Monday, December 15, 2008

We Wish You A Figgy Christmas

A group of Christmas carolers stopped by my house last night.

I like the whole caroling thing, but I often worry about the family of unsuspecting foreigners who might have just moved into the neighborhood from a faraway land with divergent customs. I wonder what they must think when they open their front door and two dozen happy people, dressed in wool sweaters in 72-degree weather, begin belting out random songs with no preliminary forewarning.

Last night’s carolers ended their five-song set with the obligatory Christmas carol encore of “Free Bird.” Actually it was “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” And as I sit here trying to write this column, I find it hard to focus on my topic. I can’t get the words “figgy pudding” out of my head.

I looked up the lyrics this morning:

Oh bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.

Last night I thought they were singing, “Oh bring us a figgy pudding and bring it right here.” I was a little offended. It’s not every day that a group of strangers show up at your house during Sunday Night Football demanding fruit dessert.

Though, after looking up the lyrics, I am more troubled. I found out what they were really looking for was “a cup of good cheer,” which led me to believe that this group of carolers were most likely Episcopalian. I didn’t have enough booze in my liquor cabinet for 24 thirsty Episcopalians so— in the end— it’s good that I misheard the lyric. Had my mom been there she would have given them a dollar and told them to make sure and spend it on food.

Nevertheless, a melodious demand for fruit pudding and booze while someone’s watching football is overtly rude.

The problem is that I don’t know anything about figgy pudding. I eat for a living. I’m good at it. Eating is going to put my kids through college, but I don’t believe that I have ever eaten anything that was figgy.

The name itself is silly. “Figgy” is not really a word, is it? “Fig-like” seems better, maybe even “fig-style,” but figgy sounds like a cruel nickname given to an introverted fat kid by the fourth-grade bully.

No one has ever given me a figgy pudding, and I’m not sure I would eat it if they did. My friend Gene Saucier makes the best fig preserves I have ever tasted. He brought me some last week. He didn’t sing a song, or ask for a cup of hootch, he just said, “Here’s some fig preserves,” and I said, “Thank you.”

Correction, it is a word. I just looked it up: figgy [fig-ee]— adjective, containing figs: a figgy cake (origin 1540-1550).

Actually, I think “Figgy” comes from the Latin word “Figgusius,” meaning, “I want some damn pudding, and I want it now, bring it at this instant— with some whiskey— or I will continue to sing on your front porch.”

The most awkward moment in the Christmas carol/home-owner routine is always at the end. Last night— once they finished singing— they just looked at me. I looked back at them and thanked them, they said “Merry Christmas,” I returned the sentiment, they looked back at me, and I said “Merry Christmas” again. They kept looking and I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure if they wanted to come in, or if they wanted me to join them at their next stop. I just said, “thank you,” once again and closed the door.

Sitting here, it occurs to me that they might have been serious. Maybe their demand for figgy pudding was genuine and resolute. Maybe they did, in fact, want a 16th Century fig-like dessert.

Note: To those carolers who stopped by my house during the Cowboys-Giants game, please come back. I don’t have any figgy pudding, but I will certainly share a few of my son’s Fig Newtons with all of you (as long as there’s no football game on).

Foie Gras with Toasted Brioche, Fig Relish and reduced Port Wine Glaze

1 lb. Foie Gras cut into 2 ounce slices
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
8 Slice Fresh Brioche, crusts removed and cut in half on a diagonal
1 recipe Fig Relish
1 Recipe Port Wine Glaze

Preheat oven to 450

Arrange the brioche on a baking sheet.

Season the foie gras with the salt and black pepper. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over high heat and arrange the foie gras in the skillet so they do not touch. Cook 45 seconds. Carefully turn each piece over and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Place the brioche in the oven to toast.

To serve, place one piece of the brioche toast on each serving plate, top with one piece of the cooked foie gras. Top each piece of foie gras with 2 tsp of the fig relish. Drizzle the plate with the port wine glaze and serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings.

Fig Relish

1 Tbl butter
2 Tbl minced shallots
1 1/2 cups Figs from fig preserves, small dice
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
2 Tbl minced celery
2 Tbl small diced red peppers
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leave, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over low heat in a small sauce pot. Cook the shallots for 3 minutes. Add in the diced figs and brown sugar. Cook 5-6 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning. Add in the sherry vinegar, celery and red bell peppers and lower the heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add thyme, salt and black pepper and remove from heat. Best if made a day or two in advance. When ready to use, warm it slowly in a small sauté pan over a low heat. Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Port Wine Glaze

1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbl brown sugar
1 cup port wine
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients in a small sauce pot. Simmer and reduce until mixture forms a thick syrup. Yield: One quarter cup

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