Friday, March 6, 2009
Paper Chef #38: Fig Tart with Jamon Iberico, Anchovies & Mint
It's a bit early but I'm going to send in my entry for Paper Chef this month because I have a guest arriving tomorrow and I've already spent two days looking for some dried figs when I should be cleaning our extra bedroom.
When the ingredients were announced by Mike of Spikey Mikeys I wasn't too concerned about using anchovies in the same recipe as figs, polenta and mint but I was worried whether I could find any figs at all. You see in this small town in Andalucia, we do get lots of nice fresh juicy figs while they're in season and you'll see the dried variety whether they're just plain dried figs or fig bread in the period leading up to Christmas, but after that they kind of disappear almost completely until the next season. If you do find some dried figs they won't be looking so dapper - so I have to say that this was the most difficult thing for me this round: Simply finding some dried figs.
9 tablespoons (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cups (190g) flour
1/2 cup (70g) polenta
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
325 - 400 g Dried Figs
1 Small Filet Anchovy (washed and dried)
Mint leaves (a nice bunch of them)
2 Tsp Demerara, Cassonade or Turbinado Sugar
100 g Jamon Iberico (Bellota if possible)
Step 1: I made the pie crust from David Lebovitz's Easy Jam Tart recipe without the almond essence. This uses polenta. I had wanted to make something that brought polenta more to the fore but couldn't think of anything I could do without some nice fresh juicy figs so this was my default option. This needs to sit in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, so start preheating your oven to 190 C when you put the dough in to cool.
Step 2: I used a mortar and pestle to make a sauce out of 1 mint leaf, 1 small filet of anchovy and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Wash the anchovy filet well and dry it before you pound/grind it into the olive oil. The anchovy should be barely noticeable and you'll only be able to detect a faint hint of it. If the smell of anchovy is strong, then there's too much anchovy. The anchovy in this recipe plays the role of a flavor enhancer and is a secret ingredient. When someone takes a bite out of the finished Fig Tart, nobody's supposed to be able to tell there's anchovy in it except you!
Step 3: Chop the figs up into two if they're small ones. If they're big figs, chop them up into bite sized chunks.
Step 4: Pour the anchovy, mint and olive oil sauce onto the figs and then sprinkle 2 teaspoons of demerara, cassonade or turbinado sugar over this and mix.
Step 5: Lay the pie crust down into your pan, using your fingers to flatten it against the pan. Follow David's directions. I chose his recipe not just because it contains polenta but because polenta gives the pie crust this extra crunch that's important for this recipe. Everything else will mostly have a mushy texture so you need some crunch to jazz it up.
Step 6: Put the figs into your pan and let this bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
Step 7: Tenderly lay some slices of Jamon Iberico over the figs and put it back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The Fig Tart is done when the edges of the crust are golden brown. The fat from the Jamon Iberico will have melted onto the figs sharing some of its acorn scented nutty flavor, and their edges should be crisp to add a little more crunch to the whole experience.
Step 8: Serve with some fresh mint leaves. In the photograph the mint leaves look like a garnish but this tart really tastes better if you have a little bit of all the elements, including the fresh mint - so pile the mint leaves on. I promise the fresh mint leaves will make the Fig Tart come alive with a subtle touch of vibrance that wasn't there before.
Note 1: You'll have leftover Jamon Iberico because you'll only put a few slices to cover the tart. You can either eat the rest or you can save them for eating with the rest of the Fig Tart. Ronny and I both ate 2 slices each which was a little less than 1/2 the tart in one sitting.
Note 2: Remember that log of dough you put into the refrigerator from David Lebovitz's recipe? Well you can slice it thinly, sprinkle some demerara sugar on them and bake them in the oven at 190 C for 12 minutes or so and you'll have some cookies. Makes around 50.