Fact: Having a lot of cheese in the fridge is never a bad thing. But what does one do with a lot of little pieces of cheese in the fridge? If you've ever had a party, chances are you've found yourself in this odd conundrum before. A half ounce of blue, two bites of Cheddar, not much left but the rind of that creamy Brie . . .
Don't throw it out! Any good cook knows that nothing should ever go to waste. While those tail-ends of last night's cheese plate could make for a passably decent midnight snack or even a deliciously cheesy next-morning omelette, here's a better idea: fromage fort. This is where your high school French comes in handy—yes, that's “strong cheese.” Qu'est-ce que c'est? Fromage fort is the brilliant answer to the cheese lover's crammed fridge, a veritable kitchen sink cheese spread that uses up any and all odds and ends one might find at the very back of the cheese drawer. The best thing about it is that it is the most flexible recipe—take what you've got, mix it up with some delightful pantry staples, chill, and eat. Voila.
It doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination to expect that an employee of Surdyk's Cheese Shop such as myself would come up with some pretty impressive formulations for fromage fort. My last batch included Ossau-Iraty, Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, Roquefort Orchis, Ziege Zacke, and Shepherd's Way Queso Fresco. My all-time record recipe included a rather astounding 13 different cheeses from around the world, all milk types, styles, and textures included. As you might imagine, the results are never quite the same, though I've yet to come upon any fromage fort that fell short of excellent. Here's my basic formula—it really couldn't be easier:
Serves 4-6 . . . or one.
8 oz. various cheese ends, grated or crumbled
1-2 cloves garlic (or a small bit of shallot)
Healthy splash of white wine
Chopped herbs—parsley, tarragon, basil, chive—whatever's in the fridge
Salt and pepper to taste
Pulse cheeses and garlic in food processor, slowly adding wine until creamy consistency is achieved. Stir in herbs and pepper, and taste before adding salt. Some batches will be plenty salty on their own. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least an hour. Can be kept covered in the refrigerator for several days.
Fromage Fort is fabulous served with just about anything from crudités to crunchy crostini. I like it straight out of the fridge, at room temp, or best yet, slathered on bread and toasted under the broiler until just bubbly and brown. White wine is an obvious pairing choice here, though beer and red wine will work just as well. I recently served mine with my newest obsession: René Barbier Mediterranean White, a crisp, dry Spanish wine made from the traditional Cava grapes, and available at Surdyk's for a whopping $5.99. If you ask me, it is going to be the wine of summer. Paired with a dish of fromage fort and crusty bread, this is the easy and unbelievably inexpensive answer to warm-weather entertaining. Cheers and Bon Appétit!
—Emily Dunne, @surdykscheese