There are many things that are, ” like a woman.” Boats, countries, cars, shoes, flowers, and certain foods. Being of the fairer sex, I suppose I should be flattered that I have a likeness to all those things, and why not? Lately, I feel there’s this very public tug of war going on about how we should view our femininity. We are chastised when we are strong, and we are bullied when we are perceived to be soft or weak. When I hit puberty, I felt a certain life sentence imposed upon me to now become labelled and put on display as female. Up until then, I was just this scraggly kid, wild, uninhibited, tumbling along hills and playing in the dirt with my brothers and cousins. But as I grew into my new skin, I started to realize the power that being female had. And then I went to an all-women college and my perception of what it meant to be female and feminine was forever planted in my core as something being good, giving, honorable, kind, inquisitive, forceful–as in life giving beyond just bearing children, and strong. I’m pretty proud to be a woman after understanding and maturing into all of that.
So what does this all have to do with these fig sandwiches? Not much, really. This being my soapbox, I get to say what I want. I’m a woman, after all. And it’s my prerogative. Actually, I was thinking about how much figs are “like a woman.” They come in a variety of voluptuous sizes, shapes and colors. They’re soft and host a complexity of sweetness when they bare their insides. They are sensual and satisfying. And, honestly, they make anything look sexy when you add them to the mix.
Figs seems to be a bit mysterious, too, as they come in and out of season. You may see fresh figs in Autumn just as the air and sky start to mellow and chill. And then they’re back around the holidays, dressing up our dishes like jewels from Tiffany’s. Yes, figs are “like a woman.” So enjoy them, be grateful for them, put them on display and let them entice you with all their wonderfulness.
If you've never caramelized onions before, there are a few things you'll want to remember. A large, heavy bottomed skillet is best. Do not crowd the onions or they'll steam instead of caramelize. Cook over medium heat and not too high heat or you'll scorch and burn the onions before they turn that beautiful golden color. If they dry out, add a little liquid such as water or stock.
Use the best quality Brie you can afford. Like wine, Brie comes in a variety of flavors and prices. I prefer ones that are double or even triple cream and that have that intense mushroomy smell and flavor.
You can use any type of figs for this recipe, just taste them first and adjust the sugar and vinegar if they are already naturally sweet enough.
If you wanted to keep this simple, you could also just assemble these onto a toasted, sliced baguette crouton. This sandwich was a bit of a monster once it was all assembled, so the picks are necessary to help keep it all together.
- 3 sweet, yellow onions
- 1 package fresh thyme
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/3 cup white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 pounds fresh figs
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 large squares of focaccia bread (about 9"x7")
- 2- 9-10 oz wedges of Brie
- 1 small bag mixed green lettuce
- Sandwich picks or cocktail skewers
- Begin by julienne slicing the onions and set them into a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a large cast iron or non-stick skillet. When butter has melted, add a layer of onions (about 3/4" inch) to the pan, over medium heat and cook until soft and slightly brown, about 4 minutes. Work in batches and add more onions as the previous batch begins to softened and brown. Do not allow the onions to scorch. You can add a little water to help prevent this. Stir them occasionally. Add an additional 2 tablespoons of butter as you work through the remaining onions. Depending on the size of your pan, this could take up to 15-20 minutes. Just before the last five minutes of cooking, add wine, salt and thyme. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove any stems from the figs and cut them into quarters. In a second large skillet, over medium heat, warm remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, brown sugar and balsamic. When this mixture has melted, add figs and toss to coat in the mixture. Turn the burner off and set the figs aside.
- Cut brie into 1/4" slices. If the wedge is large, cut it into half first.
- Slice both focaccia in half.
- To assemble, place a layer of salad greens on the bottom sides of the foccacia. Top with a layer of sliced Brie, the onions and then the figs. Top with another layer of salad greens. Place the top of the focaccia on each sandwich and poke skewers through the sandwich. Cut sandwich into individual portions of either 16 large or 32 smaller pieces.