Long before nut-covered cheese balls hit the dairy case, French home cooks were making a delicious spread called fromage fort. The basic concept--blending leftover cheese with a little wine and seasonings--is both thrifty and open to plenty of improv (we like to use our favorite Western cheeses). Here's the method and a combination we especially like.
1/2 pound (1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups) coarsely chopped sharp white cheddar such as Tillamook or Beecher's 4-Year Aged Flagship, or aged gouda such as Oakdale
About 3 tbsp. Viognier or Chardonnay
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup chopped Medjool dates
1/3 cup chopped unsalted roasted pistachios
Crackers, toasted baguette slices, or raw vegetables
How to Make It
In a food processor, whirl cheese until finely chopped. Add 3 tbsp. wine and whirl until very smooth. Scrape into a bowl and stir in thyme, dates, and pistachios. Season generously with pepper. If needed, stir in a bit more wine until spreadable (mixture thickens as it stands).
Serve cheese spread with crackers, toasted baguette slices, or raw vegetables.