Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How to Keep Your Exotic Cheeses Ripe and Stinky

Bliss. A state to which we should all aspire. I'm still floating along from the bliss of a recent dinner with friends. And even though only four of this paper's readers were lucky enough to attend, I thought I could at least pass on the menu and some hot tips.


We started with that simply delicious starter -- leeks with vinaigrette; playfully made with orange zest instead of the more traditional French one of lemon. Then we moved on to roasted Cornish game hens with a light curry sauce, platters of lovely vegetables -- none of which I confess I can recall right now. Why? Because the course that followed far eclipsed any I have had in ages: Cheese. A wondrously bountiful selection of cheese before the raspberry bavarois for dessert.


Not just your basic Brie, dear readers, but Epoisses, numerous tart little chevres, St. Marcellan. Fresh from France I hasten to add. But my generous hosts haven't been to France for a month. How so? Smuggling things in diplomatic bags? Never. The solution is much simpler -- packed into the luggage bound to send those sniffer dogs into a frenzy, my friends brought back dozens of luscious ripe and stinky cheeses without a hitch. Home they went and the cheeses were packed straight into the freezer. And onto our table one month later.


Moscow taught me everything about freezing -- buying lots of butter and fresh milk and popping them straight into the coldest part of the house. But I have just learned where I went wrong with all those cheeses I brought back in my handbag: One, I always boasted I had them, invited around too many friends and never had any left to freeze. And two, I never froze them when they were runny ripe. That's my hot tip.


And now as I can't get you all on a charter to Paris to buy up the best Camemberts, fancy the recipe for Leeks in Vinaigrette instead? I thought so.





Leeks with Citrus Vinaigrette


6 medium leeks


2 tablespoons lemon juice


1 tablespoon orange juice


Zest of 1 orange grated into long thin strips


Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated


2 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard


2/3 cup good olive oil


Salt and pepper


Trim off most of the green part of the leek and set aside (for making vegetable stock another day). Trim the white part so that each length is five centimeters long. Each person is going to need three pieces. Rinse them well to clean them of any grit. Bring a large quantity of salted water to the boil. Add the leeks and cook them until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Test this by piercing the white parts near the root with a small sharp knife. It should slip in without resistance. Once cooked, carefully drain them and set them aside to cool to room temperature.


Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl whisk together the lemon and orange juice, the lemon zest, mustard and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the drained leeks and let them marinate for about an hour. Make sure all the leeks are well coated.


To serve, place three leeks each per person. Fan them out to resemble a Mercedes Benz star (sorry, I couldn't think of a better non New Russian way of describing the pattern of the leeks), pour over the vinaigrette that has collected in the bowl, and garnish with the orange zest and serve.


If you wanted to serve a hot dish, make this variation:





Leeks Au Gratin


6 medium leeks


5 tablespoons butter


3/4 cup Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius. Trim off most of the green part of the leeks. Wash the white part in plenty of running water to remove any grit. Bring a large quantity of salted water to the boil. Add the leeks and cook them for just five minutes. Remove them, drain them and set aside.


In a heavy based saucepan, melt three tablespoons of the butter and cook the leeks gently over medium heat until they are soft, about 10 more minutes. Place them in a glass or ceramic oven proof dish so that they are all one layer and sprinkle over the grated Parmesan cheese. Dot the remaining two tablespoons of butter over the top. Cook in the hot oven until the Parmesan has nicely browned. Serve piping hot.