Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Days of Figs and Gorgonzola

The good news is, those little mysterious, temperamental fruits called figs are in season. The bad news is, almost as soon as you spot them, looking out of place in their plastic cages alongside the year round fruits, they're gone. If you are lucky enough to get some home, don't leave them sitting in the fridge for long or they'll commit fruiticide on you, leaving you wondering why you bothered with the fragile things in the first place. BUT I promise you, if you seek out truly ripe, unbruised figs and pay them swift attention, they will make it worth your while.

Figs are not overly sweet. In fact I don't particularly enjoy them, even at their ripest, raw and on their own (I blame my childhood addiction to Fig Newtons, which led me to believe they would be as sugary sweet as those famous cookies.) This should not stop you though, as they are easily romanced with a little heat to bring about whatever nostalgic expectations you have of them. Namely, they become soft and tenderly sweet with that signature miniscule crunch that makes them undoubtedly a fig.

In the following recipe, I roast them with a bit of gorgonzola (a classic sweet and savory pairing) then set them atop a lightly dressed salad to show them off. The main dish - flash fried pork chops - has an accompanying gorgonzola sauce which oddly lightens up the dish and makes it look like you were really thinking things through when you planned the menu:)

Bon Appetit!

Gorgonzola Fig Salad:

Sherry Dressing:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey (or less if you like your dressing 'sharper')
1/4 cup olive oil
hefty pinch salt
good crack pepper

1 package prewashed baby lettuces or lettuce of your choice

6 fresh figs, stems removed and halved length-wise
salt and pepper
1 wedge Gorgonzola cheese
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray, then place the 12 fig halves cut-side up on the sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper, then drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove and quickly place a small dab of gorgonzola on each half, return to the oven and roast another 4-5 minutes until the gorgonzola has melted. Set aside until you've dressed you're salad (the amount of dressing above will be more than plenty for an entire package of lettuce so dress accordingly.) Season your salad with salt and pepper, toss again, then set the warm figs on top.

Pan Fried Pork Chops with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce

Gorgonzola Sauce:
3/4 cup crumpled Gorgonzola
1/4 cup light Mayo
1 tablespoon half and half
1 tablespoon white wine
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
Zest of 1 small lemon

Combine all of the above and set aside. If making right before the chops, this can set out in a cool place. If making hours before - keep in the fridge and remove 45 minutes before serving the chops.)

Pork Chops:
2 boneless, skinless pork chops, trimmed of any residual fat and pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, whisked with a splash of milk
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup Olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying

Set up your breading stations by putting the flour in a wide bowl or pie plate, the egg/milk mixture in another, and the bread crumbs in the last. Season the chops well on both side with salt and pepper, then bread by dunking and turning over to coat briefly in the flour (shaking off excess), the egg/milk mixture, then the crumbs (you'll want to press both sides into the crumbs, encouraging them to take on as much as possible.)

Set the chops aside onto a waiting plate or aluminum lined baking sheet (less to clean up.)

Heat up a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil, and let get really hot - 2 minutes (you can test this by tossing in a pinch of breadcrumbs - if they sizzle right away - it's ready - if they float to the bottom - keep waiting.)

Add the chops, cooking about 3 minutes per the first side, until golden brown. Turn carefully to the other side (adding more oil if the pan has become dry.) Cook another 3 minutes or until the second side is a deep golden brown. Remove to a rimmed baking sheet to cool for 1 minute before serving (if you put them onto a flat surface, the heat and moisture might make them soggy.)

Plate with a dollop of the gorgonzola sauce.

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