So you’ve just hosted a party (or two) and now are the proud owner of an assortment of ends and bits and oddments of various cheeses.
“There’s not really enough left of any one of these to be useful,” you think to yourself, “so I may as well toss them.”
Whooooa there, little buckaroo. Do you realize what you’re about to do? You’re about to throw away cheese. CHEESE, dammit!
Rather than see those individual oddments as a weakness, why not see them as a strength? A very particular sort of strength? A Fromage Fort! For those amongst the readers who are not Gallically inclined, “Fromage Fort” is French for “Strong Cheese.”
The starting point for the recipe I usually use comes from Monsieur Jacques Pepin, a man who knows from food. His word is always to be trusted but in this case it’s not gospel. There are no rules when making fromage fort. Well, OK, maybe there are a few guidelines…
- Cheeses are not colorblind. You may have white oddments and orange oddments but it might be best for all involved if the two were not combined in a single fromage fort. Unless, of course, you feel otherwise.
- This is Fromage Fort, not Fromage Faible. Monsieur Pepin uses dry white wine in his fromage fort and, yes, it’s very nice. I use brandy, the best I have on hand, and it works very nicely for me. A white vermouth also does the job well but, again, I’m partial to the brandy version. Regardless, the hooch is not optional. I also use three or four cloves of garlic but keep in mind that I am often working with at least twice the half pound of oddments for which his recipe calls so, proportionally, it’s not a crazy amount of garlic.
That’s about it for guidelines but there are a few other tips I’d like to toss into the mixer:
- Add softened butter. This does wonders for the consistency of the completed fort. How much? Um…enough? For my most recent batch I used about 3/4 of a stick in about 1.25lbs of oddments.
- Some chopped fresh herbs make a good addition.
- Have some leftover sour cream? Pitch it in.
- Your fromage not very spreadable? Add some heavy cream or half and half while the food processor is running. Oh, don’t get all squeamish and fat-conscious at the mention of heavy cream, for crying out loud. You’re standing over a food processor full of solidified heavy cream, remember? Crikey, some people…
What do you do with it after it’s all done? Monsieur Pepin’s suggestion of spreading it on crostini and then placing them under the broiler is a very good one. It’s quick, easy and never fails to satisfy. If your fromage fort cup runneth over (as mine does now), I can recommend using it instead of grated cheese in a very adult and highly tasty mac-n-cheese. Though I’ve never tried it, I think it would also be splendid as the base for a fresh tomato tart. Or maybe on pizza. Or just on a spoon.
So go ahead, give fromage fort a whirl! Get it? Whirl? Made in a food processor? Bah, everyone’s a critic… You’ll be glad you did.