Citizens! It is a sad and melancholy truth that TFD sometimes cannot eat all the myriad cheeses he has stored in his chill box – given that my taste in cheese verges on the impeccable, throwing out good cheese is literally anathema to me.
This recipe fits the bill and uses up all the old bits and bobs of cheeses lurking in the dark, unexplored regions of the fridge in a happy and most flavorful fashion!
Fromage fort is a French cheese spread – literally “strong cheese”. It is traditionally made by blending together pieces of different leftover cheeses, white wine (or other spirits), garlic, and various herbs. Other ingredients include pepper and leek broth. Aging is optional and not really needed in modern versions of this recipe.
Blue cheese, while one of the possible components, is usually included in small quantities, as its flavor is often stronger than other traditional ingredients.
As noted by Chef Jacques Pépin in a 1989 article from the New York Times:
FROMAGE fort is a special recipe rooted in my childhood. If you always have little leftover pieces of cheese in your refrigerator, this is the perfect use for it.
As the name indicates, fromage fort means strong cheese. It is an assertive, highly seasoned mixture of cheeses and, in the part of France where I come from, near Lyon, everyone has a recipe for it. My father used to make fromage fort regularly, and the accompanying recipe, patterned after his, is flavored with garlic and white wine. Instead of, or in addition to, white wine, a little leek broth or liquid from a vegetable soup can be used to moisten the cheese.
I often use at least six or seven types of cheese in my fromage fort, although it can be made with a minimum of three cheeses, including hard and soft varieties. Leftover pieces of cheese, kept too long in the refrigerator, may have dried out on the surface and be a bit moldy. Trim off any crust or mold before starting.
The variety of usable cheeses for this classic dish is almost limitless. When I last made fromage fort, for example, I used leftover Brie, cheddar, Swiss, bleu, mozzarella, goat and cream cheeses – what I had on hand at the time. Refrigerated, this original and economical cheese combination will keep for a week or two.
Fromage fort is best eaten on bread or toast. As a child, I especially loved it toasted. I would spread the cheese mixture on a thick slab of country bread, impale the bread on a fork, and then hold it in the fireplace, with the cheese side as close as possible to the fire.
When the cheese bubbled and a nice glaze formed, I would rub it with a piece of butter and eat it piping hot. The bread glazes just as well when placed under the broiler for a few minutes.
Chef Pépin is a true culinary GOD and a remarkably humble one! He is a French-born American chef, author, culinary educator, television personality, and artist. Since the late 1980s, he has appeared on American television and has written for The New York Times, Food & Wine and other publications.
He has authored over 30 cookbooks, some of which have become best sellers. Pépin was a longtime friend of the American chef Julia Child, and their 1999 PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home won a Daytime Emmy Award. He has been honored with 24 James Beard Foundation Awards, five honorary doctoral degrees, the American Public Television’s lifetime achievement award, the Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019 and the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit in 2004.
Back to the recipe – TFD‘s last batch went with an international blend of 4 ounces French brie, 2 ounces Swiss gruyere, 1 ½ ounces Italian parmigiano, and ½ ounce English stilton – but literally any cheese and any ratio works for this recipe.
This is a fantastic way to use up leftover cheese bits in your fridge, Citizens!
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