Appetizers: Panino of Brie, Figs, Prosciutto and Arugula

recipe photo

Joey Altman has shared three great recipes from his book Without Reservations. Each one is delicious, simple – and ideal for preparing with friends. Watch our videos with Joey Altman that demonstrate how to prepare this Italian-themed dinner, including simple tips on how to involve your guests in the prep.

This open-faced sandwich is so easy – and always a hit. Watch our video of Joey Altman preparing this dish.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, halved crosswise and sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried, crushed
  • 1 loaf fresh focaccia or other flat loaf (about 1 pound)
  • 12 ounces ripe Brie cheese, at room temperature, cut into 1⁄8-inch-thick slices if it is too firm to spread (no need to remove the rind)
  • ¼ pound thinly sliced prosciutto, about 8 slices
  • 1 pint fresh figs, stemmed and cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds (save a few whole figs for garnish)
  • 1 packed cup arugula leaves, rinsed and spun dry, plus a handful extra for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly carmelized, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the vinegar and continue stirring until the onions are almost dry.
  • Stir in thyme, remove from the heat, and set aside.
  • Use a long serrated knife and a sawing motion to slice the bread in half horizontally, as if for a giant sandwich
  • Place each half crust side down on a flat surface. Spread or arrange half the cheese on each side of the loaf.
  • Distribute the sautéed onions over the cheese and arrange the figs on top. Lay the prosciutto over everything. Use a wide spatula or your hands to gently press down on the toppings to help them adhere to the sandwich. (To make ahead, cover with plastic wrap and leave for up to 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 3 hours.)
  • To finish, preheat the oven to 400_F with a rack set in a lower-middle position. Transfer the bread halves to one or two baking sheets and bake until the Brie is melted and beginning to bubble, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove the loaves to a cutting board and let them rest for a minute or two. Scatter the arugula on top. Press down for a few moments to ensure that everything will stick together when sliced.
  • Use a long serrated knife to carefully cut the loaf in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1- 2-inch pieces. Place on a Great White Serving Platter and decorate with additional arugula and whole figs.