When figs are in season, I find myself throwing together this nibble two or three times a week. The idea came from Ben Barker, chef-proprietor of the Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina. I also swiped a thing or two from Frank Stitt, chef-proprietor of Highlands Restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama.
Most figs done this way use prosciutto, but I find I prefer a thinly sliced country ham, especially one from Benton’s Ham Shop in Madisonville, Tennessee. The Point Reyes blue cheese has character without being overly bold. If you’re a true blue cheese freak, you might prefer a Maytag. In other words, put these figs together to your taste. I tend to use them as finger foods but you could certainly serve three halves over a bed of dressed lettuces as a first course.—Fred Thompson
18 fresh Mission or Brown Turkey figs
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 ounces Point Reyes Farmstead “Original Blue” cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto
Oil for coating the grill
1. Slice the figs in half lengthwise. Using a grapefruit spoon, remove a bit of the inside flesh from each and place in a bowl.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the vinegar until it is reduced to about 6 tablespoons and syrupy. Let cool and keep at room temperature.
3. Add the blue cheese and mascarpone to the bowl with the fig flesh and mix well. Season generously with pepper and stir to combine.
4. Take each fig and stuff with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture. Wrap a piece of ham around the fig and cheese. Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
5. Light a charcoal fire or preheat your gas grill on high. Oil the grill’s cooking surface. Let the coals burn down to a medium-hot fire or adjust the gas grill burners to medium-high.
6. Place the figs on the grill cut side up. Cook until the ham is a bit crispy and the figs are warm, about 5 minutes. Remove to platter and drizzle with the balsamic syrup. Serve immediately.
Recipe © 2007 by Fred Thompson. All rights reserved.