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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 honey, and regional wines. But I was on a mission to stock up on les pruneaux d’Agen since I knew the producers (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 easy to find 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. I make this often and it’s the perfect do-ahead dish as well. It reheats remarkably well and always impresses guests!


Duck with Prunes in Red Wine

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. If you're working with a smaller pot, you can cut the duck thigh pieces in half, cutting the leg and thigh apart from each other.
  • 4 duck thighs, cut in half (if you wish)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • a few strips of wide bacon or pancetta, cut into generous bâtons
  • sprigs of thyme
  • a strip or two of orange zest
  • 1 medium 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
  • 15 to 20 prunes
  • 1 bottle red wine, (see headnote)
  • 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 braising pot 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 above ingredients.
  • 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, 300º-325ºF (150º-165ºC) 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, tuck in the 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.




    • mb

    Ahahaha!!! That was so funny!

    • mb

    Oops, posted too fast! That sounds good, I will try it! The only dish I have made with prunes is a Moroccan stew (tajine) made with lamb and no wine. Which, by the way, you could buy some beautiful moroccan/tunisian pottery while in France. I know, it’s not exactly French, but very much present. Even this dish would look beautiful presented in one of those huge platters.

    • izzy’s mama

    Ooh two of my favorite things, duck and prunes. Sounds delectable. For those nyc readers, prunes d’Agen used to be available at Fairway and hopefully they still are. I used to snack on them and add them to my son’s oatmeal a few years ago but I haven’t looked for them in awhile.

    • charlotte s

    oh my!!! that looks SO delicious! and, as usual, your post is hilarious :)

    • Laura

    Fabulous recipe, as always. I have the prunes in my pantry, now I just have to get a duck!

    izzy’s mama- Fairway does still carry prunes d’Agen, as well as a whole line if other soft fruit from Agen- coconut cubes, strawberries, raisins, mango, kiwi, pears, figs, peaches, apricots and so on, as well. The raisins and coconut cubes are fabulous and have been a huge hit both at formal dinner parties and preschool snack time. I looked for them last summer in Paris, to no avail. Have you seen them, David?

    • Ms. Glaze

    Wow! I don’t know what’s more impressive: the canard pruneaux recette or the way you tied in American gossip mags. I’m coming back to Paris tomorrow if you need some more reading material just lemme know. Gros Bisous, Ms. Glaze

    • Lynn T.

    David: As usual, you got the current state of American “culture” and media attention just right. Thanks for making me laugh, instead of tearing my hair out.
    How will I make it through winter without the promise of a chocolate tour with you & the gang to keep me going?
    P.S. Duck is one of my favorites, so will need to try your recipe.

    • chanbny

    Can I use my crockpot for this? It has a high and low setting.

    • Christina

    Glad to see you’ve got some material to increase you intellectualism. I think you balanced it off very well serving duck. Duck, Tom and Kate — impossible to fail.

    • Austin

    I live in Thailand where ducks are easy to come across, but ovens are in short order, and I’ve always wondered if simmering at a very low flame would have the same effect as braising in an oven? Any thoughts?

    • EB

    Duck truly id the food of the gods(Confirmed by the duck fat fries at Bar Tartine). Yours looks lovely. Oh and Britney’s pregnant again.

    • Jessica

    David, one of your funniest posts in a while. And mouth-watering as well! I’ll finally make duck now, I think. This dish sounds perfect with the current No. Cal. weather.

    • Ellen

    This has nothing to do with the post, David, but I’m loving your cranberry orange sorbet…so good… (Also the pear sorbet with candied ginger–brilliant.)

    • Judith in Yummmbria

    I can buy duck everyday, but not in parts. I have to make the parts myself … which isn’t very hard.

    There’s plenty of crappy stuff to read in Italy, too. The strange thing is that every reference to a celebrity has the person’s age next to the name. I always wonder 1) who cares 2) how come no one has mugged the reporters and 3) who cares?

    No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the Italian public, either.

    • DrBehavior

    I find braised duck with prunes to be such a wonderful comfort dish – thanks for your version, David. I’m going to try it for Friday night dinner instead of roasting a chicken.

    In case anyone in Northern California is interested in buying very nice wines inexpensively there are currently two sales taking place. First, Walmart (believe it or not) is selling truly nice brands this week for $1.97 each and Bevmo has a good selection for $5.00 and under. Also, Safeway has ducks as does Andronico’s and Nuggett along with plump geese at excellent prices.

    • Anna

    Haha. Thank goodness I’m not the only expat who gets a secret (or not) kick out of the occasional trashy magazine.

    I really like the idea of something savory braised with wine and prunes. Yum. I’m a vegetarian, so I won’t be able to braise duck, but hmmm…any other suggestions?

    • David

    chanby: I don’t have a crockpot but I’m told they’re excellent for braising and this kind of dish. I think it would work wonderfully.

    Anna: Perhaps you could use a firm squash and not cook it so long?

    EB: She is not…is she? I’ll have to get more magazines when I go to the US next week to find out the inside scoop on that!

    Laura & Izzy’s Mama: Those prunes from Agen are delectable but if you live in the states, there’s pretty good California prunes. But if you can get your hands on the mi-cuit prunes, they’re great for snacking. I’ve been gorging ( opposite) all week.

    (You can get the superlative-inducing stuffed Pruneaux d’Agen here in the states—don’t let the price scare you away, they’re great.)

    Austin: Yes, you certainly could. Hey, you live in Thailand? Wanna trade places for the winter? I could use a bit of beach time : )

    • Garrett

    Looks like a fabu recipe. Now I just have to afford duck ;)

    As for the magazines, don’t forget to pick up Cosmo for “How to drive your man wild in bed!” A quiz not to miss. *ick*

    • TrueBluePenangite

    Do you use sea salt for everything or just when you are finishing dishes?

    • Richard of Eire

    I happened upon your wonderful blog!
    Everything looks so fantastically delicious.
    Don?t over worry about anything be it new or old … live; live the sweet life of Paris with letting the stories roll.
    Richard of Eire

    • Rohan

    Confirmed sighting:

    Pruneaux d’Agen *are* available at Fairway. But will it last?!

    • Austin

    Yep, been in Thailand for a while, and would trade places at the drop of a hat! Thailand is great (especially the food–check out my blog:, but Europe has been drawing me for a while…

    Thanks for the tip–will try to make it soon.


    • tom

    That duck recipe looks sensational. Great for this time of year.

    BTW, there are a number of celebrity gossip rags in France that are just as lowbrow as the ones mentioned here….no need to depend on the kindness of friends to bring the mags from the States…just hit the newsstands at any train station in Paris, and there they are….you must have seen them.

    I felt very consoled this summer to see that the French gossip mags were as concerned as my American brethren and I about Britney Spears’ difficult entry into adulthood, Brad and Angelina’s desire to get a chateau in the French countryside (seriously, it was in the Charentes, I believe…and there was some brouhaha where they allegedly helicoptered on to some property they fancied, and Madame the Proprietor ran out to scold them for arriving that way on her land!), Posh Beckham’s desire to shop,…well, you get the drift.
    Trust me, it reads just as ridiculous in French as it does in English.

    • Kate Hill

    David, I’ll make you a deal. Send me your gossip rags and I’ll send you pruneaux! pound for pound. And for those wanting more information on just why the prunes of Agen are so good…. ask me! I live in Agen.

    • Kevin

    Prunes. Why not?
    Fantastic photos on the blog. And too bad about the eggs…[and the cleanup…]

    • Katie K

    I made this recipe (not being able to resist anything which combines meat and fruit) and it was fabulous. Fairway didn’t have any duck legs so I went to Chinatown and found them for $3.59 a pound at the supermarket at Elizabeth and Hester. As you said, it was even better the next day, and the leftover sauce beautifully augmented some beef barley vegetable soup. Thanks!

    • Lorna

    OK. So I was in “the Dordogne” and shopping at an outdoor market in Montpazier. There was a fantastic display of prunes…from Agen… They were magnificent.

    I noticed little cups for tasting liqours which were partially full. Taking a sip…I suddenly hear loud laughter from a large group of people….I think it was the entire town. I had sipped from left over glasses for tastings.

    After about 5 minutes of derision…I told them to “Beat it”. Apparently that translates into any language. They dispersed….THEY NEED TO GET CABLE. Bye the way…the prunes are fabulous.

    • Jeff B

    Great recipe. Any idea if this would work for rabbit instead? Or, have a good rabbit recipe hiding somewhere?


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