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Mark Bittman's Rice Pudding

Maurice Coscuella's Figs in Whiskey


A year ago, James Salter wrote a beautiful piece in the NY Times Magazine about his culinary experiences in France while he was stationed there in the 1950's. Accompanying the article was an alluringly simple recipe for whiskey-soaked figs, courtesy of the chef at La Ripa Alta in Plaisance. The recipe sounded glamorous yet easy. Who doesn't have a packet of dried figs lying around the house? And if you don't, they're easy to procure. As for whiskey, shouldn't everyone have some on hand? For hot toddys, grumpy boyfriends, and English fruitcakes.

All you do is dissolve some sugar in a quart of water, and boil the figs in the syrup for 20 minutes. Then you dump out some of the hot liquid, let the rest cool, and stir in the whiskey. This boozy, amber bath then rests until room temperature before it is consumed. I trust it keeps for quite some time. The apartment was perfumed with the honeyed smell of softened figs and a hazy fug of alcohol. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

It's the perfect dessert after a heavy winter meal because it does double-time as a dessert and a digestif. And it's definitely very grown-up. Depending on how much syrup you discard, you can make this as mellow or as sharp as you like. But now, with a very small voice, I must concede that the dessert's just a bit too adult for me. Something about all that liquor sort of turned me off - I like my figs plain, I realized. But that's my own shortcoming.