Cheese-stuffed, Pancetta-wrapped Figs

On Monday night (nearly two days ago), something horrible happened in my kitchen. Not quite as horrible as the bean meatloaf I attempted nearly 6 months ago (that’s a story for another time), but it was pretty bad. I attempted to make cheese-stuffed and pancetta-wrapped figs. They were terrible.

I’m still trying to figure out what exactly went wrong. I had perfectly ripe, beautiful mission figs that I had picked up at Stanley’s Fuit and Veggetable store over the weekend (a lovely and super-cheap produce market here in Chicago). I couldn’t remember ever having a fresh fig before, though I did have a clear memory from my childhood of enjoying a good fig newton every now and then. I just assumed I would like them, I guess. Before diving into the cooking adventure I sliced one open to see what it tasted like, and I felt pretty neutral about it. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t really dig it either. It was almost too sweet and the texture seemed a little odd to me – like a slightly mushy kiwi. I thought that perhaps once it was stuffed with melty cheese and wrapped in delicious pancetta, everything would be OK. I was wrong.

I sliced an X in them (from the top down… about 2/3 down the length of the fig). Since I wans’t completely sure what kind of cheese would taste the best, I used three different kinds: Camembert, sharp white cheddar, and asiago. I then wrapped each fig with a slice of pancetta, and then popped them in the over for about 10-15 minutes at 400F. As they baked they had a strong, pungent scent, but it wasn’t bad. I could tell Kirk was skeptical (I was trying to stay positive, since we were both starving for something yummy for dinner). As I pulled the finished product out of the oven, they actually looked and smelled pretty good. I now wish I had taken a picture of them, because they really looked quite fabulous (at least they looked similar enough to some examples I had seen online, which lead me to believe they would be equally as tasty as everyone else seemed to think when they made them).

No such luck.

I served up three for myself and three for Kirk, and we dug in. It did not taste as expected. Every recipe blog that I had read about these ranted and raved about how luscious, delicious, and extravagant they were. I generally just felt disappointed and ashamed of my failure to making something posh and fancy. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it was that I didn’t like about them… was it the texture of the cooked fig? Was it the combination of flavors? Did I use the wrong kind of cheese? Did I overcook or under cook them? Do I just not like fresh figs? Was it all just too rich, maybe? (this just sounds ridiculous to me… since I RARELY encounter something that is “too rich” for my palate).

I’m thinking that maybe neither Kirk nor I really like fresh figs that much to begin with. I mean, we both tried one plain before starting the slicing, stuffing, wrapping, and baking, and neither of us were particularly impressed. Such is life. Maybe next time I’m feeling adventurous about figs I’ll attempt a tart or a cake instead and not try to get too fancy with my kitchen experiments…

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