There was an enormous Turkish fig tree in my grandmother’s backyard in Istanbul; it looked like something out of The Lord of the Rings or a children’s fantasy novel. I have very fond memories of being five years old and playing around that tree; I found copious amounts of sweet figs on the ground and on low-hanging branches and gorged myself on as many as could fit into my little stomach. By the time my mother called me in for dinner, I would have no appetite for the meal and was punished for not eating. This recipe is a classic French preparation of figs, but the fruit always reminds me of my childhood. I call for Black Mission figs here. Their red-purple color and rich natural flavor pairs extremely well with the deep, round, fruity aromas and flavors of the port wine. And the peppercorn gives your palate a kick at just the right moment.
- Yield: 20 FIG HALVES
- 10 large, ripe Black Mission figs
- ¼ cup (75 g) plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 0.66 cup (150 g) tawny port
- 1½ tsp (3 g) whole black peppercorns
- Remove the stems and cut the figs in half lengthwise with a paring knife. Set aside until ready to use.
- Place a 10-in (25-cm) stainless-steel or enamelcoated saucepan over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the sugar; it will melt right away and begin to caramelize and smoke. Immediately place the figs, cut-sides down, onto the caramelizing sugar. Reduce the heat to low and let the figs cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not toss. The figs will naturally release their own juices and melt the sugar.
- Add the tawny port to the saucepan. Keep the saucepan over low heat until the caramel melts completely and begins to coat the figs. Add the black peppercorns. Use heat-resistant tongs to flip the figs over and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the figs with tongs to a platter or baking sheet and keep warm. Return the pan to the stovetop and reduce the sauce over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, using a heat-resistant rubber spatula to stir and occasionally scrape the bottom to pull up all the caramel and peppercorn goodness that may be stuck there. The sauce should be deep purple, thickened, and velvety.
- Put the warm figs, cut-sides up, on a beautiful platter and drizzle the port sauce over them. Serve immediately.