I am writing this blog on Valentine’s Day. My amazing husband and my handsome son will always be my first and true Valentines. I also have a couple four-legged Valentines that warm my heart with their cold noses! However, following just behind these groups may be my Cheese Troll (yes, that is what his business card says). I visit my favourite cheese troll and his shop on a regular basis. While I have some favourites* that I always turn to, Sean always seems to have something new for me to try and unfortunately I have rarely met a cheese that I don’t like!
This usually means that I end up buying way more than I intended and I am often left with various little nubs of cheese in my refrigerator. A lot of those little pieces were thrown out (or became treat for my four-legged Valentines). This seemed like such a waste that I went on a search to figure out what I could do with them. Of course, the French have a solution; Fromage Fort, literally “strong cheese.” Various pieces of left over cheese are whirled away with wine and garlic to create a delicious cheese spread.
There are many variations out there. Some are simply cheese, wine and garlic. Others add softened butter or cream cheese to the mixture. I found that the butter or cream cheese is necessary to give you a smooth Fromage Fort. I prefer cream cheese over butter, because I find that Fromage Fort made with butter can have a bit of an oily mouth feel. My favourite recipe provides a range of cream cheese. If you are staring with a lot of soft cheeses you will need the smaller amount. If your Fromage Fort mixture is mostly hard cheeses you will need the larger amount of cream cheese.
Having made this many times, I have learned a few tricks that will keep your Fromage Fort from being too strong!
- I love blue cheeses, but they can over-power other cheeses making an unpleasantly strong cheese spread. I never let blue cheeses make up more than ¼ (56 g) of my cheese amount.
- The green germ of garlic can be bitter when it is used raw and make your Fromage Fort taste off. If the middle of your garlic clove is green, pick it out with a small pairing knife before you mince it.
- One of the great things about Fromage Fort is that it can be prepared ahead. Just be aware that as the cheese sits in the refrigerator it’s flavour will continue to strengthen.
Fromage Fort is the perfect thing to serve with cocktails before dinner. I like to serve it with crusty bread or seedy crackers, and some slices of apples or pears. You can also spread it on bread and broil it for an amazing cheese toast. And if you think all that sounds good, , you should try a spoonful on your next baked potato!!
Fromage Fort (aka Strong Cheese)
A list of my favourite cheeses would go on far too long, but here is the short list of my favourites that you should seek out and try!
Riopelle (soft, triple cream cow’s milk; Quebec)
Brillat Savarin (soft, triple cream cow’s milk; France)
Shropshire Blue (hard, blue cow’s milk; Ireland)
Roaring Forties (semi-hard , blue cow’s milk; Australia)
Morbier (semi-soft cow’s milk; France)
Cabra al Vino/Drunken Goat (semi-soft goat’s milk; Spain)
Montaña (semi-soft, sheep & goat’s milk; B.C.)
serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer
225 g (8 oz) cheese nubs, hard rinds removed
30 – 60 g (2 – 4 tbsp) cream cheese, softened
60 ml (¼ cup) dry white wine
1 garlic clove, minced (green germ removed if present)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 or 4 turns of freshly ground black pepper black pepper
3 g (1 tbsp) chopped chives
Additional chopped chives or parsley for serving
Cut the cheese into bite-sized cubes and put them in the bowl of a food processor with 30g (2 tbsp) of the cream cheese. Add wine, garlic, cayenne and black peppers. Process the mixture until completely smooth. If after a minute or so of processing, if it is not completely smooth add the additional cream cheese, and continue to process. When smooth, mix in the chives with a spatula. Scrape the Fromage Fort into a serving dish or bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm (about 2 hours).
To serve, let Fromage Fort come to room temperature. Sprinkle the it with additional chopped chives or parsley and a few turns of black pepper. Serve with toasted bread, crackers and sliced fruit such as apples and pears. Fromage Fort can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days or well wrapped and frozen for up to two months. If frozen, thaw overnight in refrigerator and then bring to room temperature before serving.
adapted from davidlebovitz.com