Jambon de pays aux figues

prosciutto figs2

Cured country ham with fresh figs

The key to this ultrasimple recipe is the quality of the ingredients. It’s well worth the extra money to shop for superior ham. In France these days wonderful cured ham is available in most supermarkets. And while this may not be the case elsewhere, excellent imported cured ham is often available in delis. Go for the thinly sliced variety.

6 slices prosciutto or another French or Italian cured ham
4-5 fresh figs

Lay the slices on a beautiful plate, accompanied by the figs: prepare them by rinsing, trimming the stems and slicing in half lengthwise. If figs are not available, melon of the canteloupe or honeydew variety makes a fine subsitute, as do plums. Serves 2-3.

To brighten this dish, I often decorate the plate with a few leaves of arugula or basil, or serve a small arugula/herbal salad alongside.


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5 Responses to Jambon de pays aux figues

  1. Luciano Granozzi says:

    The jambon-figues combination may originally come from renaissance gastronomy, I suppose.
    The italian writer Achille Campanile gives us a nice view: «Il melone con prosciutto, i fichi col medesimo, il formaggio con le pere, appartengono a quei grandi binomi internazionali, di fronte ai quali tutti c’inchiniamo, senza tentare d’indagarne il mistero. Perché il melone col prosciutto e non col manzo lesso? Perché il formaggio con le pere e non, putacaso, con le fragole? Io mi domando chi sarà stato l’inventore, ad esempio, dei fichi col prosciutto. Come gli sarà venuto in mente questo geniale accoppiamento. Chissà quante prove avrà fatto prima di giungere alla combinazione che doveva avere tanta fortuna. Perché in apparenza non c’è alcun nesso tra i fichi e il prosciutto. Ma la loro unione, bisogna riconoscerlo, è delle più felici… L’inventore avrà fatto lunghi esperimenti. Avrà provato a combinare i fichi con le bistecche e, dopo avere assaggiato, avrà detto scoraggiato, scuotendo il capo: “non ci siamo ancora”. Più volte sarà stato tentato di mandare al diavolo le faticose ricerche, ma la buona compagna della sua vita l’avrà esortato a perseverare, ad avere fede nel successo. E lui, allora, animato da novella energia, avrà provato a combinare i fichi con gli spaghetti. Nuovo insuccesso, nuovo scoraggiamento. Oppure con i latticini. O il prosciutto con le susine, o con le banane, o con le mele. Avrà passato notti insonni, la famiglia avrà camminato in punta di piedi per non disturbarlo. Sarà stato d’umor nero per settimane. E finalmente, là!, la rivelazione: i fichi col prosciutto. Fu il trionfo. La fortuna assicurata» (Gli asparagi e l’immortalità dell’anima, Milano 1974) .
    I should like to take this opportunity to recommend to “The Everyday French Chef” friends “Il formaggio con le pere”, a beautiful short essay by Massimo Montanari, one of Medieval History’s most eminent italian historians.
    I find out this book is available in English:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cheese-Pears-History-Proverb-Traditions/dp/0231152515/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1351247710&sr=8-7

    • Meg says:

      Luciano, many thanks for this erudite and hilarious contribution. For readers who may not speak Italian, the gist of it goes as follows…
      Nobody knows who first thought of combining figs and prosciutto, but it is indeed a felicitous combination. So felicitous that the Italian writer cited above, Achille Campanile, goes into a long fantasy about how the invention may have occurred. He envisages an inventor who experimented for a long time, first trying figs with steak (‘not there yet’), then with spaghetti, which left him still more discouraged. At the urging of the woman in his life, he persevered, trying ham with bananas, etc. He got into such a black humor that his family went around on tiptoes for fear of sending him into a rage. Until finally one day, the revelation: figs with prosciutto. A triumph!…
      For the record, Luciano Granozzi, who sportingly replied to my challenge below, is an Italian historian himself. I am enjoying this dialogue very much. If any other readers would like to make their own contributions to the history of recipes on this site, please be my guest!

  2. Luciano Granozzi says:

    Can I observe it may be an italian starter without being seen as a cultural nationalist?

    • Meg says:

      Why would you be a cultural nationalist for mentioning that Italians, too, enjoy figs with ham? After all, the Italians have been in France on and off since the time of the Romans, and their delicious influence lives on, in particular in southern France (where the figs grow). Likewise there is quite an important history of the French in Italy, I believe. Who can say on which side of today’s border the ficchi-prosciutto combination was first invented? But please tell us more about this! After all, you’re the historian.

  3. Renee Shields says:

    Nancy sent me your new website and I will make this starter tonight. I’ll let you know how mom and Joyce like it. I will go with your suggestion of the cantaloupe. Renee

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