Anyway. I had purchased a bunch of shallots at the farmer’s market intending to make a shallot jam I’d seen a recipe for – but then I couldn’t find the recipe. I’d used about half of them when I brought home a pound of figs… and inspiration struck. Fig and shallot jam seemed like such a delicious idea that others must have had it before, so I spent a little time Googling. There were a number of fig jam recipes out there, and a couple for fig and shallot jam, but none were quite what I was envisioning. So I set the laptop aside and went into the kitchen.
I wanted a strong caramelized-shallot note in the jam, so I started by mincing the shallots and letting them brown slowly while I chopped the figs. Once they were golden and nicely browned on the edges, I added the figs and a moderate amount of sugar – the recipes I found online used three times as much, but I didn’t want to drown the flavors of my ingredients in sweetness.
After that, all that was left to do was add some liquid and seasonings, and let the mixture cook. Arne and I played ping-pong while the jam simmered slowly. I took a break to stir about every five minutes.
I didn’t even let the beautiful, chunky, reddish-brown mixture cool completely before serving it on whole-wheat lavash crackers with cream and blue cheeses. This jam is irresistible: glossy and sensuous, savory-sweet, with a sultry smoky note that surprised me. I was very frustrated that I made it during Vegetarian Week, because as amazing as it is on crackers, it begs to be served with a pork tenderloin or, even better, a roast chicken. I’ll be taking care of that problem later this week.
The smoky note of the jam inspired me, though, and I found a great vegetarian use for it: in a wilted spinach salad, in place of the canonical bacon. It’s simple to make. Stir about two tablespoons of fig and shallot jam together with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus a little salt and pepper, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a splash of red-wine vinegar. Whisk together and heat in the microwave. Pour, still hot, over four ounces of baby spinach and toss to wilt. If it doesn’t wilt enough, microwave in ten-second increments, tossing well each time, until it’s how you like it. Top with feta, parmesan, or blue cheese crumbles and some crunchy nuts (I used candied pecans, but smoked almonds would be amazing).
Fig and Shallot Jam
Time: 1 hour Hands-on: 30 minutes Yield: 1.5 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
8 to 10 ounces black Mission figs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup port or red wine (or more water)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch dry mustard (optional)
1/8 teaspoon white or black pepper
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Combine the olive oil, shallots, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and pinch salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture starts to sizzle, turn down a little. Cook, stirring often, until they get nicely browned on the edges.
Meanwhile, stem and chop the figs. I cut them in quarters lengthwise and then made two or three cuts across the middle, depending on the size of the fig, but there’s no need to get fussy about it – they’ll largely melt into the jam anyway.
When the shallots look right, stir in the figs and all the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat up to medium-high until the mixture starts to bubble, then turn down to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and glossy.
Spoon into a bowl or jars and admire your handiwork. Then eat right away, refrigerate, or freeze.
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