Before you say ""Yuk, who wants prunes?" consider the French prune. I went to a great party in NYC - a cooking demonstration by David Bouley at his office/kitchen. Bouley (www.davidbouley.com) is a talker and much as he likes to speak about what he's already doing, he's excited to relate what's new to him and why he's interested. A friend had just given him a tin of pruneaux d'Agen fourres, plump prunes stuffed with sweetened puree of prune. If you are a Paris walker who examines window displays you will recognize them; they are in pretty tins and are very expensive. Bouley thought the prunes were amazing and gave us samples. I was sold. But these prunes are candy and I was interested in what I was seeing on service bars in little Paris restaurants, tall jars of prunes soaking in something, Armagnac it turns out, which make an appearance on the dessert menu.
Who orders prunes for dessert, even with creme fraiche? Hmm, not bad. My sister asked her neighbor (my 100 nouns and verbs, all employed in the present tense, don't go far at cocktail parties) and he gave an animated response; better still, he arrived at her apartment with a sample batch. Red wine, sugar and cinnamon are more popular ingredients than Armangac and if you ask ten persons I think you will get ten recipes. Good, just vary the proportions until you get it as you like. David Tanis (A PLATTER OF FIGS) offers the
simplest recipe of all - a brief union of ingredients in the pot and your prunes are in the jar within fifteen minutes of starting. He chills them, and serves them chilled. So much for my image of the jar on the bar and I'm still trying to figure out the best Armagnac (or Calvados) method anyway. Buy French prunes. California prunes don't have good color and seem a little beat up - they don't look pretty in the bowl or on the plate. Monoprix sells bags which are easy to stash in luggage. There are higher-end pruneaux d'Agen to be had but Monoprix is a reliable source.
As for serving, I don't think you can serve Americans a dish of prunes for dessert and get away with it so try this: three or four prunes on a plate (with a spoon of the red wine sauce on top), a few walnuts and a piece of really good hard Italian cheese with a dollop of honey.