This month's Cook The Books book club selection was The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. A magical book, it is the story of a chef and eight students who come together one night a month for cooking classes - their lives and their pasts gently drawn out in the prose in a dream-like manner. By the end of the book I was quite attached to the characters and am still wondering how they are doing, and I loved the light but engaging tone of the book.
For my book-inspired dish, I made Baked Figs with Grand Marnier and Whipped Cream. We so rarely see fresh figs here in suburban Canada that they themselves can seem a little magical, and when my husband showed up with two(!) flats of them - I knew I wanted to use them for my CTB dish.
On the plate the two baked figs dance and nestle and support one another, lined and sweet and nestled with freshly whipped cream and sweet, sweet syrup. A dish of maturity, romance, and love.
Baked Figs with Grand Marnier and Whipped Cream
Gourmet | September 2002
yield: Makes 6 servings
* 12 fresh figs
* 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
* 1 cup chilled heavy cream
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Prick bottom of each fig several times and stand figs in a buttered 9- to 10-inch flameproof gratin dish or ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle figs with 1/3 cup sugar, then add water to dish.
Bake figs in middle of oven, basting twice with pan juices, until tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to stovetop, then add 1/4 cup Grand Marnier and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Remove from heat and carefully ignite pan juices. After flames subside, juices should be syrupy. If pan juices are too thin, transfer figs to a shallow serving bowl, then boil juices until syrupy and slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes, and pour over figs.
Beat cream with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and tablespoon liqueur using an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks.
Serve figs, warm or at room temperature, with syrup and cream.