Rich. Lush. Decadent. Those are my three words to describe the season's bounty of fresh figs. I've been picking them up at Whole Foods in the last few weeks to make syrups or to eat simply with good cheese and warm slices of a crisp crusted (gluten free) baguette.
Fresh figs - as opposed to the dried variety - are a real treat to me. The crunchy seeds and voluptuous soft flesh make me wonder why it was the apple and not figs that brought the downfall of Adam and Eve from Eden. Really, fig leaves became their modest clothing, not apple leaves!
During a delightful evening at the Allegheny Wine Mixer in Lawrenceville with friends a little while back, we were tickled to see on the menu fresh figs stuffed with ricotta, wrapped in bacon and roasted to perfection. (Nice little riff on the typical bacon-wrapped dates on menus all over town, yes?) They were devoured before a single picture could be taken. Sorry about that. And I've been thinking about them ever since.
Finally, instead of just thinking about them, I got busy in the kitchen and sort of duplicated them...sort of did my own thing...and made my own riff of AWM's riff at home with a precious box of Black Mission figs straight from the store.
Since figs are so full flavored, I decided to change out the ricotta and stuff them with a cheese that could stand up to them - a nice sharp, almost cheddar-y and tangy Blue Stilton. The bacon part was a keeper, of course, because nobody puts bacon in the corner! (Errrrr...sorry Dirty Dancing.)
To finish off the little lumps of goodness, I glazed them with balsamic vinegar that had been reduced to a syrup - just the right acid to balance out the combo of sweet figs, tangy cheese and smoky bacon.
The result? Just what I was looking for in an appetizer to accompany a fine Manhattan. Oh, I didn't mention the whole point of this dish was to complement one damned good cocktail? Not to worry, both appetizer and cocktail hit the "rich, lush and decadent" mark perfectly.
Bacon Wrapped and Stilton-Stuffed
Fresh Black Mission Figs
- 1 dozen fresh Black Mission figs, little stems snipped off and a slit sliced into the side of each
- 12 pieces of Blue Stilton cheese - each the size of the tip of your pinkie finger
- 6 slices of thin-sliced bacon, cut in half crosswise (12 pieces of bacon for 12 figs, right?)
- 3 T balsamic vinegar syrup (6 T of balsamic vinegar simmered in a pot on the stovetop until reduced by half)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In each slit in each fig, stuff a piece of Stilton - don't worry about it fitting, the figs give a lot. Wrap a half slice of bacon around each stuffed fig - starting by covering the slit and ending the same way. Place the figs slit side up in a baking dish.
Roast for 15 minutes, spoon a little glaze over each fig - using it all - and return to the oven. Roast another 20 minutes and baste again with the juices and glaze in the dish. Continue baking until the bacon is cooked and "melded" to the figs. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 2...and don't forget the Manhattans!