When I visited the ski slopes of Zermatt, this dish was featured in all the mountaintop chalets. However, each of the different cantons in Switzerland has its own traditional variations, such as alternative cheeses, roasted garlic, morel mushrooms, plum schnapps, or cider. A ceramic or stoneware stub-handled dish called a coquelon is traditionally used for cooking and serving this classic fondue.
Authentic Swiss Gruyère and Emmentaler make for a truly memorable feast. A splash of kirsch (or kirschwasser), a clear cherry brandy, is added at the end to produce the desired zing.
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
8 ounces Emmentaler cheese
8 ounces Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 clove garlic, halved
2 cups dry white wine, such as Rhine Riesling
3 tablespoons kirsch
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper (optional)
2 baguettes, cut into bite-sized cubes, each with some crust on
Shred both cheeses coarsely or dice them into ¼-inch pieces. Toss the shredded cheese lightly with the cornstarch until evenly coated.
Rub the insides of a fondue pot with the garlic and discard the garlic. Pour the wine into the pot and set over low heat until bubbles rise.
Gradually add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring each time until the cheese is completely melted. Avoid letting the mixture come to a boil.
Stir in the kirsch. Sprinkle with nutmeg and season to taste with salt and white pepper, if using.
Serve with a basket of crusty bread cubes to dunk into the sauce.
It is customary to offer guests a small glass of kirsch halfway through the meal. The golden crust that develops on the bottom of the pot is considered a prized finale to the meal.