Here’s more French-inspired food today in the form of this simple cheese spread. This is the way a French cook utilizes little scraps of leftover cheese. You know, those odds and ends that tend to collect after you measured what you needed for a recipe. It’s known as “fromage fort” or “strong cheese”. In the past a cook would collect the cheese scraps, chop them finely, and combine them with garlic, white wine, and often, leek or a similar vegetable broth. This mixture would be put in a cool spot to “ripen”, hence the name “fromage fort”. This version is ready in just about the time it takes to assemble the food processor and grate the cheese. Trim the rinds off the cheese before you weigh it, then grate the hard cheese, and break the soft cheese into small pieces. Aim for a variety of hard and soft, mild and pungent, but be cautious with blue cheese. More than a few crumbles of it will result in a spread dominated by its flavor. (But if you want a blue cheese spread, go for it!) Add a little freshly minced garlic, and if you are using mainly hard cheese, add some soft butter, to smooth out the texture. It’s nice to include some freshly minced soft herbs, such as thyme, parsley, or chives. You are only limited by your imagination and what’s in your refrigerator. You might even substitute port or sherry for the white wine; the possibilities are endless. Serve the cheese spread with baguette or crackers, or spread it generously on bread and slip it under the broiler to melt and brown. It can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to five days. Enjoy!
(makes about 2 cups)
8 ounces assorted cheese, hard cheese grated, soft cheese broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, chives, or rosemary)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the cheese, butter, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Pour the wine through the feed tube, with the motor running, until the cheese spread is the desired texture. Add the chopped herbs and pulse briefly to combine. Check for seasoning and adjust to your taste. Pack the cheese spread into small ramekins, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to serve. This is delicious spread on bread and broiled until bubbly and brown.
(Adapted from “Saveur” magazine)