Late summer is when fresh figs are at their peak. We eat them halved and drizzled with sweet cream for a luxurious breakfast – baked like apples, with a little honey spooned over them – poached in a light white wine syrup. Or just rinsed and eaten as they are. It’s not a cheap fruit, and spoils quickly, too. I try to estimate how much my family will eat, and buy only that much. But this week I did overbuy. They were small purple figs, with a curiously tough skin, although their hearts were red and sweet. What to do with them figs? I decided to roast them together with the Shabbat chicken.
Rosemary and figs taste good together, so I reached into the fridge and pulled out a jar of rosemary-infused olive oil. Then I felt that something was needed to boost the sweetness of the fruit, which otherwise might go unnoticed in all the chickeny things. I might have used honey, but that’s too sweet; or pomegranate molasses, but that’s not sweet enough. Silan, which is date syrup, was the right choice. Lemon seemed logical in this dish. Finally, I had a big handful of basil that needed to get used up. I was set.
Not in the photo is the bottle of Silan. Lacking that Middle Eastern ingredient, you might use two tablespoons of warmed, dark honey. And if rosemary oil isn’t something you normally keep in the fridge, it’s simple enough to make. Just pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil into a small pan; add 3 or 4 twigs of fresh or dried rosemary, and put the pan over the gentlest heat for about 20 minutes. Better is to put the pan inside a larger pan containing boiling water for an hour, and let the oil soak up the rosemary flavor that way – in any case, keep the pan covered while the oil is infusing. Cool and strain the oil before storing it in a jar. It will keep 3 months in the fridge.
Roast Chicken with Figs
1 whole, clean, roasting chicken
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 Tblsp. olive oil infused with rosemary
1 Tblsp. coarse salt
Black pepper 3 or 4 grinds of fresh or 1/8 tsp. powdered
1 small bunch of basil leaves, taken off the stems
14 small figs or 8 large ones, halved and their stems cut away
2 Tblsp. plain olive oil, if you don’t have rosemary-infused.
2 Tblsps. silan or warmed, dark honey
a dash of Tamari soy sauce
1. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken. Rub the lemon half all over the chicken. Tuck the spent lemon half into the cavity of the chicken. Cover the chicken and let it soak up the lemon while you’re preparing the next steps.
2. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tblsp. of the olive oil with the garlic, coarse salt, black pepper and soy sauce.
3. Rub the oily mix well over the chicken. Sweep up any garlic pieces that my fall onto the roasting pan and scoot them under the chicken.
4. Stuff the basil leaves under the skin of the chicken, anywhere you can find or force room. When in doubt, just put any extra leaves inside the cavity of the chicken alongside the lemon half.
4. Pile the figs up next to the chicken. Drizzle them with the remaining 1 Tblsp. rosemary oil and the silan. It won’t hurt if some of the garlicky mixture for the chicken gets mixed up with them.
5. Tear off a strip of tin foil and fold it so that it covers the figs, but not the chicken. Let the tin foil lie lightly over the figs; don’t tuck it in around them. You don’t want the figs to cook away to nothing while the chicken roasts – the tin foil will protect them.
6. Roast at 350F – 190 C till the chicken is an irresistible golden color and the house smells divine.
Serve with rice or couscous.