Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cook the Books: Fromage Fort

This round Deb, at Kahakai Kitchen, selected The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin for our June-July 2014 Cook the Books project. Click to see her invitation.

This post contains an Amazon-affiliate link at the bottom - for the book.

Embarrassingly enough for what I do, I was unaware of Jacques Pépin. Celebrity chefs et al didn't really hit my radar until the last 5 years. And, even still, I'm a little in the dark since I don't get any TV stations. Maybe I'd heard his name. Maybe. Now, I will actively seek out his books and recipes; I wonder if any of his television shows are on Netflix...or YouTube.

Pépin has a breezy view of food that is simultaneously tasteful and accessible. He writes "I like straightforward food that is well seasoned and elegantly presented, without fuss or deception. I like caviar, roast squab, steamed lobster...but I am equally enthralled by simpler dishes. For me, there is nothing better than a chunk of crunchy, thick-crusted bread with its light, airy elastic insides spread with the greatest farm butter available."

The Apprentice is an engrossing read, the tale of his journey from military chef to cooking instructor extraordinaire, from France to Connecticut, and is wrapped in crisp, beautiful prose and peppered with humor. The book is also punctuated with intriguing recipes such as Smoked Trout Gloria, Maman's Apple Tart, and Les Oeufs Jeannette.

Pépin draws a distinction between cuisine bourgeoise and cuisine ménagère, the former being a culinary canon - the rich, intricate and elaborate cuisine of the French aristocracy. Cuisine ménagère "is the cuisine of every day. Mostly done by women who have to cook after work under constraints of time and budget, it has to be filling, inexpensive, and fast - a daily dinner for a working family."

The recipe that caught my eye: Fromage fort. It means 'strong cheese' in French and it's the ultimate way of repurposing leftover cheese. I love revamping leftovers into something completely different. Pépin's father used to combine pieces of Camembert, Brie, Swiss, bleu cheese and goat cheese together with his mother's leek broth, some white wine and crushed garlic. These ingredients marinated in a cold cellar for a week to a week-and-a-half. Pépin's wife, Gloria, makes a milder version in a food processor that takes only seconds. It's that version I decided to make. 

We had several orphaned bits of cheese from recent parties, including a honey-goat's milk gouda; a coconut milk gouda; Saint-André, a French triple crème cow's milk cheese; P'tit Basque, a sheep's milk cheese; Cambozola, a cow's milk cheese that is an alluring marriage of a French soft-ripened triple cream cheese and an Italian Gorgonzola. To that I added some bleu cheese and feta crumbles and a dollop of marscarpone. Can you tell I'm a caseophile? We have a lot of cheese in the fridge!


  • 1/2 lb cheese remnants
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • pat of butter
  • 1/4 C dry white wine (I used an off-dry pinot gris)

Put your cheese pieces in the bowl of a food processor or blender. In a small skillet, saute the leeks in a pat of butter until it is softened and translucent. Add the leeks to the cheese.

Add 1/8 C wine to the cheese-leek mixture and pulse to process. Slowly add the remaining liquid to the cheese. Blend, again, until it becomes creamy, but not too soft. Spoon the cheese into small jars until read to use. 

Fromage fort may be served cold.

I opted to broil it, making it golden and wonderfully fragrant. I served the fromage fort toasts with some smoked salmon from a good friend's boat. It was an awesome, easy dinner.

I am very excited about having been introduced both to Jacques Pépin and fromage fort. I see lots of both in my future. 

If you want to join the fun, posts aren't due till the end of July. It's a great summer read and I'd love to see what inspires you.


  1. Fabulous post Camilla! I am so happy you enjoyed the book and I'm glad to get to introduce Jacques Pépin to you. ;-) I have had my eye on this recipe for a while now--I need to stop eating all my cheese and save it up just to make some! I love how gorgeous it looks broiled and with the smoked salmon, it would be my perfect easy dinner too.

  2. C'est si bon! This is a great recipe in honor of a classy and wonderful chef. Great post for Cook the Books!

  3. How can you go wrong with cheese!! I think this is a great choice from this book and I am definitely going to try it the next time I clean my fridge and pull out all those little odds and ends of cheese from the shelf.

  4. I wouldn't have thought of combing cheeses like this but it's a fantastic idea. Great taste, low waste! Can I bring over my tomato salad and we share a great lunch?

  5. Camilla, beautiful post. I usually get focused on one dish for CTB and forget about the others. That is why I love the round-ups. This is truly amazing. Great thoughts on Pepin as well.

  6. I'm glad the book re-introduced you to Pepin. He is a thoughtful writer and chef. I liked the comment you made about cuisine bourgeoise and cuisine ménagère too -- women in the kitchen rock! Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats

  7. What an interesting set of cheeses you had to work with. I can imagine how nice your fromage fort tasted. Great choice of recipe.

  8. Somehow that bit on re-cycled cheeses passed me by, but I'm glad you tried it, as we've usually got a selection similar to yours getting gradually pushed to the back of the cheese shelf in the fridge. Good one!


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