Goat Cheese & Strawberry Tartine {FFwD}

I wasn’t planning on participating in this week’s French Fridays with Dorie post. In fact, I hadn’t even looked at the recipe. But I wanted to see what everyone else had made, so around 5:00 this evening, I logged into the FFwD website to look at everyone’s posts. I kept seeing words like “easy”, “quick”, “only four ingredients”, and, most importantly “delicious”. I decided I’d better check out the recipe for myself.

Like some of the other Doristas, when I saw “tartine” in the title, I mistakenly assumed it was some kind of cake or layered dessert, which is why I had decided to sit this one out. So I was surprised to look at the recipe and note that it was really an open-faced sandwich of sorts. And a super simple one at that.

Baguette, goat cheese, strawberries, black pepper, and an optional drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Based on the short list of ingredients, the obvious ease with which it could be thrown together, and the rave reviews it was receiving from everyone, I decided to go ahead and make this recipe. I had to run to the store for the baguette (I ended up getting a loaf of French bread, as that was the closest thing they had), so I figured I probably wouldn’t get around to making it in time to post for this week’s FFwD roundup. And it was too late to think about writing a blog post anyway; but I wanted to try the tartine.

It was a lovely evening here, so we ended up lighting a campfire and sitting outside for a few hours after dinner. When we came in around 10:00, I noticed that the goat cheese was sitting out on the counter. I went to put it away, and saw the Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar from Olive My Heart that I had reduced into a thick, gooey syrup following my balsamic reduction recipe. Before I knew it, I was firing up the broiler to toast the French bread and looking for a nice plate on which to assemble everything.

Less than five minutes later, I had these:

Stawberries and Goat Cheese

These were definitely worth making, even at 10:00 at night. I think Mom put it best when she said, “These taste better than they look, and they look amazing!”

So, with just over an hour to spare in my time zone, here’s this week’s post. I think I’ll look at next week’s recipe tomorrow and maybe make it this weekend.

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Twenty-minute Honey-glazed Duck Breasts {FFwD}

OK, so I’m a week late with this French Fridays with Dorie post. It’s a good thing, too, since I haven’t made this week’s Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup yet. But there’s always tomorrow. Hope springs eternal in the Divine kitchen.

This was a very simple recipe and was easy to throw together on a weeknight. Some of the other FFwD members had a difficult time finding duck breasts, and some of them paid quite a bit for them (up to $20/lb) once they located them. Fortunately, I have a local farm that was processing ducks this week, so for $4/lb and a bit of butchering, I had duck legs for confit, offal, the neck and carcass for stock, and two beautiful breasts for this recipe.

I scored the breasts to allow the fat to render as they cooked.

After preheating the oven to 250°F and heating a dutch oven on the stovetop, I put the breasts, skin side down, in the pan. I cooked them for 8 minutes, then turned them over and cooked an additional 2 minutes.

I realized when I turned them over that I should have cooked them slightly less time than the recipe called for, as the duck breasts were on the small side.

I wrapped the duck breasts in foil and put them in the oven while I made the sauce, which consisted of duck fat, balsamic vinegar, honey, and lime juice. I cooked the sauce for a minute or two, then put the breasts in the pan and heated them on each side for about 30 seconds.

I sliced the breasts on a cutting board, then drizzled some of the sauce on top.

The duck breasts were slightly overcooked for my liking, but were still juicy, tender, and delicious. I tried a piece before plating, and ended up eating both duck breasts (with the help of A, who had already had dinner) directly from the cutting board. The meat was savory and not at all greasy, and the sauce was sweet, tangy, and slightly sour.

I could eat these duck breasts any night of the week. And since this is such a simple recipe, I’m sure I’ll be making them again soon.

Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Tart {ModBak}

This week’s Modern Baker Mondays recipe veers sharply away from the sweet puff pastry recipes we’ve been making recently to bring up something savory, tangy, and, OK, a little sweet. The combination of caramelized onions, blue cheese, and tarragon is genius. These flavors play off one another to bring out the best qualities in each of them.

As with all the recipes in this section, this tart is built on a crust made of puff pastry. The full recipe makes a 12 x 15-inch tart. I wanted to halve the recipe, so I used a 6 x 7 1/2-inch pan, right? Wrong!!! I used an 8 x 11 1/2-inch pan, which is very close to half the size of the jellyroll pan called for in the recipe.

How, you say? Let’s do the math. A 12 x 15-inch pan has a surface area of 180 inches (12 x 15 = 180), half of which is, of course, 90. And 8 x 11.5 = 92; pretty darn close to 90. So, I used half the puff pastry called for in the recipe, rolled it out to fit the pan, and stuck the crust in the fridge until I was ready for it.

Next, I prepared the caramelize onions. There are two basic methods for caramelizing onions — the real way, and the fake way. The real way involves cooking the onions over very low heat in butter or oil with a pinch of salt for a long time (upwards of an hour). The “fake” way, which really doesn’t involve caramelizing the onions at all, is to sauté the onions in butter or oil and add sugar and balsamic vinegar to mimic the color and flavor you get when you caramelize onions.

When I read the ingredients to this recipe and saw that it called for both brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, I figured we’d be faking the caramelized onions. But then I read the recipe and saw that the onions are cooked over low heat for 40 minutes, and I realized that Nick had combined the long, slow cooking and natural caramelization with sugar and vinegar for added flavor. I should know by now to trust him, shouldn’t I?

The onions looked and smelled wonderful while they cooked. And the flavor was as good as any caramelize onion I’d ever had.

With the crust and caramelized onions at the ready, all that was left to do was crumble some blue cheese and chop fresh tarragon. I used a mixture of chevre blue and buttermilk blue for the cheese. The goat blue was firm and very flavorful; and the buttermilk cheese was soft and tangy.

To assemble the tart, I poked the crust with the tines of a fork, spread the caramelized onions over the crust, added the blue cheese, and sprinkled on the tarragon. It seemed to be heavy on the toppings to me, but having tasted the onions, I was ready to trust Nick’s judgment on this one.

I baked the tart in a 400˚F oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the cheese had melted and begun to brown. I probably should have let it bake for a few more minutes, as the crust was quite soft when I cut it.

I let the tart cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into it. It was so good — the buttery crust, the tang and sweetness of the onions, the bite of the blue cheese, and the sweet, licorice-like flavor of the tarragon, all complemented one another perfectly.

Nick bills this tart as an appetizer or first course, but I was perfectly happy eating it for a late-night snack and breakfast the next morning. It would pair well with a crisp, fruity wine.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the sweet puff pastry recipes that we’ve made over the past month or so, I have to say that this is among my favorite recipes in this section so far.

Caramelized Figs {Recipe}

I recently bought a flat of 24 fresh figs at the market. Figs have a short season, and they are usually quite expensive in Northeast Ohio even when in season, so I was thrilled to find them for a good price. Of course, once I got them home, I had to figure out what to do with them. I scoured the ‘net looking for fresh fig recipes, and as usual, decided in the end to come up with something on my own.

I found a number of recipes for caramelized figs, figs with balsamic glaze, and fig compote. None of them was exactly what I was looking for, so I cobbled together a few recipes and came up with this one.

Caramelized Figs

Ingredients

  • 24 fresh figs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
  • 3 whole cloves

Directions

  1. Wash and drain the figs, then cut off the stem end.
  2. Stand the figs upright in a stock pot. Sprinkle with sugar, then add remaining ingredients.
  3. Cover the pot an allow to sit overnight.
  4. The next day, uncover the pot and heat over medium-high heat until the juice begins to boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the figs have cooked down and the sauce has thickened, about five hours.
  5. Cool in the pot, then transfer to a clean jar and store in the refrigerator. The flavor will continue to develop over several weeks, and the figs will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely

Makes about one quart.

Serve the figs with savory dishes like roasted meats or cheeses, or use to top ice cream or in rice or bread pudding. The rich, spicy flavor of the figs and sauce will put you in mind of the holidays. 

My favorite way to eat them is right out of the container.