In what could be the hardest-sell on the planet, I always try to talk people who come to Paris into trying Pruneaux d’Agen fourrés, which are prunes stuffed with prunes. In spite of their reputation, prunes are a great delicacy in France and rightfully so; one taste of even just a regular pruneau d’Agen (especially mi-cuit, or “partially dried”), and you’ll plotz the first time after your first bite. (Although sometimes you need to give it a few hours for the full effect.)
Results tagged pruneaux from David Lebovitz
Prunes are serious business in France and unlike Americans, it doesn’t take any name-changing to get the French to eat them. Prune fans, like me, are partial to those from Agen, in Gascony, which are mi-cuit; partially-dried. Their flavor is as beguiling and complex as a square of the finest chocolate.
Interestingly, the prunes cultivated in California are grafted from the same prunes grown in the southwest of France.
This past weekend I went to the Marché des Producteurs de Pays, a lively little outdoor event where people come from across France to sell their edible wares here in Paris. Naturally there were lots of mountain cheeses, specialty honeys, and regional wines. But I was on a mission to stock up on les pruneaux d’Agen since I knew les producteurs would be there from Agen who cultivated and dried their own prunes
In America, duck always seems like a special occasion thing, perhaps because it’s not so easily available. But in France, it’s hard not to find duck and braising the meat tenderizes and assures the skin will be dropping off-the-bone succulent. The prunes add a melting sweetness and you can use an inexpensive red wine as the cooking liquid.
Duck with Prunes in Red Wine
Serves 4 to 6
Some folks use a mixture of red wine and stock or water, so you can do whatever suits your taste. Since it’s Beaujolais Nouveau season right now, you can that. I like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Brouilly, or a similar wine.
To begin, cut 4 duck thighs in half, separating the legs and upper thighs. If you have time, rub them all over with about a teaspoon of salt and refrigerate for 1-3 days. If not, that’s okay. Just pat the duck legs dry and rub them with salt.
Heat a large Dutch oven or roasting pan on the stovetop.
When very hot, add in the duck pieces in a single layer, skin side down and cook, disturbing them as little as possible until the skin is very brown. Flip them over and brown the other side for a few minutes too. If they didn’t all fit in a single layer, brown the remaining pieces of duck the same way after you remove the first batch.
Once they’re all cooked off, pour off any extra duck fat (reserve it for another use, like sautéed potatoes) and pour one bottle of red wine into the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spatula to unleash all those delicious brown bits.
Add the duck pieces back to the pan along with any or all of the following:
- freshly-ground pepper
- a few strips of wide bacon or pancetta, cut into generous bâtons
- springs of thyme
- a strip or two of orange zest
- one onion, peeled and sliced
- a couple of whole cloves
- a head of garlic cloves, separated from the head, but not peeled
- 2-3 bay leaves
The liquid should be covering the duck up to about the 3/4′s mark. If not, add some water or chicken stock.
Cover the pot and braise in a low oven, 300-325F (150-165C) and cook leisurely for 2-3 hours. The duck is done when the meat is relaxed and comes easily away from the bone. Exact cooking time isn’t important; just check after an hour or so for when the meat slumps and begins to feel tender.
Check and make sure the liquid isn’t boiling while cooking. It should be just steaming and barely simmering every-so-gently. If it’s too hot, turn the oven down.
Flip the duck pieces once or twice during braising. During the last 30 minutes, drop in about 20 prunes. Cover, and let cook until the prunes are tender.
Serving: You can serve with rice, green lentils, beans, or wide noodles. The duck can be made a day or two ahead, refrigerated, then re-warmed for serving.
Welcome To Prune Blogging Thursday!
I was, frankly, a bit surprised that anyone but me participated…but most of the prune-skeptics out there seem to have been won over. Participants were from all over the world: Italy, Estonia, France, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Thanks to everyone for sending me your entries and I encourage readers out there to visit their web sites to read about their prune-alicious adventures.
In spite what I now see as a highly-organized, internationally-recognized conspiracy against prunes, here are entries from all over the world.
Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
The divine Judy of Over a Tuscan Stove has a savory and amazing recipe for Cinghiale in Dolce Forte, adapted from an ancient recipe. Her wild boar stew has nice plump prunes…along with a suspicion of chocolate!
The zesty red-headed Laura of Cucina Testa Rossa began a torrid love affair with, what she writes, “the most expensive prunes in the world”, the famed Stuffed Prunes from Agen. Then she went on to make a creamy Glace de Pruneaux d’Agen et Armagnac, Prune & Armagnac ice cream, making full use of her new ice cream freezer.
Fellow Parisian Christine who resides at Chez Christine presents a stunning Terrine de Canard aux Pruneaux et a l’Armagnac (Duck Terrine with Prunes and Armagnac) along with the recipe, which sounds worth tackling for the holidays.
Or perhaps she’s taking orders?
Zorra, from Andalucia, Spain, made some fabulous tapas of Sherry-Soaked Prunes in Bacon, a variation of the delicious bacon-wrapped dates which I’ve had grilled and served in many tapas bars. I can’t wait to try it with prunes and it’s simple enough for anyone to make…no matter where you live.
My gal Alicat slinks in with two original tarts; Apricot & Prune Tart, and Dark Chocolate, Pecan, & Prune Tart. Both tarts look terrific and she and I did a mind-meld and were the only ones who combined chocolate with prunes in our desserts.
Peter at Tea Leaves found his own translation for pruneaux d’Agen. And even if a scholar of the French language might take exception to his method, his entry How To Eat Prunes had me eying my prized bottle of Armagnac in anticipation of making his boozy infusion.
I was almost afraid to open Lindy’s post at Toast since it was titled “Nightingale with Prunes”. But instead of something ‘fowl’, I found a delicate and delicious prune-presentation inspired by a recipe from pastry hero Pierre Hermé.
Pille, an Estonian living in Scotland, who’s captivating blog presents an I Am So Good For You Prune Cake called hapukoorekook kuivatatud ploomidega, (although she slipped once and called it ‘plum juice’ when she meant ‘prune juice’). In spite of the, er, high-fiber benefits of prunes, her recipe packs in some extra wheat bran!
My Amateur Gourmet Survivor, Melissa, survived her search for two prune recipes and discovered an Iranian Prune Stew and a ‘Plumb’ Cake that I could almost smell just looking at the pictures.
Marc gave prunes, what he calls, “some X-appeal”, and he re-created my pal and baking guru Nick Malgieri’s X-Cookies, using a gift from his ex. Hmmm…he looks like he’s become an X-pert in cookie-making.
Ulrike made a stunning Couscous Tabbouleh with Glazed Prunes, a trans-Atlantic combination of organic California Prunes cooked up in Germany. (Check out the swirly Apfelrezepte carving off to the side of the blog too!) Ulrike wasn’t the only one who looked to the Middle East for inspiration…
Another Scottish import (seems like a trend, Scottish food bloggers!), Iain, presents a Beef in Beer with Guiness-Soaked Prunes that looks like just the thing for that blustery winter coming soon to Scotland.
Over in LA, Rachel makes one of my favorite snacks, Dried Plum Financiers and offers an explanation of their mysterious journey from ‘prunes’ to ‘dried plums’.
Sarah Lou from Canada made a flaky Moroccan Basteeya Pie, which is one of my all-time favorite dishes; layers of filo dough brushed with butter then filled with shredded chicken, cinnamon, and a touch of sweetness.
Michele said I gave her the courage to tackle prunes in a Lamb Tagine with Prunes. While I appreciate her kinds words, I think comparing me to her grandmother in her post means I deserve some delicious gift, don’t you?
Perhaps some salted-butter caramels Michele?
And Melissa said , “Okay, David, you’ve won. Then she came out with a lovely Whiskied Prune and Custard Tart that features a juicy prune filling spilling out from a flaky tart filling. She did mention she still felt unease when cooking with prunes (wait ’til tomorrow if you want to feel uneasy, Melissa…)
When I’m not using his blog for my socio-political rants, fish-headed Brett stewed up a lovely melagne of Masala Chai Poached Prunes which combines sublime Indian spices with smoky Assam tea, creating a nice warm bath for his prunes from Casa Gispert in Barcelona, one of my favorite food places in the world.
I will forgive Fatemeh for calling me neurotic (after all, Woody Allen’s made a career out of it…why can’t I?) Especially since she’s driving me across the Bay Area soon in our pursuit of the best Chinese dim sum soon. So I was afraid she might make Prune dim sum, but instead found inspiration in a recipe from her childhood, which Prune Blogging Thursday happily rekindled: Toss Kabak, a savory Meat and Prune Stew with the addition of quince.
Molly of Orangette, I thought, would dip her prunes in delicious dark chocolate, but instead stewed up a storm with Stewed Prunes with Cinnamon and Citrus, which she’s going to “stew us into submission” with. Glad she overcame her friend’s giggling fits when she told them about prunes. I mean, when her friend gets old and wrinkly, I hope no one’s giggling at her!
And a few late entries…
Cathy sent in her recipe and photos for Prune Bread from her blog at My Little Kitchen.
Spicy Prune Mole from Jocelyn at Brownie Points using Dagoba organic chocolate, which is one of my favorite chocolates.
Alanna from A Veggie Venture has a Prune Tsimmes.
And from Barrett at Too Many Chefs, Bleu Cheese, Prune, and Onion Tart, and from Meg, who actually loves prunes and is under 60 years old (it was our visit to the farm expo here in Paris that prompted prune-madness) and posted her idea of The Best Thing To Do With Prunes. Find out for yourself at Too Many Chefs.
And from Elizabeth, there an Icelandic Prune Layer Cake and a savory Chicken (or Lamb) Couscous with Prunes and Apricots from another part of the world. Prune lovers unite!
Prune Blogging Thursday gave me the courage to perfect my recipe for making chocolate French-style Macarons with your choice of a creamy chocolate ganache filling, or an Armagnac-scented prune filling.
Thanks again to everyone for participating in the first, the original, (and the only) Prune Blogging Thursday.
(PS: All my chocolate macarons are gone! They were quickly wiped out at my friend Heather’s 30th birthday party this weekend. Thanks for asking.)