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Friday Night Bites: Balsamic Fig Jam Brie Cups

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I am extremely excited to share with all of you the debut of my new weekly feature titled "Friday Night Bites." Anyone who knows me personally or has been following my blog, understands my love of appetizers and wine. A little background for you -- my hubby and I began a tradition several years ago that every Friday night we celebrate the end of the work week by unwinding with a bottle of wine and assorted appetizers. As you imagine, it has evolved over the years. Sometimes we celebrate with just the two of us and other Fridays, several friends will join in the festivities. Either way, it is a cherished tradition that we look forward to each Friday night.

Now for the series name -- a couple weeks ago, I shared this idea with my hubby during one of our Friday nights, since I was struggling with what to name the series. Within a minute or perhaps two, he came up with "Friday Night Bites." It was catchy. I loved it. "It's perfect," I exclaimed. The funny part was he really wanted to ensure that I gave him credit for the name. Of course honey, I would give credit where credit is due. I was simply amazed how effortless it was for him to think of it.

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My goal is to share this new series every week with all of you. The concept is to give you a fresh idea for an appetizer that you can enjoy on Friday night or during the weekend or in the future. Since wine is an essential part of the Friday night celebrations, I will share a recommendation that pairs well with the highlighted appetizer. I enjoy making simple yet flavorful appetizers. Most recipes should have ingredients that are accessible across the country. I apologize in advance if I am too adventurous and create an appetizer that has unique ingredients, but I will try to share ideas on substitutions.

With my excitement mounting, I am pleased to share my first appetizer in this series with all of you for Balsamic Fig Jam Brie Cups. I truly have an ongoing love affair with my balsamic fig jam. It goes with so many things and is, quite frankly, addicting! Hubby and I spent last weekend in Healdsburg for a wine event at Lancaster Estate Winery. There were 500 people there but I felt like there were only 100 people. The catering company was simply amazing. From the Duck Confit filled Savory Doughnuts with Lingonberry Sauce to Mini Chicken and Waffles to the Cookie Bar with assorted cookies and frostings, the food was remarkable. Okay, if you have never tried Lancaster Wines and you love a full bodied red, please run, don't walk to the winery or order online -- you will not be disappointed. Smile.

For these Balsamic Fig Jam Brie Cups, a classic pairing would be a buttery Chardonnay or Brut Champagne. However, I wanted to step outside the classic just a bit and suggest a light Pinot Noir. On the way home we stopped in Hawley Winery & Vineyards in downtown Healdsburg. Our intention was to pick up a few bottles of their Viognier, which we enjoyed on our last trip to Healdsburg. However, in true traditional tasting fashion, you can't simply walk in and purchase. You have to taste. Hawley's Pinot Noir is an awarding-winning wine and once I tasted it, I completely understood the distinction and honors this wine has earned.

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This Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River Valley and was harvested late to allow for the development of the incomparable flavors in the 2008 release. I tasted ripe cherry fruit with vanilla notes and a very smooth finish. We left with a couple bottles of Pinot Noir and Viognier. The Pinot Noir is a lovely match for the Balsamic Fig Jam Brie Bites. This appetizer is a loose recipe that you can make one or three dozen, or more easily. I have included my Balsamic Fig Jam recipe, but you can also purchase fig jam and it will be just as delicious. Enjoy!

Balsamic Fig Jam Brie Bites

Makes 12

Wonton wrappers
Olive oil
Brie (triple crème)
Balsamic Fig Jam
Fresh figs
Micro greens, chives or parsley

Preheat oven to 350

On a cutting board, lay out 12 wonton wrappers and brush each side with olive oil. Use a mini muffin tin to place each prepared wonton wrapper. Place it centered in the muffin tin and gently push down to fully line the muffin tin. Press the sides together to secure, leaving the center exposed. Continue until all 12 slots are filled with the wonton wrappers. Cook for about five to six minutes until lightly browned and remove.

Fill each wonton with about one to two teaspoons of brie. Top with about one teaspoon of fig jam. Repeat until all wrappers are filled with brie and jam. Return to the oven for about five minutes to melt the brie. Top the cups with a quarter of fresh fig and garnish with a sprig of microgreens, chive or parsley to add a pop of color.

Fig Balsamic Jam

Makes 12 to 14 pint jars

6 Pounds Fresh Figs - remove stem and cut into quarters
4 ½ Cups Sugar
1 ½ Cups Balsamic Vinegar

Use a large pot. Add all of the above ingredients to the large pot. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients. Place on the stove on high heat and bring to a boil. Once really bubbling lower the heat to medium. The sugar will begin to thicken and the figs will soften. Once the figs are soft, about 45 minutes to one hour. Simple test by pressing the spoon against a fig to the side of the pot. If soft and the liquid is thicker, then it is probably ready.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 to 15 minutes. Using an emulsion blender, puree the jam. If you like it with chunks, then process less.

To process the jam, add to each sterilized jar and wipe around each rim to remove any of the jam that spilled. Put the lid and rim on each jar and tighten, but not too tight. Add each jar to the boiling water of the large pot with tongs and use a canning rack. Process for 10 minutes. Using tongs remove each jar and place onto a towel on the counter. This will prevent the jar from cracking if it hits a cold hard surface. Let cool.

You will hear the lids popping. The popping means the jar is sealed. After an hour, check each jar to ensure you can't press and hear a popping sound. If you do, it means it did not seal. Simply re-process to obtain a tight seal.

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