By Carolyne

Fig or figue . In any language it spells “wonderful”.  Figs are now readily available in most supermarkets – there was a time when we couldn’t get them. They don’t have a long shelf life, so some supermarkets are reluctant to carry them.

If you want to feed four a generous helping of chicken, this recipe is simple to make. It cooks quickly and disappears from the dinner plate even quicker.



Start by having two fresh, never frozen generous boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut into three equal portions. Pound the chicken pieces out a little but not as much as if you were preparing schnitzel. Just to enlarge the pieces for equalizing cooking time.

Sprinkle the chicken with just a tiny bit of Mazola Corn Oil, salt, pepper and a little garlic salt. Add just a pinch of nutmeg and a little crushed dried thyme. (It’s just my personal preference, but I don’t like olive oil on chicken; I taste the olives. I love olives but not the flavour imparted into my chicken.)

To hot butter in the skillet, add a little piece of “poached in chicken stock” garlic cloves from your garlic that’s stored in an oil bottle. Don’t mash the garlic yet. Just leave the clove whole. Be careful not to brown the garlic.

Heat a wide skillet that has low sides and add a little clarified butter and a little Mazola Corn Oil. Not much oil. Just enough to coat the skillet. Be careful not to brown. Lower heat just a little, to medium. Lift the skillet from the burner briefly. Place each piece of chicken in the skillet so they are not touching one another.

When the underside of each piece of chicken turns a light golden colour, it’s time to turn each piece, one by one. Don’t leave the stove. Keep your eye on the chicken. It cooks very quickly. It’s fork-tender. Flambé with a half cup of Asbach Uralt cognac. That’s a sizeable amount of brandy. Stand back so you don’t get singed.

Note: Never pour spirits into a hot skillet directly from the liquor bottle. Never! Instead use a cup with a pouring lip so the cup doesn’t drip dangerously. The alcohol will light itself naturally from the heat of the skillet.

Many homeowners are fortunate to have a cooking island that houses their cooktop burners, with nothing overhead. Other kitchens have cabinets and/or a built-in microwave quite close to the cooking surface of the stove. If that is your kitchen, perhaps when lighting a flambé, set the very hot pan off the stovetop immediately before lighting, briefly until the alcohol burns off. If you practise being careful, there’s no need to be afraid to flambé.

Cooking attire

If you have loose long hair, tie it up or back when working with food, especially so when working with an open flame. And nothing is more unappetizing than finding a hair in food. It’s an interesting situation on tv cooking shows where often long hair (both men and women) is falling forward and is practically in the food. I’m surprised the producers don’t address that. Falling hair bits can’t be helped, but surely no one wants to find strands of hair in food. The only way to avoid it is to do as above, or wear a hairnet when preparing food.

Likewise, be careful when working with floppy long sleeves or wearing a Sunday morning dressing gown. They are fire hazards. And splatters can ruin clothing.

Ages ago I found a wonderful loose-fitting lab coat with three-quarter length sleeves and snap closures, made of manmade, flame-resistant fabric that is really wash and wear. Splatters don’t adhere to it, and if I find the need to cook while wearing good clothes, I can cover up entirely. A most valuable kitchen investment, much better than an apron. And you don’t want your cover-up to have floppy long sleeves, either, but you do want your arms covered against splatters that can burn.

Speaking of safety, keep animals out of the kitchen when you are cooking, particularly when preparing flambé. It’s no time for Fido to park at your feet. Likewise, caution prevails when you are deep-frying.

Absolutely do not overcook the chicken escalope. Remove the chicken pieces to a warming platter immediately when test juices run clear. Let the brandy reduce. Add a half cup of figgy jus from your cognac black mission fig marinating jar and scrape any stuck-on bits.

Add a cup of cream and scald, letting the cream thicken just a little. Adjust seasonings.

Coarsely chop a cup of marinated but not macerated black mission figs from your Asbach Uralt cognac marinating jar. Add to the cream sauce and pour over the warm chicken platter.

For dessert, serve my figgy panna cotta or figgy zabaglione. And enjoy with a cup of fresh brewed coffee or expresso.

Alternate

Replace the Asbach Uralt with Italian red Marsala wine for a whole different dish. Marsala wine lives in a world all its own, like no other.

Serve the chicken, covered in sauce, with homemade gnocchi or with homemade spaetzle. You can have prepped the homemade gnocchi earlier, and even have it frozen, ready to slide into a pot of boiling salted water. It’s ready in minutes without thawing. The spaetzle needs to be made and eaten right away, ideally. Drain in a colander, or remove with a slotted spoon or spider. Drizzle with hot melted butter or top with pucks of one of your frozen herb butters, or even top with your marinated Celebrity goat cheese pucks; the heat of the pasta will melt the cheese. If serving with gnocchi, offer the chicken escalopes on the side of a wide, low soup plate.

If per chance you have leftover gnocchi in sauce, reheat it gently for lunch the next day, using a bain-marie. A crispy toasted, buttered slice of black-olive bread alongside completes a tasty leftovers lunch.

For a special side dish flavour-pairing, or dessert, serve baked stuffed figs. Using a sharp paring knife, hollow out the bottom of each fig, making just a little round hole. Mash a log of plain Celebrity label Canadian goat cheese and stir in fresh, crushed, candied walnuts from your pantry jar. Mince a little candied citrus rind from your citrus sugar pantry jar and stir into the nutty goat cheese. Using a decorating forcing bag with a hole that matches the size of the whole fresh fig hole you’ve created, force the cheese mixture into the bottom of each fig.

Make sure the generous fresh figs are positioned in a baking dish, so that the figs stand up and are not able to fall over. Pop into a 400 F oven for about eight minutes. Watch closely. After you remove the hot figs, drizzle them with figgy jus from your cognac marinating jar. And don’t waste any drippings in the baking dish.

Use a large soup serving spoon to remove each fig. Position each stuffed fig in a bowl of Chantilly Cream, or onto a small bed of soft warm baked brie cheese. Topping with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream would work.

Perhaps serve in a wide-mouth old-fashioned champagne stem glass, the kind of glass no one uses for champagne anymore. Served with my all-time favourite, sparking pink (champagne) in a stem flute, French Royal de Neuville, this gem could easily become a habit.

© From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks – Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience
The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. The cookbook will be available in the coming year. Email Carolyne.
  • Carolyne in Canada

    Figgy Plum Good ~ in Ramekins

    Lightly butter the ramekins completely, using my Asbach butter. Place buttered parchment rounds in bottom of each.

    Half fill each ramekin with a mixture of chopped macerated black mission figs from your brandy Asbach Uralt marinating jar and split juicy ripe fresh Italian blue plums.

    Chop the fruit quite small. Add a tiny pinch of salt to each dish. Sprinkle with just a little brown sugar. Top each with a round of ready made frozen butter puff pastry. Brush with milk or egg wash.

    Bake on middle oven rack on a cookie sheet at 400-450 F just until the pastry puffs. Perhaps 8 minutes.

    Using a sharp thin knife to rim the ramekins, tip out each onto a small delicate cake plate. The pastry will be on the bottom. Serve hot from the oven with a dollop of cold, stiff Chantilly Cream flavoured with cognac.

    These can be eaten hot, cold or the next day, even at room temperature. Just add the Chantilly when ready to serve. Or serve in a Crème Anglaise or zabaglione puddle, spritzed with cognac, and sprinkled with coarse sugar.

    You could sprinkle candied walnuts from your pantry jar, and or citrus rinds from your citrus sugar jar, around the edge of the serving plates.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience