Take a Dip: South-of-the-Border Fondue

 Serves 6 to 8

Its spiciness will depend on the pungency of the ground red chile (a powder made from grinding dried chile pods, which is very different in flavor and texture from chili powder, a combination of dried chiles, herbs, spices, salts, and often additives). I use a combination of Chimayo, ancho, and chipotle chiles; the last gives the dish a smoky flavor. I prefer a dark, slightly bitter Mexican beer; use a lighter brew if you prefer.

• 4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
• 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon unbleached white flour
• 1/4 cup finely minced onion
• 2 teaspoons corn or vegetable oil
• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
• 1 tablespoon ground red chile (for medium-hot fondue; adjust to taste)
• 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground cumin seed
• 1 1/4 cups beer at room temperature
• 1/3 cup finely minced cilantro
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dippers: bread cubes; corn chips; ­radishes; cherry tomatoes; spring onions; ­jicama; jalapeño, serrano, Anaheim, and/or bell peppers; slightly steamed carrots; broccoli; cauliflower; and/or green or yellow squash

1. Toss the cheese and flour in a bowl to blend.

2. Sauté the onion in the oil for 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic, stir for 1 minute, add the ground chile and cumin and stir 1 minute longer. Add the beer and bring just to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook for a few minutes longer; do not boil. Whisk in a few handfuls of cheese, then gradually stir in the remainder until all the cheese is melted and just begins to bubble. Stir in the cilantro and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

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