I confess to being a bit of a hoarder. I have a large book collection that seems to grow larger all the time, even though I do have a Kindle e-reader. I have pots and pans galore because – pots and pans!
And I am a compulsive and inveterate collector of cheeses.
It’s nearly impossible for me to walk by a well-stocked cheese shop – or the well stocked cheese section of my favorite supermarkets – without buying something. Really – I mean, c’mon!! They’re just waiting for me, glistening and shimmering on the shelves.
And I know I want them.
If you’re French, you may well buy a nice fresh baguette each day, or perhaps every other day. You eat the baguette and all is well. Me, I buy a nice fresh baguette every few days and then eat some of it. Not all, but some.
This leaves a perfectly good baguette in the bread drawer, where it rapidly turns into a baguette-shaped brick.
Lately, I’ve been telling my wife – “Bread crumbs!! There is nothing like fresh ground bread crumbs.” Wordlessly, she points to the multiple containers of breadcrumbs already in the pantry. OK, so I do get a little bit carried away – but I’m in rescue mode!
You can imagine how cool it was to find that – like the bread crumb stratagem – there is a rescue – a delicious rescue – for the many bits and pieces of leftover cheese that are too nice to throw away.
You know what I’m talking about. Those pieces of cheese that you carefully wrapped, then removed from the cheese drawer a few weeks or months later, at which point they resembled nothing so much as the soured remnants of your dreams and hopes. Only smellier. A lot smellier. Or perhaps they have simply become hard enough to be used as a construction material.
So, you toss them away, vowing to do better next time.
I’m here to tell you that next time is now.
Now there is a simple, delicious rescue possible for those random bits and pieces of cheese you have in your cheese drawer. It’s called Fromage Fort and it has a venerable history in France, home of some of the world’s best cheeses and, I’ll wager, many fine drawers filled with bits and pieces of said cheeses, waiting for some love.
In developing my own version of this dish, I’ve gone through a number of excellent Fromage Fort recipes. I chose to make my own version just a bit more like a fondue with a simple, additional ingredient.
Spread your Fromage Fort on a bit of toast, or a cracker. Run it under the broiler. Or not. So very good! Use it as a dip – the fondue style of this version makes it entirely lovely as a dip for crackers or slices of baguette.
By the way, if you don’t slice up your entire baguette, I hear the remnants, seasoned for a while in your bread drawer, make excellent bread crumbs. . .just sayin’
Fromage Fort – Cheese’s Savior
Bits of cheese from your drawer. Use a mixture of hard and soft cheeses, if you have them, but don’t be too concerned about the blend. This recipe is based on about a pound of cheese bits. Amounts are approximate.
3-4 T. softened butter. Use a bit more for a mellower, more unctuous Fromage Fort
2-4 garlic cloves, minced. Or more.
About 1/3 C. dry white wine
A small handful of parsley sprigs, minced fine.
(Optional): Pinch of cayenne or pimiento ahumado (smoked paprika), a few twists of black pepper as a garnish when serving.
Approximately 3 T. brandy or bourbon. Brandy is really better here, but bourbon totally works!
The brandy (or bourbon if that’s what you have) is what gives this version of Fromage Fort a more fondue-like flavor. All measures are approximate. You are aiming for a relatively smooth, almost creamy texture.
OK, here’s the hard part. Toss everything from the ingredients list above in your blender and blend the hell out of it – “blitz” it, as my foodie friends are wont to say. Using my venerable, but underpowered Cuisinart, it took about 90 seconds of blending. If the mixture is not smooth – or liquid – enough – add a bit more of the white wine.
You’ll end up with a mixture that should look a bit like this.
Tips: The cheese bits you select should be reasonably OK – it’s just fine if they’re dried out, but not moldy or truly gone by.
Be careful of blue cheese. I used just a bit of a venerable blue and I wouldn’t use more, the blue cheese can easily overwhelm the dish. Use a mixture of soft and hard cheeses. I had some soft chevre, a few random pieces of Cheddar, a small chunk of fresh Fontina, a Val D’osto, a hard 1,000 day Gouda (I know now that “1,000 day Gouda” means it may take you 1,000 days to finish eating it), and others. Chop the hard cheeses fine or even grate them. Chunk up the softer cheeses. All will be well.
Serving Suggestion: Try it on toast!! Fromage Fort also makes a wonderful dip, particularly when made with the addition of brandy.