Hors d’oeuvres Part Two: Fig Chutney and Gorgonzola on Rosemary Crackers, and Caramelized Cherries

I separated these hors d’oeuvres posts out because the first didn’t require any cooking, and this one requires some. If you’re already panicking about making caramel, don’t worry, caramel is one of those things that becomes super easy once you know how to do it.

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Before we get to that, though, let’s talk about fig chutney and gorgonzola on rosemary crackers. The rosemary crackers were just something I bought at Whole Foods because I thought the edges were cool. You could use any kind of savoury cracker for this, though I would suggest one that doesn’t have a heavy-hitting flavour of its own (cheese, for instance. Would be gross). Theoretically you could make your own crackers, and I bet they’d be truly delicious, but I didn’t even think about trying it, so I have no cracker recipe.

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Gorgonzola is one of my favourite cheeses, because when I was in university there was a tiny Italian place that made gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce, and it was to. die. for. I’ve managed to make it myself a few times, and since I still have some gorg (hehe) left over I might post a recipe.

Gorgonzola is kind of a stinky cheese, though, and I can appreciate that some of you may not be a huge fan. That’s cool. You could probably use any other soft cheese for this. I like the gorg (hehe) because the “stink” is a good match to the sweetness of the chutney, which would overpower anything else. The balance between the two is kind of crucial to cooling off both strong flavours.

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The most time-consuming part of this recipe is the fig chutney. It is amazing. It is well worth the time. It does, however, need to cook for a while, and it’s best a few days later, when it’s had some to soften out some of the flavours. In a way, though, this is a good thing, because if you’re having a party you can make this days in advance, and then it’s all ready for spooning out on your crackers when the time comes.

P.S. these hors d’oeuvres don’t handle being refrigerated well – they should be made and served.

Fig chutney is really easy to make. The hardest part is finding figs. You can sometimes find them fresh in the fruit aisle of the grocery store, or dried in the dried aisle. If you can find fresh figs, great, if not, don’t worry about it.

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You will need a pack of figs, chopped small. Half of a large sweet onion, or a whole red onion, your preference, chopped small. A knob of ginger, peeled and minced. Four cloves of garlic, minced. Half a cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar. Two-thirds of a cup of brown sugar. A dash each of your favourite spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice, etc.) and a smaller dash of salt. Finally, you need a mix of other dried fruit: raisins, apricots, mangoes, whatever you want, also chopped small.

I don’t want to be too fussy about the amounts, because it honestly doesn’t matter that much. The important thing is that the proportions are balanced. If you find that your chutney seems too dry as it cooks, add some water or orange juice.

Start by sautéing the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, let toast for a very small amount of time and then add the vinegar and sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, which should be quick, add everything else. Let it bubble until the juices have thickened and the vinegar flavour has been cooked out (this will make your house smell of vinegar).

Turn off the stove, set the chutney to the side to cool, then find a good home for it (mason jars work well) and let it sit in the fridge for a few days. The reason you let it sit is because it will still taste a bit like vinegar for the first few days – all the flavours have to settle out and then it will be scrumptious.

Fig chutney is amazing stuff. I use it on sandwiches, halloumi burgers (another recipe I need to write about), and all kinds of things. It’s lovely on these canapés nestled up to the gorgonzola. I hope you try it!

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Now onwards to our caramelized cherries! These, my friends, I am proud of. I got the idea when I saw a picture of caramelized apples and thought they were cherries. It’s cherry season, so I guess I just had cherries on the mind. It’s a good thing I did.

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Making caramel only requires two things: 240g granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water. It is tricky, but it’s mostly tricky if you don’t follow the guidelines:

  • use a wide, stainless steel saucepan.
  • don’t bother with a thermometer – it’s just another thing to deal with, and you can see these changes by eye.
  • have a small bowl of ice water nearby in case of burns – caramel gets extremely hot.
  • medium heat.
  • it’s a slow process. Be patient.
  • stir the sugar into the water until the sugar dissolves, meaning until there’s no grit at the bottom. Don’t let it boil until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Once there is no grit, stop stirring. The water may not be perfectly clear, but you should be able to see the bottom.
  • If you continue to stir, you’ll encourage the sugar to seize up.
  • Once you’ve stopped stirring, the solution will boil. Leave it. It’s fine. Let it do its thing. Maybe swirl it once in a while, to get even boiling.
  • Eventually it will turn a “dark straw” colour, or a dark amber. Congratulations, you’ve made caramel. Carefully pour it into a heat-proof glass bowl or measuring cup. You’re going to be dipping the cherries in, so you want something with tall sides.

It’s a good idea to have everything set out before you make the caramel. You’ll need to wash the cherries. You only want the ones with stems. You’ll need a baking tray lined with baking parchment to put the cherries on once they’ve been dipped in caramel.

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Remember, caramel gets HOT. I mean it. Be careful. When you’re dipping the cherries, do not get your fingers anywhere near the caramel. Just dip quickly, wipe off the excess on the side of the glass and put down the cherry.

The nice thing about these is despite the trickiness, once they’re done they look incredible. It doesn’t matter how you arrange these, they’re one of the most beautiful desserts I’ve ever seen. And they taste amazing, too. It’s a win/win all around.

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The cherries that I made did melt while they were sitting on the parchment, in air conditioning. I don’t know what that’s about, but Philadelphia air conditioning is definitely not up to the standard that say, Florida air conditioning is, and it was in the 90s F that day. It’s possible they really were just too hot.

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Pro-tip: paired with a glass of rum, or even a sherry or port, these might just be the best thing you’ve ever eaten.

 

 

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