Cooking with Figs

Cook Local 8-13-2009 278 (22)
by Rita Calvert, the Local Cook  (and don’t miss Rita’s All About Figs)

Chevre Stuffed Figs with Peppered Honey
Serves 4

Fresh figs are becoming an increasingly adaptive tree to the Chesapeake Region. We’re thrilled because figs are some of the healthiest fruits and make almost any recipe simply elegant. Adding pepper to the honey makes this classic Mediterranean dish new. Inspired by Bon Appetit Magazine.

1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh figs
1/4 cup soft fresh goat cheese

Combine honey and pepper in small pitcher; stir to blend. Starting at stem end, cut each fig into quarters, stopping 1/2 inch from bottom to leave base intact. Gently press figs open. Spoon 1 teaspoon cheese into center of each.

Arrange figs on platter; drizzle with peppered honey.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Double Fig and Shallot Glaze
Serves 4

Grilled free range chicken is one of the most popular – and often destroyed when grilling. If you start with a high-quality, pastured, locally raised chicken and follow this simple method of pre-salting the bird, cooking it on the bone, and using indirect heat for the bulk of the cooking time, you will be amazed at the results. Juicy, flavorful, tender chicken that tastes like chicken should.

4 chicken breast halves and/or thighs (bone in, skin on)
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil

Caramelized Double Fig and Shallot Glaze
Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
4 fresh large figs (Celeste), diced and tossed lightly with brown sugar
4 dried Mission figs, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Glaze
Heat half of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add the fresh and dried figs and toss to brown and then remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice to the same pan. Season with salt and pepper and then whisk in the remaining olive oil. The glaze will be chunky and that’s the idea.

Thoroughly dry the chicken. Sprinkle with salt, taking care to work some under the skin. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

For the Chicken
Let the chicken come to room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
Meanwhile, prepare a gas or charcoal grill for indirect heat. For gas: Turn all burners on high and close the lid. When temperature inside the grill reaches 400, turn off one burner. The area over the turned-off burner is the indirect heat section. For charcoal: light 4 to 5 dozen briquettes and let them burn until covered with ash, about 30 minutes. Mound them tone side of the grill. The area over the section cleared of coals is the indirect heat section.

Brush the grill with vegetable oil. Put chicken skin-side down on the indirect heat section. Close lid on gas grill. Cook 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, close lid on gas grill, and cook 10 minutes. Move chicken to direct heat section and cook, turning once, until skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Pay close attention: any dripping fat or added oils or marinades catch fire easily. You may want to keep a spray bottle of water nearby to douse flames.

Test chicken for doneness by cutting into center. It should be slightly pink (it will finish cooking while it rests). If center is very pink, return chicken to indirect heat section and cook another 5 minutes
Let chicken rest at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with the glaze for topping and dipping.

Fresh Fig Chutney

2 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 pound light brown sugar
1 onion, chopped
1/2 large Granny Smith apple
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1/2 lemon, zested
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/4 pounds firm, slightly underripe fresh figs, stemmed & rinsed, halved
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

In a large saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar, onion, apple, ginger, mustard seeds, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, salt, allspice, and cloves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until mixture is thickened and reduced by 2/3, forming a thick syrup. Add the figs and raisins and cook gently until the figs are very soft and beginning to fall apart and most of the liquid they’ve given off has evaporated, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the chutney to a non-reactive container and allow to come to room temperature before serving. The chutney may be made up to 3 weeks in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. (Alternately, hot chutney may be ladled into hot sterilized canning jars and processed in a hot-water bath according to manufacturer’s directions.)
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse, 2003

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