Sunday, November 15, 2009
God, I love fresh figs. There's few things nicer then a fresh fig, combined with pretty much anything. Eat them in the summertime with thick Greek yogurt and honey. Roast them in the oven with a little bit of stinky cheese , some honey, and bacon. Toss em' in your cereal and eat them fresh off the tree. The Greek gods ate boatloads of them, and so, I imagine, did Alexander the Great and all those other Mediterranean luminaries: they knew what the score was. I'll take figs any way they're being offered up. Even fig leaves are beautifully shaped - and highly useful for covering up naked people in Renaissance paintings.
When it comes to figs for dinner, Judy Roger's delightful Zuni Cafe Chicken Braised with Figs, Honey, and Vinegar is my go-to, my main squeeze. I adore braises and I really adore figs, and this winter dish is the the perfect synthesis of the two.
The Zuni Cafe's Chicken Braised with Figs, Honey and Vinegar
Source: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
Yield: Serves 4
4 chicken legs (thigh plus drumstick)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons dry white vermouth
about 1/2 cup strong chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
a few crushed black peppercorns
about 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
about 1 tablespoon honey
8 to 10 ripe fresh figs, more if you're an addict like yours truely.
Wash and dry the chicken legs. Season with salt and stick in the fridge until it is time to use them.
Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Pat the legs dry. Heat up the olive oil to a nicely popping state, then put in the chicken legs. Cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy, not moving the chicken, for 8-10 minutes. Turn the legs over and cook for about four minutes on the other side, then pour off the chicken fat. Or keep it for other uses. We're not going to judge you.
Put the chicken in a roasting dish if you must, and an oven-safe skillet if you're doing this right. Put the onion wedges in between the chicken legs, then put in the wine,t he vermouth, and the chicken stock, up to a depth of about a 1/2 of an inch. Get it simmering on the stove, then toss in the bay leaf, the thyme, and the pepper.
Put the uncovered roasting pan or skillet in the oven and cook - roughly 40 minutes should suffice. You want crispy skin and nicely reduced liquid, with a nice fall-apart texture to the meat inside. Take out the pan or roasting dish and pour or skim off the surplus fat again.
Put the pan over medium heat, then bring to a boil again: you want to reduce the liquid to a nice thick sauce. Put in the figs amongst the chicken and onions, then put in the vinegar and honey, continuing to gently swirl the sauce. Keep boiling until the sauce is thick and delicious looking. The flavor may be tweaked according to one's proclivities. .
Serve the chicken legs with plenty of sauce, onions, and figs. You may encounter interfamilial strife over who gets the most figs. This is an unfortunate byproduct of preparing this dish and should be accepted with grace and understanding. Serve with polenta or rustic, crusty bread. Devour.
I also made a big pot of collards, using my go to recipe out of the dearly departed Gourmet magazine. The link to my earlier blog post is over here. As always, they were delicious. The trick, as with most Southern food, is avoiding the urge to skimp on the bacon. Just roll with it. Give in.