Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Getting’ Figgy with it

The star chef enters his (or her) domain. Shiny pots, pans and utensils hang neatly from hooks. Stoves and ovens gleam. Wide expanses of uncluttered tile counter and wooden cutting boards await the imminent cooking frenzy.

And most importantly, the ingredients, the raw foodstuffs, sit, unmolested, fresh, chilled or frozen. But most importantly, still there. As in not yet pilfered. Not yet eaten. Scarfed down while no one was looking.

Then there is my kitchen. Where the hapless wanna-be chef surveys the heaps of dirty dishes piled on counter tops and in sinks by the hordes from breakfast, lunch and assorted snacks. Where no pot or pan is left unsoiled. Where no spoon or plate is left in the cupboard. No glass (how many glasses can a few people use a day!!?) waiting unsullied for the call of duty.

And most distressing, the special foodstuffs, carefully tucked away in the fridge, or freezer, or hidden a bit in the fruit basket under the older, less appealing fruit which is supposed to be eaten first, these foodstuffs are gone. Just empty containers, some with the bandits spoons still in them, freezing and chilling away. Giving the impression that all is OK. Until that critical moment, when it is too late to do anything about it, and the empty container is discovered by the more and more incoherent and babbling kitchen figure, whose FoodNetwork star has crashed, as usual, because he has been played for the chump once again.

I bet Thomas Keller never has this problem. Or maybe he had it one time, and never again.

So the dessert planned for the other day never arrived (their loss, let me tell ya!). The figs were still there, but the raspberry coulis? Gone. Just an empty container in the freezer, with a spoon in it. The plain yogurt? Well, there was one discernable white molecule still left in the giant plastic tub in the fridge. But not really enough for a photo, let alone a dessert. And the other options? Other fresh fruit? All gone. I guess I should be happy everyone is all the sudden so health conscious.

But, there were two old oranges left, still fresh enough, but maybe not as visually appealing from the outside as the other fruits had been. And some goat cheese. And mint. And, as mentioned, the figs.

So the planned dessert took a detour. And in retrospect, for the better.

It became caramelized figs on goat cheese with mint orange syrup.

Looks stunning. Tastes even better.

The orange juice mixed with a little turbinado sugar, reduced, and infused with some mint flavor.

The figs brushed with butter, sprinkled with the brown sugar and broiled until caramelized and bubbly. In the pictures, that's sugary butter filling the centers of the figs. Whew!

With some fresh goat cheese to create a counterpoint and tie it together.

A wonderful dessert.

Caramelized Figs on Goat Cheese with Mint Orange Syrup
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4

8 ripe figs, tips removed, and cut in half
2-3 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp turbinado sugar
4 oranges, juiced (I used 2 oranges, plus a little orange juice)
½ cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
several sprigs of mint
4 ounces creamy goat cheese, cut into 4 slices
Additional sprigs of mint, for garnish, if desired

In a small, heavy sauce pan, bring the orange juice and sugar to a boil, and reduce over medium heat until about 1/3 of original volume and thickened. Remove from heat. Crush some of the mint between your fingers, and stir into the syrup. Let steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then strain out mint, and reserve syrup.

Place the fig halves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place a thin slice of butter on each half. Sprinkle the halves lightly with the sugar. Broil the figs until they are lightly browned and just getting bubbly. Carefully remove from broiler (don't spill out all the butter!) and reserve.

Spoon some of the orange syrup onto 4 dessert plates. Place one goat cheese slice in the center of each plate. Arrange 4 fig halves decoratively around each goat cheese slice. Garnish with the additional sprigs of mint, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!

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