Gothamist could feel the ground shaking during our first visit to 71 Clinton Fresh Food way back when in 1999. The lower east side restaurant scene was exploding, and Clinton Fresh had begun the rupture. The beauty of it was not the glowing critical reviews, the rack of awards chef Wylie Dufresne had collected, or the resulting explosion of the Lower East Side restaurant scene. It was the reason why a Clinton Street restaurant had become, for better or for worse, a destination restaurant.

It was the food.

Eating in the old Clinton Fresh Food felt as if you were a part of a low budget dream turned high end fantasy. You could see what appeared to be a very small kitchen and the humble yet eccentric look of Wylie peering in from the kitchen. You'd then look at the menu and see dishes that were completely unique at the time - bass crusted in rye bread with edamame puree and shrimp stuffed squid. It felt like we were on the opposite end of what was supposed to fine dining -there wasn't the big city celebrity chef perusing the dining room, shaving truffles and mucking it up with his corporate clientele. At Clinton Fresh, an up and comer was actually preparing an innovative meal in a small kitchen while we were relaxing in jeans.

To this day, we remember much of the meal we ate at the old Clinton Fresh, especially fresh raw figs stuffed with a rich mascarpone cheese and served slightly warm for one of our desserts. The flavors were simple yet explosive. The technique of stuffing savory ingredients into figs was new to us at that point and something we?ve continued to play with ever since.

Just like the old Clinton Fresh, this fig recipe has evolved and led us to new interpretations of the same style. With a sharper cheese, the crunch of corn and the deep flavor of Proscutto de Parma, we have a simple dish for the Gothamist Recipe. Thanks Wylie.

Gothamist Recipe
Warm Stuffed Figs
with corn, mint, Manchego, and prosciutto

--Joe DeSalazar

We've taken 71 Clinton Fresh Food's dessert recipe and turned it into a nice treat to serve before a meal at home. Figs begin to hit the markets during the summer, reaching their ultimate peak in September and early fall. It our opinion, this fig recipe works best when adding a soft cheese and a crunchy texture to the figs. We've done this recipe with pine nuts, goat and cheddar cheese as well. The addition of prosciutto takes this over the top. Gently heating the figs right before you serve them draws out even more of the sweetness from the figs and melts the cheese to make it one combination of flavors.

The following recipe works as a relatively light appetizer or a great snack leading up to dinner. You'll have plenty of left of prosciutto and Manchego to use for dinner or to have over the next few days.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two -just double it for a party of four.

1 box of black mission figs
1 small wedge of aged Manchego cheese
1 bunch fresh mint
1 lemon
1 ear corn
1/4 lb of thin sliced Prosciutto de Parma
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Estimated cost of ingredients: $15 at Fairway

Buying the Ingredients
Black Mission figs have a more savory and soft texture than the green figs you'll see in the market. Just like any fruit, you want to make sure they are firm yet giving to the touch. For the Manchego, you can buy either the young or aged variety. The aged Manchego has a deeper flavor that contrasts with the sweetness of the fig very well.

Preparing the Figs
The figs should be prepared right before you plan on serving them.

Rinse the figs. With the tip of a small paring knife, carve around the stem on the top of the fig and remove the top. Next, slice off a very small slice from the bottom of the fig. This simply allows you to make them stand up on the plate when serving. Do the above for all of the figs.

When done with all figs, go back to each one and take out some of the insides of the fig so make room for the stuffing. You can use a flat dinner or pairing knife for this. Reserve the insides for another use or eat as a chef snack.



Making the Stuffing
Place corn ear on the cutting board and slice straight down the cob with a sharp knife to release the kernels. Repeat for all sides of corn and set aside. Slice very small chunks of the Manchego, small enough to fit into the fig. Roughly chop a small handful of mint. Add about three tablespoons of the corn, one tablespoon of the mint and two tablespoons of the Manchego into a bowl. Add a glug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and kosher salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.


Stuffing and Wrapping the Figs
Using your clean hands, stuff the mixture into the figs. Take care to make sure you get a nice combination of cheese, corn and mint into each fig. Repeat for as many figs as you need to make.

Next, take the long prosciutto slices and wrap around the exterior of the figs. Try to not cover the top of the fig with the stuffing. It's ideal to have the prosciutto wrap one time around the fig so it doesn't overwhelm the other flavors. Trim the prosciutto as you wrap to make it the ideal length.


Warm and Serve
Place all of your figs onto a sheet pan and warm in a 350 oven for only 3 to 4 minutes. You are only looking to warm the fig and melt the cheese inside.

Place the warm figs on a platter and garnish with some chopped mint and olive oil.

Serve immediately.


-- Joe DeSalazar