Fromage Fort

Fromage forte

At any given time, there are between two – and fourteen – nubbins of cheese in my refrigerator. Those odds and ends are the result of me getting too excited when I’m at the fromagerie, usually going with the intention of buying just one or two wedges. But after scanning the shelves, and seeing a few cheeses that also look worthy of my shopping basket, ones that I am sure need to be tasted, the friendly women who I buy cheese from wrap them all up neatly in paper for me to take home. The bill is always more than I expect, but it’s the one bill that I’m happy to régler (pay up).

As fond as I am of cheese, as are my fellow Parisians, they’re not quite as fond of loading things up with garlic as much as other folks. You rarely see anything heavily dosed with garlic (forty cloves, or otherwise) in Paris restaurants, nor have I ever been served anything with more than the barest hint of garlic in someone’s home. (I’m not sure why because there is so much garlic at the markets. So someone must be buying it.)

Fromage Forte

Yet I’m doing my part to promote l’ail (garlic), and surprise guests by grating some into salad dressings or whipping up a batch of powerful aïoli, garlic mayonnaise from Provence, from time-to-time. I have no trouble finding plenty of uses for all the lovely garlic that’s available, but a solution for those scrappy cheese bits and pieces was elusive – until I learned about fromage fort.

So when I’ve got too many cheese bits on hand, it’s now fromage fort to the rescue. The name means “strong cheese” and I’m not sure where it originated, but I have a hunch it’s a relative of cancoillotte, a gooey cheese, sometimes seasoned with garlic, and cervelle de canut, a cheese spread from Lyon dosed heavily with herbs and garlic. Or, if they’re not related in any way, fromage forte is a tasty by-product of French frugality.

For this batch, I used a combination of blue cheese, Cantal, aged Gouda, some rinds of semi-hard goat cheese, and a bit of cream cheese to smooth things out. The blue cheese I had was a little too fort and that’s what raised my guests’ eyebrows, not the garlic. (Me too.) So be careful with the blue cheese as it can quickly overwhelm.

Pumpkin seed bread

One cheese FAQ that comes up is, “Can I eat the rind?” The answer that I got from an affineur (cheese ripener) here in France, is that you can eat rinds if they won’t adversely affect the flavor of the cheese. That said, big wheels of cheese, like Comté, Gruyère, and Gouda, are often rolled around cheese caves, and it might not be such a great idea to eat them. Softer cheese, that have been ripened on shelves, have rinds that are generally eaten unless there is a substantial amount of mold. (Although I’ve seen French people eat their way around rinds of brie and camembert cheeses, which I do enjoy, so it really is a matter of personal preference.) If you’re not sure, if something looks unappetizing, it is probably going to taste that way. So shave off any rinds that look suspect, then whirl the tasty parts away in your food processor.

Fromage forte recipe

Fromage Fort
6 to 8 servings

Depending on your cheeses, you may not need all the cream cheese. (Some versions use softened butter, so you can swap that out.) If you have a bunch of runny cheeses, like brie de Meaux or camembert, you’ll probably use less. You can use either chives for a bit of oniony flavor, or flat-leaf parsley.

Serve with toasted bread rounds or bâtons, or crackers. You can also spread the fromage fort on slices of baguette then place them on a baking sheet and run them under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese is soft and bubbly.

  • 8 ounces (225g) cheese pieces, hard rinds removed
  • 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60g) cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives or flat-leaf parsley
  • additional chives or parsley, for garnish

1. Cut the cheese into bite-sized cubes and put them in the bowl of a food processor with 1 ounce (30g) of the cream cheese, wine, garlic, and the black and red peppers.

2. Process the mixture until completely smooth. If it is not completely smooth (which may happen if you are starting with an assortment of harder cheeses), add the additional cream cheese, and continue to process.

3. When smooth, add the chives or parsley and pulse the machine a few times, until they are incorporated.

4. Scrape the fromage fort into a serving dish or bowl, cover, and chill until firm.

Serving: Sprinkle the fromage fort with additional chopped chives or parsley, and perhaps a few turns of black pepper. Serve with toasted bread or crackers with pre-dinner drinks or cocktails. Let come to room temperature before serving. Fromage fort can also be served over split baked potatoes.

Storage: Fromage fort will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator; be aware that the flavors will become stronger the longer it sits. It can also be frozen, if well-wrapped, for up to two months.

66 comments

  • This is exactly the recipe I have been looking for! Thank you, as always, for a wonderful treat.

  • I have a variety of cheeses in my fridge right now, but no cream cheese – would a bit of mascarpone work in its place?

  • I love this post. I too get carried away with the cheeses and I often have to throw them away because mold gets to them before I do. And that includes both neufchatel and regular cream cheese… I will definitely give it a try! Seems like it would be perfect for every-day lunch sandwiches too. Thanks!

  • There was another blog that posted a recipe for fromage fort, noting that it was “a good way to use leftover cheese.” And my favorite commenter replied: WHAT LEFTOVER CHEESE?!

  • Man I wish I could just walk down the street to the fromagerie! Especially if it eventually leads to this spread!

  • Thanks for this recipe – I’ve often thought of doing this but never actually have, so now you’ve given me the impetus to do so.

    I also end up with loads of cheese bits and bobs, soft, hard and very hard, but they never go to waste. I peel off the mould if any, and they end up in buttery, spiced cheese straws and twists that my guests and students love. I hate to waste and these are both great ways to avoid that.

  • I have never heard of this but what an awesomely tasty idea!

  • I’ve been making variations like this for awhile. Sometimes I will add some butter along with or instead of the cream cheese and I usually use a tablespoon or so of brandy or scotch instead of white wine. I always feel so virtuous making something from almost nothing …..

  • I love cheese and like you I often get carried away at the fromagerie. I keep plenty of different cheeses in my fridge and love this recipe. Usually my cheese is gone before the end of the week though, it’s just too delicious.

  • Wish I had had this recipe when I was visiting a friend in France last year. I left her with lots of leftover cheese after going a bit crazy in her local cheese shop. There were just too many cheeses that were calling my name.

  • Of course, all I could think of while reading this post was, “French pimento cheese!” Which is kind of what it is, but so much more sophisticated than pimento cheese could ever hope to be.

    This looks delicious, and like the perfect appetizer to bring to a last-minute party or serve unexpected guests if you have nothing else in your fridge. Thank you for sharing.

  • Isn’t this kind of like Mom’s cheese ball recipe from the 70′s?

  • Thank you for helping me get over my guilt of too many cheese nubbins! I usually toss them onto a pizza, but this is even better- and perfect for last minute guest appearances.

  • This is just the recipe I need. Now I won’t feel so bad for over buying at Cowgirl Creamery. I’m a repeat offender.

  • What a great idea. I always have extra bits of this cheese and that in my fridge. Thanks for sharing a recipe for saving the leftovers!

  • This reminds me of a recipe that a friend gave me for Lou Cachat. It is similar to this but has creme fraiche and brandy/cognac instead of cream cheese and white wine. Have you heard of it?

  • I save Parmesan rinds for soup, but am otherwise unfamiliar with this concept of “leftover cheese.” Qu’est-ce que c’est?” :-) (If I want fromage fort, I have to save bits intentionally. That presents a problem, as I am a cracker-and-cheese enthusiast and powerless against cheese bits.)

  • A much more interesting treat to make than tossing the bits and pieces into a mac and cheese casserole. :)

  • Finally! I’ve always wondered what to do with extra cheese bits. I tend to get overly excited and by too much as well. Thanks for posting!!

  • I wish I’d heard of this recipe after Christmas…the rest of the time in our house it is indeed “What leftover cheese?”
    Thanks, David!

  • I love getting small pieces of different kinds of cheeses at my local cheese shop as I am a person that loves to try everything / can’t eat all that cheese before it gets moldy. So this recipe would be perfect for all my odds and ends of cheeses.

    However I tend to like cheese that are milder in flavor (sheeps milk cheeses, chevre, at strongest a manchego) so would this work with milder cheeses? Like a fromage faible kind of deal?

  • I don’t know why I’m so afraid to just mix stuff up – thanks for this! Once I saw this, I thought “Go!” We always have bits and pieces, a by product of a French-born husband and multiple trips to La France tempting us to try every cheese in the grocery store!

  • I recently volunteered to take cheese straws to a party and your post gave me the idea to use various cheese odds and ends to make them. Thank you!

  • I finally got around to making this last year but may have let it “ripen” a bit too long. It was très (maybe un peu trop) fort!
    Will have to try it again and make sure not to let it take on a life of its own. :)

  • Sounds delicious; I love cheese!

  • What a great idea for those left over pieces of cheese. My Belgian mom will love the idea of being able to throw all my French dad’s random chunks of cheeses together to make something new and exciting that can be served to guests! Even in Germany, he manages to scrounge up plenty of different types of French cheese and the last little bits end up sitting forgotten in the fridge when the Saturday market cheese shop comes around and the fresh cheese take first place!

  • I just whipped up a batch of fromage fort (note, ‘fromage’ is masculine!) the other day, using up some leftover bits of cheeses. It’s a great and thrifty way to extend the life of the cheeses that I also over-buy at the shops. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • Ah, cheese rinds…I thought I embarrassed myself at my first family dinner with my in-laws by eating the rind of some camembert after my bro-in-law pointed out in his very direct French way that the rind “se mange pas.” But apparently it’s not as simple as that ;)

  • Thank you! This morning I thinking of what to do with the extra blue cheese and soft, smelly cheese we had for a recent dinner party… I thought I’d have to use them in a weird, too strong, mac and cheese. (Also, I wondered about the rinds, which I like to eat but wasn’t sure about repurposing.) Instead I’ll do this… and use use the extra wine in the process! Thanks for reading my mind.

  • This is a fantastic idea and so simple and obvious I want to clunk myself on the head for not thinking of it when I stare at all the bits and pieces in the cheese drawer. I guess that’s why you are the chef and I am the reader. Thank you!

  • I have seen cooks put the cheese rind in soups. Yumm.

  • I’m taking a long train ride this weekend; some of this will have to come in my picnic basket. The bread looks amazing – did you make it?

  • First heard about this via Jacques Pepin. For a real treat, spread it on leftover frozen slices of baguette and bake at 350 till melted. Yummy! and they go fast after dinner.

  • Just to say, I have tried this at least a couple of times and it’s delicious. I would also keep the left overs in the freezer and maybe use that for a great soup with brocolli or cauliflower…

  • When I opened your post and saw the photo of the “used” cheeses my first thought was “Why in the world is David showing me this? I can look in my fridge and see the same photo”. True to life’s lessons “Don’t make hasty opinions”..so all is well…I can make use of my cheeses and go make a new photo!!! No need to add that i look forward to your posts and thoroughly enjoy. Jere

  • Patricia Well’s has a magical souffle with cheese ends like yours. They need to include some blue and some soft goat cheese. They are whizzed with 5 eggs and put in a dish in the oven. Pretty soon you have a wonderful souffle. Magic

  • A bit like potkäs that used to be a staple on the Swedish smorgasbord but seems out of fashion now. It’s made with leftover cheese, blue and plain, butter, caraway seeds and cognac. I think I may like fromage fort better.

  • Marc du Bourgogne or marc de Provence is what I add to a small portion of this fromage fort for a bit of elegance. I put the fromage fort in one of the small ramequins and add about 1 T. of the marc instead of the wine.

  • This looks tasty. I’ll have to give it a try – although leftover cheese is a rarity at my house. Thanks for the recipe.

  • David,
    Love that you are using a few more French words or phrases. Keep them coming too. Adds to my efforts to learn more French vocabulary. Will certainly try this recipe – easy and tasty – my kind of “cooking”

  • I love fromage fort!

    I don’t usually have 12 cheeses hanging around though.

    I’ll grate and cut up bits and freeze them until I have enough for a batch. A little chevré usually helps mine blend smoothly.

    If you throw in a *little* blue cheese and add some toasted walnuts or pecans, you will have some mighty fine “leftovers.”

    Any variation does make a lovely toast, as mentioned above.

  • Years ago articles by Jacques Pepin appeared almost every week in the Dining section of the NY Times and I clipped and saved most of them – Fromage Fort being one. Whenever I make this and serve it at parties, I always wonder if it will be edible and feel sure no one will be brave enough to eat it, including me (his calls for 3 – 4 peeled garlic cloves to one pound of cheese). It always disappears and at least one guest asks for the recipe. So I rarely throw leftover bits of cheese away. His recipe is slightly different than yours but I’ve saved yours and want to thank you for, once again, providing such great and useful information (having baked potatoes for dinner tonight). B-t-w I was in Paris last month and my husband pointed out to me that I mentioned your name a lot. Your restaurant recommendations, like your recipes, never fail! Hopefully I’ll be in town when you come to San Francisco and will see you at Omnivore Books.

  • P.S. Forgot to say that I made the chocolate banana (no machine needed) ice cream a couple of days ago and it is sensational. You’re making me look so good in the kitchen!

  • Apologies. I thought that I had all of those in concordance (I think that’s the right word…) but am leading my annual Paris tour this week and trying to balance that with keeping up with the blog. Thanks ~ !

  • Good to know I’m not the only one who buys an excess of cheese, although I just end up nibbling those leftover chunks while I’m cooking dinner, but I love your idea. I’m also a big fan of garlic, especially roasted garlic, and I can imagine the taste of this with a good dose of roasted garlic.

  • What a great idea! I always have bit of leftover cheese from Zabar’s in my fridge… Thanks for sharing David.

    regards

  • How can you waste all that glorious Cheese by making a paste of it with bloody cream cheese?

  • @TT, probably because cream cheese is delicious, that’s how ; ) No sense being a snob about leftover cheese chunks, lol.

  • I have been doing something similar for years- process the leftover cheese nubbins in a food processor with some chopped shallot, minced parsley, and homemade mayonnaise.
    Cut a baguette in half lengthwise.
    Spread with the cheese mixture and put under the broiler until the cheese melts and begins to brown.
    Cut the bread into serving size pieces and serve with a salad or a bowl of soup.
    Once you taste it, you will always think of cheese nubbins as your friend!

  • I was waiting for a cheesy post like this.

    I am never disappointed on this blog.

  • Is this perhaps a source for that scourge of US buffets and holidays, the cheese ball?

    This sounds fantastic, and we’ll definitely be taking advantage of it with the bits of cheese that invariably get lost (underneath all the new cheese) when I go on fromagerie shopping binges.

  • On a totally different subject…I love that BA refers to you as the opinionated expat…happen to count on that opinion…can’t wait for the book to arrive.

  • haha! OMG i love this!!
    what an excellent, i mean EXCELLENT way to use cheese nubbins! love it!! thanks!!

    and i have that same cheese frenzy habit at the cheese counter…PLUS i taste everything there that looks great, thanks to the very understanding guy running the counter.
    i’m a cheese addict..i think, (but i’m not completely sure), that i’d take cheese over chocolate if i really had to choose…

  • this reminds me of Obazda, a bavarian recipe using camembert, cream and/or butter, herbs, paprika etc and served with a freshly baked bretzel! It’s probably milder than fromage fort because it’s made with fresh camembert, not something that’s been sitting in the back of the fridge!

  • Great recipe! I make cheese of all types and give cheese making classes so this recipe will most definitely be on the menu here.

    Looks like some delicious peppercorn asiago in your first picture. That is one I make often and one of my favorites.

    You mentioned in a previous post you’ll be in several Texas cities on your book tour. Can you share those cities at this time? I’m between Houston and Dallas and I’m sure at least one of those will be honored with your presence. I would love to meet you. Have already pre-ordered your book and I can’t wait!

  • What a clever idea! Sometimes after a little get together we have knobs and pieces of cheese left, will try this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Yay! Amazon shipped my copy of “My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories” this morning. Tomorrow is going to be my favorite day this week!

  • David, just received a notice from Amazon that your new book, pre-ordered months ago, is on it’s way. Cannot wait! Carol

  • Really nice, after reading we had a fine Sunday lunch with some leftover cheese reborn, a few olives, bit of bread and a little wine. As always, thank you for smart, thoughtful work/play.

  • Hi there. I have just found your site and am loving it! I recently found out I can’t have cow’s milk so this recipe will fall by my way side. Someone, though, said that they think they would miss cheese more than chocolate, well, I can vouch for that! I really thought chocolate would win but it didn’t. I have started trying other types of cheese and have decided goats is also a miss. Love buffalo mozzarella and the sheeps’ manchego cheese, but am still learning.

  • This is such a great idea. Like you, I often have so many bits and bobs of cheese hanging out in my fridge. I’m totally going to try this soon, thanks!

  • Thanks for the recipe David(and most importantly for the tip on freezing it!). I used some aMAzing spanish and italian cheeses(Tallegio, garrotxa, monte enebro) and used 1/2 cup vegetable broth mixed with some white whine vinegar instead of wine. Holy hell, it tastes like the best thing on earth!!