If you are a cheese lover like me, I’ll bet you have lots of bits and pieces of leftover cheese wrapped in plastic in your refrigerator. One of the drawbacks of serving a cheese course or making a cheese board—there are always leftovers. Maybe guests weren’t as hungry as you thought, or you bought more than you needed.
Well, here is a great way to use these leftovers, thanks to the French. They make what they call Fromage Fort, which translates to “strong cheese.” It’s a delicious way to give another life to your bits and pieces of expensive cheese.
Any combination of cheese can be used from hard to soft. The only caveat is that blue cheese, because its flavor is so dominant, should be used sparingly so its flavor doesn’t overpower the mix. (If you love blue cheese, don’t worry about it.)
Serve Fromage Fort at room temperature (as you should with most other cheeses) to serve as a dip for crackers, pretzels, crisp vegetables like carrots or celery, and apple slices, you get the picture. My favorite way is to spread generously on crostini or French bread slices and run them under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese is bubbly. A little dollop of a preserve like pepper jelly or an olive conserve (recipe follows) on top makes for an ideal hors d’ oeuvres or nibble with any kind of wine.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
1 pound of leftover cheese
3 peeled medium-sized garlic cloves
1/4 cup or so dry white wine
1/4 cup or so chicken of vegetable broth
1 or 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)
Salt if needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Olive conserve for serving if desired, recipe follows
Trim the cheeses to remove and discard any inedible rinds or any dried out spots or mold. Coarsely chop the cheese. In a food processor with the motor running, drop the garlic in and process for a few seconds until the garlic is coarsely chopped. Add the cheeses, wine, broth, crème fraîche (if you wish), salt and pepper and process for a minute or more or until the mixture is soft and creamy. Taste and correct seasoning. If the mixture is too dry process in more wine or broth. Transfer to a crock, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Store covered and refrigerated for up to a week.
To serve: Spread on good bread and eat at room temperature. Alternately spread on bread or crostini and run under a hot broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese before serving. Can be stored refrigerated for up to a week.
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
We don’t usually think of olives in a sweet environment, but like any other black fruit, they can be interesting. I’m using oil-cured olives here, which can vary widely in terms of their saltiness. You’ll want to taste and decide how salty you might like the end product. In the recipe below I’m doing a preliminary blanch of the olives to help remove salt. You may need to do it twice or even three times if the olives are especially salty.
3/4-pound oil-cured olives (generous 2 cups)
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (use a microplane)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
Lemon juice to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
With the flat side of a cook’s knife gently smash the olives and remove and discard pits. Add olives to a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then drain. Return olives to the pan along with brown sugar, wine and honey and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook over moderate heat until the mixture thickens. Stir in zest, rosemary, drops of lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Cool, cover and store refrigerated for up to one month.