Fabulous Fig and Chèvre Bites

Fig Compote and Chèvre Leaves appetizer
When summer’s fresh figs are but a distant memory, dried figs are a cook’s best friend.

A welcome appearance at an early Friday happy hour, these tasty little hors d'oeuvres are our go-to for cocktail parties no matter what the season.

After all, who can resist crispy baked potato leaves sporting a healthy dollop of savory fig compote atop creamy, pungent chèvre? Not us. (Slow movers are lucky to get their hands on more than one.)

Chopped Mission figs, fresh lemon thyme, cracked black pepper, a little sugar, a dash of salt, and a generous pour of French dry vermouth are simmered until thickened slightly, then left to cool. Russet potatoes are sliced thin, cut into leaf shapes with a cookie cutter, buttered, garnished and baked until crisp.

These leaves were assembled in minutes, and the photo was snapped in our kitchen moments before our guests snapped them up.

Fig Compote and Chèvre Leaves appetizer
Passage and photo are the Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 Valley Fig Growers “Fabulous Fig Photo Contest”.

Freshly plucked and still warm from the summer sun’s bright rays, the taste of a ripe Mission fig is one that inspires a pressing need to recreate that heady first-bite experience on days cold and grey.

Mission figs are one of the sweetest varieties of figs around. The dark purple figs are descendants of 16th century figs (most likely of the “Franciscana” variety from Spain or Portugal) planted in the Mexican region of the California territory. When the San Diego Mission was established in 1769, the missionaries planted cuttings taken from the thriving Mexican figs. Soon, the sprawling orchards with their prolific sweet fruit became known as “Mission” figs.

Today, Mission figs are the second most popular fig grown in California. In the dry warm climate, figs are harvested according to nature’s design, fully ripened and semi-dry on the tree. Just-picked figs are laid out and fully dried in the sun (or indoors by machine), then packaged, making the sweet fruit available throughout the year.

When dried, Mission figs develop a luscious musky vanilla scent and rich honey-butterscotch flavor, which works especially well with woodsy, earthy flavors. Smear a slice of toasted herb-flecked rustic bread with some fresh goat cheese, sprinkle sliced figs on top, and take a bite of pure perfection.

Or make our cheery Autumn-themed take on a basic compote-cheese-and-cracker appetizer. The jewel-like figs and pretty leaf shapes will turn any occasion into a special one. Cheers!

Fig Compote and Chèvre Leaves

Makes 36
Fig Compote and Chèvre Leaves appetizer closeup.
Baked russet potato chips become irresistible when cut into fanciful shapes and spooned high with goat cheese and dried fig compote. Easy to make and even easier to eat!
  • 1/2 cup chopped Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Mission Figlets (from an 8-ounce bag)
  • 1/4 cup Italian sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large russet potatoes (about 1 /12 pounds), scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 5 ounces goat cheese (1 small log)
  • Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish (optional)
  • Special equipment: leaf-shaped cookie cutters, wire cooling racks
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring figs, vermouth, brown sugar, thyme, and salt to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 7-9 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let compote cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the potato leaves:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare two shallow baking pans by lining them with foil or parchment (to catch drips), then placing a wire cooling rack on each. Set aside.

Place melted butter in another large bowl; set aside.

Partially fill a large bowl with cold water and 6-8 ice cubes; set aside. Cut potato lengthwise into 1/8–inch-thick slices, and transfer slices to the bowl of ice water. To make leaves, working with 6 at a time pat slices dry and stack in a pile. Cut out as many shapes as possible from each stack, pressing the cutter through the entire stack. Add leaf shapes to the melted butter in a bowl and toss to coat.

Arrange leaves in 1 layer on racks in prepared pans. Sprinkle with dried thyme and coarse salt. Bake in middle of oven until edges are pale golden, about 10 minutes, then turn chips over with a metal spatula and bake until golden all over, 5 to 10 minutes more, checking frequently after 5 minutes and transferring finished leaves to a rack to cool.

Note: Leaves can be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Recrisp in a 350°F oven 5 minutes.

To assemble, spread each leaf with goat cheese, and top with a teaspoon of fig compote. Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.

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