Considered one of the healthiest foods, leeks join onion and garlic as part of the allium vegetable family. This seasonal delight is commonly used as a soup but I have something else in mind. I’ll be putting these directly on the hot coals and charring them for tenderness and flavor. Then I’ll be layering them in a terrine that includes goat cheese and crème Fraiche. I’ll also provide a dip alternative using the same ingredients to give you two options for these great flavors. Get shopping and pick out about 5 lbs. of vibrant green leeks, and let’s make an appetizer.
The Small Coal Bed
One of the benefits of having a cooking wood company is when we produce our charwood product, I can have the micro pieces saved for my cooking use. By using these smaller pieces, it allows my fire to reduce faster to the hot coal stage. I’m using a Weber kettle for this coal method and include a fine mesh screen on the charcoal grate to prevent the micro pieces from falling through.
I place a Firestarter on the screen, then place my chimney starter over the top. I fill the chimney with my micro charwood pieces and light the base where the Firestarter is. Leave this alone until the coals gray over and are hot. Then pour in an even layer in the charcoal area to be ready for the leeks.
Tasting Notes: I recommend for the best char taste to the leeks that you use hardwood charcoal and not briquets. This will allow you to break apart charcoal pieces easier and get an even coal bed.
Quick Leek Preparation
Leeks are one of those vegetables that are simple to prepare for cooking. First thing, if you’ve purchased with the root ends intact, remove those roots. Even if the roots are removed, still trim the root end to remove the hardened, dried end. Then cut off the dark green tops. Remember to save these parts to flavor soup stock! Wash the leeks to remove trapped dirt and pat dry. Once dry, cut each leek lengthwise in half. Now get a sheet pan and we’ll finish getting the leeks ready for the coals.
With the leeks cleaned and trimmed, it’s time to spread them out on a sheet pan and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Taking the pan to the grill, place the leeks on the hot coals trying not to overlap any. Let them cook for about 10 minutes before turning to char the other side. Be sure to move around any leeks that are lighter in char color than the others. Total time on the coals will be about 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool briefly.
With the leeks charred and tenderized, it’s time to make the terrine filling. Start by combining 4 ounces of softened goat cheese, 4 ounces of crème Fraiche, 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Mix these ingredients together well. Line a standard 9×5 loaf pan with plastic wrap so that about 4-inches of wrap overhang the ends of the pan. This will allow for ease in releasing our terrine once it is set.
With the leeks, goat cheese mixture, and loaf pan ready, it’s time to assemble the terrine. Start by adding leeks to the bottom of the loaf pan in a single layer. Then add a layer of the goat cheese mixture. Repeat until the pan is filled, being sure to start and end with a leek layer. Fold the plastic wrap over the finished terrine and place a piece of cardboard cut to size on the covered terrine. Apply canned goods to weigh down the terrine and refrigerate overnight.
Tasting Notes: If you prefer to not make a terrine, you can still use this basic recipe to make molded leek topping. Simply chop the charred leeks into small pieces and add directly to the goat cheese mixture. Combine well and then mold in small bowls, still refrigerating overnight.
After spending the night in the refrigerator, the coal-fired leek terrine is ready to be un-molded. Start by unwrapping the terrine and inverting it onto a serving platter. I like to cut 1-inch slices while the terrine is still firm. Be sure to use a sharp, serrated knife to get through all the leek layers. Then allow softening somewhat before serving with your selections of suitable accompaniments. I am using a hearty pumpernickel bread as well as a crusty Italian bread. Other good choices are radicchio leaves, water crackers, petite bread, and mini pepper halves. This is an easy means of giving your guests a unique appetizer that is healthy too.
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