Today’s Roast Chicken with Fig Glaze and Ginger-Fig Compote celebrates the gorgeous California figs we sampled and learned about last weekend with the Valley Fig Growers. What an amazing adventure we had!
A road trip isn’t complete without delightful companions and we had a car full – Annelies, our fearless leader and the author of The Food Poet, Christine of Vermillion Roots, Sarah of Snixy Kitchen and I took off together for a whirlwind trip to Fresno and Clovis. We met up with the rest of the bloggers and the good folks from Valley Fig Growers at a local fig orchard to learn about growing figs in the Central Valley. While it was a hot day, we were incredibly lucky to miss the record heat wave we had the week before!
We met Farmer Ken and learned that his orchards were planted in 1904 by his grandfather! He is the third generation to farm the land, and at 82, is still going strong. His hands are heavily calloused and tan, the hands of someone who works his own land. He is passionate about his farm and takes incredible pride in the figs that he grows.
The Calimyrna figs that Farmer Ken grows are golden and naturally as sweet as candy. I could have eaten a whole bowl of them with no problem. How lucky were we that we got to sample them!
We were glad that his farm was able to survive the drought so we can continue to eat his delicious fruit. Did you know that figs only require 1/3 of the water than almond trees do? I think we’re planting the wrong trees!
I was fascinating to learn about Calimyrna figs – they are grown with totally different techniques than I am accustomed to and are different from the other 1200+ varieties of figs. Bees are not the natural pollinators for these fruit trees. There are no blossoms on Calimyrna fig trees, only small buds. These buds are inverted flowers, and they can only be pollinated by a tiny wasp that can get through the opening in the center of the growing fruit.
The wasps gather pollen from the male trees (caprifigs) and carry the pollen with them to the female trees resulting in beautiful, ripe figs! California grows 100% of the nation’s dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs. Our Central Valley is truly amazing.
Some Fig Facts … The Spaniards introduced Mission figs to California in the early 16th century. Fig puree can be used to replace fat in baked goods (and it is mighty good spread on toast or served with prosciutto and cheese!). Early Olympians ate figs as a training food. And figs have as much calcium as milk! For more information on the growing and processing of figs as well as all their products, check out the Valley Fig Grower’s website.
On Farmer Ken’s property, all the labor is done by workers. The trimming of branches to allow more light into the center, maintaining the orchard, harvesting and sorting of the fruit is all done by hand. Any fruit that is not used for human consumption becomes animal feed – nothing goes to waste!
Ken’s children have grown up helping their mother and father. They help gather the fruit (figs will naturally fall to the ground when they are ripe – there is no picking involved). As the children grow older, the girls help on the sorting tables and the boys learn to drive the tractors. There is something for everyone to do!
We all had a great time learning about how figs are grown and processed, sampling fruits fresh from the trees, and then having a dinner where the chef incorporated figs into every course! More on that in a minute.
After our farm tour we got to see a very unique garden – the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno. The founder and builder was Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant who came to California in the early 1900s to grow citrus trees and make his fortune. Unfortunately he discovered that just a few inches under the rich topsoil was a nearly impenetrable layer of rock. But being a visionary, he began to dig it out and create an underground resort to escape the scorching heat of the Valley. He built arches and rooms from the excavated rock, creating an incomparable, fascinating, and beautiful destination.
He still managed to grow his citrus trees – oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and kumquats as well as grape vines – in the shafts he created to bring light and air down to his home below. He even built a ballroom so his guests could dance and this area is now used to host weddings and other events.
The trees and vines are still growing fruit and can easily be picked from street level because they have grown that tall! It was fascinating to see his home, the kitchen, bedrooms, and grottos, seeing how his mind worked. I would have loved to meet the man, but we are lucky that his family still owns the property and have saved much of it as a historical landmark.
Our day ended with a fruit tasting followed by a 4-course gourmet meal at Trelio Restaurant in Clovis. Just look at the menu that Chef Chris came up with … a salad of field greens with dried Mission figs, goat cheese, and a champagne vinaigrette; miso-roasted Halibut with a mango, carrot, and dried Calamyrna fig slaw; roasted quail stuffed with Mission figs, Huilacoche, and quinoa and grilled mission figs with a fig-honey glaze; and for dessert a flourless chocolate torte with dried fig caramel and brulee Mission fig. What a feast!!
It was wonderful to sit down over dinner and get to know some new people, learn the story of how they started their blogs, and make new friends. A special thanks to Chef Chris for creating a menu that all of us could enjoy together, incorporating all of our various dietary restrictions with grace and generosity. We are very grateful!
This article wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Gary Jue and Linda Cain of Valley Fig Growers for hosting a delightful trip. I really appreciate being included!
After a good night’s sleep, we headed back home, with bags of delicious figs and other goodies to enjoy and dreams of the recipes we can use them in. Today’s Roast Chicken with Fig Glaze was my choice and if you follow the rest of the bloggers in our group, I know you will be thrilled with their creativity as well!
- Debra from Bowl Me Over
- Jess and Janette from Cooking with Janica
- Linda from Brunch N Bites
- Meghan from Fox and Briar
- Kate from Hola Jalapeno
- Maryanne from The Little Epicurean
- Sara from My Imperfect Kitchen
- Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious
- Aimee from Small Eats
- Sarah from Snixy Kitchen
- Christine from Vermillion Roots
For more information on the sponsors of our trip, check them out on their social media channels:
- Valley Fig Growers @valleyfig
- Boursin Cheese @boursincheese
- Dick Taylor Chocolate @dicktaylorchocolate
- Figenza Fig Vodka @figenza
- Underground Gardens @forestiereundergroundgardens
- Trelio Restaurant @treliochris
The inspiration for today’s chicken recipe is from a restaurant in Calistoga in Napa Valley called Catahoula, and I was lucky to have a remarkable dinner there one evening. The chef/owner was Jan Birnbaum and I have been a huge fan of his ever since. Today’s Roast Chicken with Fig Glaze and Ginger-Fig Compote is based on one of Chef Birnbaum’s recipes.
Fruit compotes are a wonderful way to utilize produce you have on hand and to enhance other dishes. Chicken on its own can be a bit bland, but when you serve it with an incredible blend of fresh ginger, figs, fig glaze, spices, and compote, it is perfection in every bite!
I hope you enjoy today’s Roast Chicken with Fig Glaze and Ginger-Fig Compote as much as The Artist and I did! It is a lovely Mediterranean-style dish packed with succulent flavors. The sweetness from the figs and raisins beautifully balance the savory sauce for a blissful dinner.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Roasts can be challenging to know when they are cooked properly. That’s where a good-quality thermometer comes into play. I love my Thermapen, a top-of-the-line piece of equipment that I can’t imaging not having now. This is an investment that will pay for itself time after time for years to come! I also love their timers that I can hang around my neck – no matter where I wander, I always know when my baking or cooking is done!
This recipe is naturally gluten-free!
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 lb whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 Naval orange, cut into pieces
- 2 tbsp Fig Spread from Valley Fig Growers (any flavor) mixed with 2 tbsp water to thin
- Poached Figs
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice or cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 (6 oz) bag Sun-Maid Calimyrna Figs, left whole
- Ginger-Fig Compote
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 (1-inch-long) strip of orange zest (with no white pith attached)
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 cup raisins, preferably golden raisins
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or water
- Juice of 1/2 orange
- 3/4 cup pan juices or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Prepare the Chicken: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Tuck the orange pieces and rosemary into the cavity of the chicken.
- Set the chicken, breast-side-up in a roasting pan with 2-inch-high sides. Brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350°F. Continue cooking 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the top of the chicken with half the diluted fig spread. Return chicken to the oven and continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the breast registers 158°F, about 20 minutes longer depending on the size of the bird. The total roasting time will be about 20 minutes per pound plus the 15 minutes at the higher temperature.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and brush with the rest of the fig spread. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. The residual heat will finish cooking the chicken perfectly. Strain the pan juices into a measuring cup. If you don't have enough, add chicken stock to bring it to 3/4 cup.
- Poach the Figs: While the chicken is cooking, in a small saucepan, combine the water, honey, lemon juice, ginger, allspice and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the figs, cover, and simmer over low heat until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated; store figs in the poaching liquid.
- Make the Ginger-Fig Compote: Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet. Add the garlic and herbs and cook over low heat until the garlic is golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orange zest, cardamom, raisins, and wine and bring to a boil over moderately high heat; cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Squeeze the orange into the pan. Add the pan juices and boil for 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the poached whole figs to the skillet; discard the fig poaching liquid and ginger slices.
- Simmer the compote over moderate heat until the liquid has thickened a bit and reduced to approximately 1/2 cup, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the orange peel.
- To Serve: Carve the chicken and serve it topped with the ginger-fig compote and the whole figs alongside.
- Yield: about 4 to 6 servings
Create a New Tradition Today!
Disclosure: I was hosted for our tour of fig country, meals and hotel by Valley Fig Growers. All opinions as always are my own.
Welcome! If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask. Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material from The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, please contact me. The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. Please see the Disclaimers page for additional details. Thanks for visiting The Heritage Cook!