Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Whine and Some Cheese
What’s cooking? Fromage Fort

So, did we all have fun watching the Oscars Monday night? I thought the clothing – men’s and women’s – was generally a higher caliber than what we’ve seen in some years, and while not all the hair was outstanding, none of the big stars sported any truly weird looks. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The hair and the dresses and the tuxes? Frankly, I thought Ellen looked better than many of them. That electric blue velvet jacket was gorgeous.

But it seemed to me that the overriding lesson of the night was that beauty is a special quality shared in many ways by many people, and that while age may change your looks, it doesn’t diminish your beauty unless you try to stop those changes from happening. When you try to subvert Mother Nature, she gets very angry. So angry, in fact, that she turns you into a toad.

Kim Novak was the most frightening. She’s 81, and if she’d just let life show itself on her face, she’d have had a visage somewhere between Dame Judi Dench (79) and Dame Angela Landsbury (88). I look at those two British Dames and say to myself, “Don’t they look great?!” Novak, on the other hand, reminded me eerily of a cross between Jack Nicholson’s and Heath Ledger’s make-up as The Joker.

Then there are Liza Minelli (67) and Goldie Hawn (68). They’re actually the same ages as Sally Field (67) and Bette Midler (68), both of whom looked wonderful. Poor Liza has lots of other problems, so I won’t dwell on what she’s done to her face, but I can hardly recognize Goldie – she should have stopped a few surgeries ago.

We all – and that includes me – look at ourselves in the mirror and fantasize about a little tuck here, a little lift there. But I hope we can focus less on the wrinkles and be proud of our looks – in our ability to smile with all our facial muscles, in the happiness, sadness, humor, and compassion that make themselves evident on our faces, and that every now and then – maybe today – someone will look at us and say, “Doesn’t she look great?!”

* * *

So the Oscars were fun, but I have something even more fun, and you don’t have to wait for the Academy Awards to enjoy it. It’s Fromage Fort. No, it’s not a game where you build a structure out of cheese and hide under it. It’s a French cheese spread – the name means “strong cheese” – and it’s a time-honored way that French households make use of leftover bits of cheese. (This is, in fact, a recipe I meant to give you along with the Gourmet Mac ‘n Cheese, but the Kitchen Goddess sometimes thinks her brain is a bit like Swiss cheese. So she forgot.)

In much the same way that my Gourmet Mac ‘n Cheese got its magic from a glorious mix of different types of cheese, Fromage Fort turns your leftovers into a smooth, creamy spread that can be the basis of an hors d’oeuvre when served with crackers, toasted slices of baguette, or red bell pepper scoops. The Kitchen Goddess has also served it melted on thick slices of French bread alongside a cup of soup for lunch, and has mixed it into scrambled eggs for a perky start to the day. She even wrapped 4-5 ounces of ground meat around a dollop of the stuff for a grilled Fromage Fort burger. Let your imagination run wild!

Fromage Fort stores nicely in the fridge or even in the freezer if you need, and I find that a small jar of it makes a very nice hostess gift or a thank-you of any kind.

The basic recipe for Fromage Fort uses 4-6 different cheeses, some dry white wine, and a bit of garlic. The most fun comes in improvising – I’ve made two completely different batches and have loved both. You can add various herbs – fresh is best – like thyme, chives, parsley, dill, or even spring onion. Get inspired, or don’t – the basic recipe is plenty good on its own.

The one thing to watch for is that you don’t have too many salty cheeses. As with a cheese board at a party, try to effect a mix of creamy and hard, fresh and aged, sharp and mellow, to give you the best flavor.

So here you go. From start to finish, Fromage Fort will take you about 15 minutes to make. Aren’t you glad the Kitchen Goddess is your friend?

Fromage Fort

Makes about 2½ cups.

1 pound assorted bits of cheese at room temperature (4-6 different types is best)
1 clove garlic
½ cup white wine
grind of fresh pepper
Optional: 2-3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (e.g., thyme, chives, dill, parsley – one or more)

Remove hard or inedible rinds from the cheeses (before you weigh them). Cut soft and firm cheeses into half-inch dice; grate the hard cheeses. Load all ingredients – the cheeses plus the garlic, the wine, the pepper and herbs (if using) – into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are fairly well mixed, then process the mixture until smooth, about 1 minute.

Serve immediately or store in glass jars for up to two weeks in the fridge or a month in the freezer. The flavors will mellow as your Fromage Fort ages.


  1. Be still, my heart.
    Eileen in Atlanta

  2. You look great! I hope i'm half as beautiful as you when I'm you're age. Did you make those "Oscar" cookies at the top? Those look fab! :)

    1. I did make the Oscar cookies, and thanks for the compliment!

  3. i just eat my leftover cheese bits :)

    1. Well, Hen, I think that means you have to buy more cheese!