Chicken | Fresh Figs | Stilton

by Kelly on October 14, 2009   

Beautiful little fruits, so adaptable

Beautiful little fruits, so adaptable

I’ve come a long way since my first acquaintance with the fig, which took place when I was about eight and was the gooey center of a Fig Newton. I was half a country away from Oklahoma and a decade older before I ate a fresh fig, and was surprised how little it had to do with those Nabisco® cookies (I did think they were exotic). The beauty of the fig is how adaptable it is. It makes an excellent jam, is tasty dried, can be used in cakes, cookies (!), and other sweets. Figs and honey have been paired for centuries. But it works with savory flavors — another classic combo is with Stilton — and holds up to being cooked.

So I found these figs, and that became my starting point.

Figs, honey and Stilton...rosemary joins in as do wine and capers

Figs, honey and Stilton...rosemary joins in as do wine and capers

I also had two whole boneless chicken breasts from Harmony Farms. Now Harmony Farms is an interesting place. I hadn’t been there before even though it’s right up the highway from me in La Crescenta, California. I knew they sold hard-to-find meats, like ostrich and kangaroo and alligator, but I hadn’t thought of going there until recently, when I heard that they sell Wagyu beef from Australia, “kobe-style” and grass-fed. I discovered that all their meat is “natural” and some “organic,” containing no hormones, antibiotics or pesticides. They hand pick their suppliers based on this and on flavor.

It’s a surprising place when you walk in. There is no butcher counter, just a few large freezers and check-out counter. Most of the meat is flash frozen by the supplier, which the manager told me was a surefire way to get the meat to the customer at its best (and explains the freezers). There is a little butchery going on in the back, but not that much. Three customers came in while I was there and all three got containers that were brought out to them from the back. Were they getting the good stuff (my paranoia)?  Finally I asked customer #3 what she was buying and she kindly replied that it was food for her dog and cats. Oh! Turns out Harmony Farms also does a BIG business in organic raw meat for pets. I hope these folks buy their own meat there, but none did while I was there. Hmmm.

I’ve now tasted the chicken they carry and the pork (from Iowa), a Wagyu steak (just a simple pan-fry and it was delicious), and I have some ground New Zealand lamb and Harris Ranch short ribs still in the freezer. I’m hoping they are as good as the chicken, pork and beef. I’ll be going back to Harmony Farms, but not for my dogs (please don’t tell them).

Chicken Breasts with Fresh Figs and Stilton | 4 servings

This takes a total of about 40 minutes to prepare but tastes like you worked for hours.

4 boneless half chicken breasts, 3 to 4 ounces each half
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon capers and their juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
8 fresh figs, halved lengthwise
6-inch sprig fresh rosemary, leaves chopped, or pinch of dried rosemary
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) crumbled Stilton
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I prefer smaller breasts (nothing personal!) -- they have more flavor

I prefer smaller breasts (nothing personal!) -- they have more flavor

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet. Beginning skin side down, brown the breasts over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side.

Some of the fat from the skin will render in the pan and keep the flesh side from sticking

Some of the fat from the skin will render in the pan and keep the flesh side from sticking

Nice golden brown start means when they finish in the oven they'll be deep brown but not overcooked

A nice golden brown start means that when they finish in the oven they'll get deep brown without overcooking

Prep these while you brown the chicken

Prep these while you brown the chicken

Remove the chicken breasts to a plate. Add the onions to the pan and cook until browning, about 3 minutes. As the onion “melts,” its sugars will help free up the browned bits from the pan, which add flavor.

Nothing beats a cast iron skillet for going from stovetop to oven

Nothing beats a cast iron skillet for going from stovetop to oven

Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, about another 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Just cook the garlic lightly -- too long at too high heat makes it bitter

Just cook the garlic lightly -- too long at too high heat makes it bitter

Return the chicken breasts to the pan and arrange them, skin-side up, scooping some of the onions onto the top. Pour any accumulated juices from the plate into the pan. Spoon the capers and their juice over the chicken and pour in the white wine.

Arrange the fig halves over the chicken. Sprinkle with rosemary and crumbled Stilton. Drizzle the honey over the top.

Drizzle the honey over the top of the chicken and figs

Drizzle the honey over the top of the chicken and figs

You can also "eyeball" the honey straight from your honey bear -- like mine

You can also "eyeball" the 2 tablespoons of honey straight from your darlin' honey bear

Place the pan in the oven and cook the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes, basting a couple of times while it cooks.

Try not to firehose the chicken with the baster so the rosemary and capers stay on top

Try not to firehose the chicken with the baster so the rosemary and capers stay on top

If you use a quick-read thermometer, cook the chicken until it reaches 165°F. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

A dish like this is best when allowed to rest a few minutes -- not served <i>too</> piping hot

A dish like this is best when allowed to rest a few minutes -- not served too piping hot

Serve the chicken with the pan juices, figs and capers spooned over the top, maybe even with a crusty chunk of bread.

We left the pan in the middle of the table and freely dipped with the bread, but then, do we have manners? Naw...

We left the pan in the middle of the table and freely dipped the bread in the pan juice, but then, do we have manners? Naw...

Kelly McCune © 2009
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>Fresh Figs Calling My Name | Travels with a Culinary Artist
July 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm

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msp October 21, 2009 at 6:03 pm

you rock. I’m on your site now looking something up.-pg

Kelly October 21, 2009 at 8:52 pm

more to come…

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