You might think it's an odd-sounding combination, but it's dinner party-fancy and attention-grabbing, but requires little of your time. That's because its genius lies in simple French cooking master Richard Olney's clever ingredient selection, and the ways he harnessed their tricks. Adapted slightly from Simple French Food (Atheneum, 1974). —Genius Recipes
1 hour 30 minutes
5 or 6
ripe figs, freshly picked, if possible
thin slices prosciutto, fat removed
leaves of fresh mint, or more
salt, to taste
heavy cream, unpasteurized and thick, if possible
Peel the figs (or don't—we didn't!) and cut a bit more than halfway down from the stem end, making two incisions in the form of a cross. Gently press down to open figs slightly (as one does with a baked potato). Alternately, halve the figs or slice them thickly. Arrange figs on a serving dish and chill for about one hour in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not the freezer).
Cut the prosciutto into fine julienne strips (about 1-inch lengths, matchstick width). Alternately: tear into bite-size pieces, leave the slices whole and provide your guests with knives.
Crush about half of the mint leaves in the lemon juice and leave to macerate for about 20 to 30 minutes, then discard the crushed leaves.
Dissolve the salt into the lemon juice and slowly stir in the cream—the acid of the lemon will thicken it somewhat and its addition in small quantities at a time with continued stirring encourages the thickening. Taste and add salt, if necessary.
Plate as desired. Olney recommends: Sprinkle figs with half of the sliced prosciutto, spoon the cream sauce over, distribute with remaining prosciutto on the surface and decorate with the remaining mint leaves.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.