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Food for Thought

Fromage Fort

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My refrigerator door holds a lot of stuff: butter, condiments, pickled shallots. Taking up the most real estate, however, are cheese nibs: those pieces of cheese you don’t feel justified in throwing away, but you never seem to eat again. They look okay - no visible mold - but you can never fully remember how long they’ve been sitting there. Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano I keep for adding to soup (although I often forget about that too), but the softer cheeses, the French or Spanish cheeses, those outstay their welcome.

Recently a friend was telling me about a great little recipe from Jacques Pepin’s Cuisine Economique, which puts to good use those nibs de fromage. It’s called Fromage Fort (strong cheese) and a quick search on Chowhound pointed me to a 1989 New York Times article written by Pepin with the recipe. It’s so easy and delicious and you feel great making it. Not only are you making a creamy cheese spread in about 10 seconds, but suddenly your refrigerator door seems weightless and clean again. It’s frugal gourmet, French style.

Fromage Fort
adapted from Cuisine Economique

3 or 4 peeled garlic cloves
1 lb. leftover pieces of cheese, a combination of as many hard and soft varieties as you desire
(like Brie, cheddar, Swiss, bleu, mozzarella or goat), trimmed to remove surface dryness and mold
1/2 cup dry white wine or vegetable broth or a mixture of both
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt, if needed.

Place the peeled garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds, until coarsely chopped. Add the cheese, white wine (or broth), pepper, and salt (if needed) and process for 30 to 45 seconds, until the mixture is soft and creamy but not too smooth. Place in a crock, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Enough for about 50 pieces of toast.

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