We live in the San Francisco bay area, and so have access to an overabundance of figs when the neighborhood trees ripen. I'm always looking for more good ways to eat or preserve figs to ensure we make the most of this short season.
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
smear of butter
12-20 ripe figs (not too squishy - we'll be baking them)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or other orange liquor (or interesting liquor of your choice, 80proof or higher)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon liquor (same type as above)
2 tablespoons sugar
8 inch fry pan, oven and stove safe (or similarly-sized pan)
electric mixer or beaters
rubber spatula (optional but handy)
Step 2: Bake Figs
Butter pan, stab the bottoms of the figs so they'll drop juices, and arrange figs so they're close but not touching. I could probably fit a few more figs in this pan, but we've already eaten the rest.
Sprinkle over 1/3 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water.
Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices. Poke your figs - if they're not cooked through, bake a little longer. The timing is pretty flexible.
Step 3: Make Whipped Cream
Whip 1 cup heavy cream, 1 Tablespoon liqueur, and 2 Tablespoons sugar until cream is nice and thick, forming moderately-stiff peaks. Add a sprinkling of any spices you like - I'm fond of allspice with figs, but your mileage may vary.
Chill until ready to serve.
Step 4: Flame Figs
This is the good part!
Pull your pan of figs out of the oven, add 1/4 cup of Cointreau, and place it on the stove at medium heat. Remember the pot handle is hot - I kept forgetting this, which caused a few problems.
As soon as the liquid boils, remove from heat (important if you have a gas stove) and carefully prod at the air over the edge of the pot with a lit match. Note that you're not setting fire to the liquid: you're setting fire to the alcohol vapor just above the liquid, which will quickly catch the liquid itself on fire. Sit back and enjoy the show.
If you can't get it to catch fire, add a bit more liquor (AWAY from any flame!) and reheat so the alcohol vapors are ready to go.
Step 5: Reduce Syrup
Place the pan back on the stove, and cook over medium-low until the liquid is syrupy. Stir as needed, and remove from heat when syrup is nicely syrupy. (Sorry, I'm not going to be able to explain it better than that. Just don't burn it.)
Set aside to cool, as the syrup will be dangerously hot.
Step 6: Serve
Scoop a blob of whipped cream onto a plate next to the figs. Drizzle the whole thing with the syrup, and garnish with some kind of fresh herb tips1 for maximally awesome presentation.
All these ingredients store nicely! Just plop the figs into a bowl of syrup, and store the whipped cream separately. in fact, overnight marination will only make the figs taste better - it's just a matter of planning ahead.
1Mint, thyme, etc. I only have rosemary growing right now, so skipped it.