Irish Cheddar Fondue with Kale Pesto

Tangy cheddar cheese only gets better when melted with Irish ale and swirled with a garlicky pesto. Open the bottle of ale at least an hour before starting the fondue, to let it go flat. This will reduce the amount of foam and make it easier to blend with the cheese.

Yield: 5 cups

Servings: 12


  • For the kale pesto:
  • 1 garlic clove, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup kale leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • For the fondue:
  • 2 pounds Irish cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard, such as Colman's
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish ale
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. To make the pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic and salt and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the kale, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and pepper flakes. Process, pulsing the machine on and off, until a coarse paste forms. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil. (Pesto can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.)
  2. To make the fondue: In a large bowl, toss the cheese with the cornstarch, mustard, and cayenne to coat.
  3. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the ale and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to medium-low and gradually stir in the cheese mixture, letting each addition melt before adding more. Stir in the Worcestershire.
  4. Pour the cheese mixture into a fondue pot. Drop tablespoons of the pesto over the top; then use a skewer or knife to swirl the pesto attractively over the surface and into the fondue. Regulate the heat beneath the pot, if possible, so the fondue remains warm, not hot.

Use one or more of the following for dipping: crusty cubes of bread; bread sticks; pretzels; celery sticks; blanched broccoli and/or cauliflower florets or asparagus spears; scallions; Belgian endive leaves; cooked prawns; steamed or baked tiny new potatoes; roasted mushrooms and/or artichoke hearts; or apple slices.