and Gruyere with the cornstarch, mustard, and pepper.
Add the caraway seeds to the pot and stir to toast them slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the beer, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer to mellow the flavor of the beer, about 3 minutes.
Sprinkle the cheese mixture into the pot a large handful at a time, stirring each batch in a back and forth pattern so that the cheese doesn't ball up as it melts. Continue adding and stirring until all of the cheese is melted, smooth, and thick, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain barely a simmer. Stir in the sherry and season to taste with salt. (If using a saucepan, transfer the fondue to a fondue pot.) Set the fondue pot over a low flame at the table to keep it warm. Serve with the dipping ingredients.
Serving Suggestions: What to dunk: You can make cheese fondue a more balanced meal by serving some or all of the following as dipping options: Sourdough or ciabatta bread cubes, pear and apple slices, steamed carrots and cauliflower, boiled baby or fingerling potatoes, cornichons or baby pickles, grilled or broiled sliced sausage.
Amontillado, a medium-dry sherry, provides a nice contrast to the bitter beer and the sharp cheddar.
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