Recipe from Tart Love by Holly Herrick (Gibbs Smith, 2011)Serves 8
Of all things "fruit," figs are indisputably my favorite. Sensual, satisfying, nutritious, and highly versatile, figs are as delicious fresh off the tree as they are in a sauce, or in this case, a tart. The sweetness of the figs roasted in a balsamic vinegar and honey glaze plays beautiful texture and flavor contrasts with a savory, thyme-infused, Roquefort panna cotta (a "cooked cream" thickened lightly with gelatin). "Lining" the bottom of the prepped, rolled pastry with a layer of pretty pink prosciutto (Italian cured ham) gives a necessary salty kick to another thin layer of fig preserves, while simultaneously sealing the pastry from the soft filling to ensure crispness. This recipe works equally well prepared as a single tart or as individual tartlets, depending on your mood. I prefer it as a single tart because the sliced wedges show off the beautiful layers of the tart. Both the roasted figs/sauce and tart can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, but don't dress the tart slices (or tartlets) with the figs/sauce until service, or the glaze will bleed into the lovely, white panna cotta.
Equipment needed One 9 x 1-inch round tart pan with removable bottom.
- 1 recipe Master Savory Pastry (page 17)
- 1 egg wash (yolk, splash water, pinch salt blended together)
- Fig Sauce
- 2 1/2 cups fresh whole figs, any tough, long stems removed
- 3 tablespoons aged Modena balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey (preferably local)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 packet powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 cup Roquefort or other mild blue cheese, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Additional Fillings
- 3 very thin slices prosciutto
- 4 tablespoons fig preserves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Prepare Master Savory Pastry following directions for "Perfecting Pastry" (pages 17-18). Chill 30 minutes or overnight. Roll out with an Elevated Tart Border (see page 18). Chill for at least 20 minutes before using. Brush with egg wash and blind bake (see page 19) about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature.
While the tart shell is baking, roast the figs in the same 375 degree F oven. Combine the fresh figs with the balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, tossing gently with your hands to coat. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan and bake about 20 minutes, until somewhat softened and the juices have reduced to form a thick, dark glaze. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice each fig in half vertically, then return to the sauce. (Note: This can be made a day or two before serving the tarts and refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving).
For the panna cotta, combine the gelatin and water in a medium bowl, stirring to dissolve. Set aside for 10 minutes. In a medium pot, combine the half-and-half, cheese, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly to combine and melt the cheese and to prevent scalding. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Let cool slightly. Now whisk the warm milk mixture slowly into the prepped gelatin mixture, whisking constantly to combine. Set aside. (Note: The mixture should be just warm to the touch before pouring it into the prepped tart shell, so prepare it as the shell is nearly finished baking or has already come out of the oven. The shell needs to be fully cooled before filling).
To assemble, brush the bottom of the cooled shell with the fig preserves, using a pastry brush to form an even, smooth layer. Arrange the three slices of prosciutto so their edges just overlap and they fully "line" the bottom of the tart. Pour in the just warm panna cotta, being careful not to spill or overfill. Refrigerate until the panna cotta has set fully, about 4 hours. (Note: This can be done the day before serving. Be sure to wrap the tart securely with plastic wrap.)
To serve, slice the tart into eight wedges using a sharp bread knife to get clean edges. Dress each tart wedge with several roasted fig halves and a generous drizzle (about 1 tablespoon) of the glaze. Garnish with fresh thyme.
Great Party Idea!
I intentionally create more panna cotta than the tart can hold for this recipe, because any extra double as a fabulously simple and delicious alternative to a cheese plate. Simply pour the extra panna cotta into a small bowl lightly oiled with a flavorless oil like vegetable or canola. Fill with the warm mixture, cover and refrigerate overnight. Un-mold the panna cotta onto a pretty platter. Put a ramekin full of fig preserves and some crisp crackers alongside. Top the panna cotta with any remaining roasted figs and some sliced prosciutto, and garnish with fresh thyme.