I felt very lucky when I saw black figs at Granville Island Public Market. That means I will be able to do the Salad of Black Figs dish from the French Laundry Cookbook! Although the figs were not cheap, but they were not too bad: $1.49 each, and they were quite large – I only needed one fig for each serving.
This would be my first dinner party for 6 that features 3 recipes all from the cookbook. I was super excited. And this would be my first time having Erin and James over for a sit down course-by-course dinner, and I really wanted to do something nice. With the fig salad as the first course, I also decided on the main course, a deconstructed clam chowder that also features pan fried fresh pacific cod and cod cake. And the dessert would be the apple and cranberry kuchen which I had become an expert making after making it for 3 times!
I love figs and have used them often in my dishes. They are gorgeous, and incredibly delicious eaten fresh. Even dry figs can be used in all different ways: broth, sauce and compote. I also have made a fig bread using dried figs, and it was uber tasty. So one day when I am old and live in a big house and I have a fig tree in my back yard!!
I started with making roasted red and yellow sweet peppers. I sliced them in halves, took out seeds, cut off the ribs, then drizzled olive oil and kosher salt, and put them in oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile I shaved paper thin slices out of a fennel bulb with mandolin, and also sliced the figs following the instructions in the Cookbook. Then I slightly marinaded fennel and fig slices with balsamic.
I took the peppers out and sealed them in a Ziploc bag. But later when I tried to peel them and the skin didn’t come out easily. And I was running out of time!!! I decided to leave the skin on, which I was not too happy about. With the skin on, roasted sweet pepper just couldn’t be cut in julienne as fine as without skin on.
I was however pleased with the thinly sliced fennel. I will definitely recommend any passionate home cook to own a mandolin, it definitely comes in handy if you are putting details on your plate with thinly sliced fruits or vegetables. And when you are doing fancy cuts like Brunoise, it certainly cut down the prep time tremendously.
Finally it was time to plate. After finished blending the fennel oil, I put the oil in a small squeeze bottle, and placed it along side with the balsamic glaze I did the night before. I carefully stacked the fig slices and sweet pepper juliennes, and placed the oil and balsamic around the stack. It was visually stunning and I was very please with the final result. I even got to try a different plating style. (See the first picture of the post) But my friends still preferred the original plating design.
I also want to mention about the other 3 components that I prepared the night before. Fennel oil was made using a quick blanch of fennel pods and parsley leaves, chilled in ice bath, dried, blended with oil, and slowly drained through a cheese cloth. Balsamic glaze was basically a slow reduction of 2 cups of Balsamic vinegar into 1/2 cup of syrupy liquid, and for fennel powder, I just used a grinder to produce powder from fennel seeds.
Recipe for Serving 6
6 Large Black Figs
Extra virgin oil
2 tbsp finely minced shallots
1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper, roasted peeled and cut into 1/4-inch julienne
2 tbsp minced shallots
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Fennel Oil
1 tbsp Balsamic Glaze