Last night before I went to bed, I popped a few moist prunes in my mouth and started to reminisce. Why was it that prunes make most people snicker, while they make me long for Paris! Yes, it’s true. When I was 20, or so, I took my first trip to France and was mesmerized by the dessert cart in most bistros. No, it wasn’t the tarte tatins or the offerings of chocolate mousse that interested me, it was the pedigree of the prunes that sat soaking up a vast amount of red wine. It seemed to me a most sensible, and sensuous, way to end a meal. Of course I was embarrassed (snicker) but after a glass or two of Bouzy rouge (red champagne!) one late afternoon (at the bistro run by the famous chef Michel Oliver), I summoned the courage, and have been serving them ever since. Not only that, I began to experiment with prune juice, too! (snicker, snicker).
But first, the prunes (which, as you may know, begin life as plums.) I like to pit them and wrap them in short pieces of bacon and broil them as a simple
hors d’oeuvres. (For real drama, slip a tiny piece of candied ginger into the prune before wrapping.) Often I put them in a jar, designated for the task, and cover them with cold water and a gossamer slice of lemon, and let them sit, tightly covered in the fridge until they express their dark liquid to form a viscous broth. Stewed prunes, without the stewing! Other times, I use them along with prosciutto and sage, to stuff a fleshy turkey roast (recipe from Radically Simple, below). For dessert, I plump them in port wine and then hand-carve shards of white chocolate to scatter on top.
But the most curious recipe of all (which was featured in the New York Times and appears in my Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook) was my audacious use of prune juice. I simply simmer it until it is greatly reduced and begins to resemble chocolate syrup! It makes an improbably delicious “sundae” with coffee ice cream and toasted sliced almonds.
Rolled-and-Tied Turkey Roast with Prosciutto, Prunes & Sage
I love preparing a “turkey roast,” which is nothing more than a boned breast half with the skin on. Here it is filled with prosciutto, sage leaves, and prunes, then rolled and tied.
2-1/4 pound turkey roast (large boned half breast, skin on)
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
10 large pitted prunes
1/4 cup pine nuts
12 large fresh sage leaves
12 medium shallots, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a mallet, flatten the turkey (skin side down) to 1-inch thickness. Cover evenly with the prosciutto. Arrange the prunes in a tight row down the center. Top with pine nuts and 6 sage leaves. Roll up tightly. Season with salt and pepper. Tie with string at 1-inch intervals and tuck 6 sage leaves under the string. Place the turkey and shallots in a small roasting pan. Drizzle with the oil. Roast 45 minutes, until cooked through. Transfer the turkey and shallots to a board. Pour the broth and wine into the pan. Place pan on the stovetop and boil, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 3 minutes. Strain into a saucepan. Whisk in the butter and cook 1 minute. Remove the string; and thickly slice. Serve with the shallots and pan sauce. Serves 6