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Posts from the ‘Holidays’ Category

Thanksgivukkah Comes But Once Every 79,000 Years

You’ve surely heard. It’s being touted by the media as a once-in-a-lifetime event. The convergence of the Jewish and Gregorian calendars brings us a hybrid holiday this year: Thanksgivukkah.

Hanukkah falls early this year, with the first night of the Festival of Lights on Wednesday, November 27. And Thanksgiving is later than normal on Thursday, November 28.

So Jewish families will find themselves lighting a menorah after their turkey dinner on the second night of Hanukkah. And that means …

Thanksgivukkah

It might have been called Chanksgiving, but in a frenzy of excitement surrounding this unique holiday, the most common appellation is Thanksgivukkah. Seems it’s the winning hashtag. And once the mayor of Boston said he would proclaim November 28, 2013 “Thanksgivukkah,” the name stuck.

Thanksgivukkah has inspired products like the menurkey, a menorah shaped like a turkey (a nine-year-old kid created it!), t-shirts, cards, and an all-things Thanksgivukkah website. Rabbis have been commenting on it, and Buzzfeed weighed in with a credible mash-up menu for the festival (Manischewitz-brined turkey, anyone?).

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Light your menurkey.

Even satirist Stephen Colbert has commented on the phenomenon with a sketch, and this song parody supplies an anthem for Thanksgivukkah.

We are not falling for the hype…OK, maybe just a little. Come on, it’s not going to happen for another 79,000 or so. Let’s celebrate!

That means food in our book. Our friends at Bon Appetit have been unimpressed with the weird Thanksgivukkah recipes populating the internet, and their post about the worst-ever Thanksgivukkah menu had us chuckling.

So we’re just going to recommend a few of our favorite recipes that are appropriate for the occasion.  You decide how carried away you want to get with it.

First up, cassoulet. Granted, we have a little pork in our recipe (ventrèche is salted pork belly), but this bean and meat stew bears more than a little resemblance to cholent, a slow-cooked bean and meat stew served at countless Sabbath meals over the centuries in Eastern Europe. And with all due respect to kosher laws, the pork really adds something special. Cassoulet would make a perfect centerpiece for a Thanksgivukkah meal.

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Cassoulet serves a crowd.

For a more literal interpretation, try our potato latkes topped with foie gras and apples, which we just posted on the blog here.

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Potato latkes with foie gras

The legs of duck make beautiful confit when slow cooked in their own fat, and when they are shredded…well, we think duck rillettes are one of the most satisfying meat spreads around. Slice a baguette and get a jar of cornichons. Long live the duck fat!

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Duck rillettes

And speaking of confit, garlic can be cooked in duck fat for mellow, tender cloves that are virtually spreadable. We like them in any dish calling for garlic, and love stuffing poultry with the savory tidbits.

Cloves cooked.

Cloves cooked.

Sufganiyot are doughnuts, traditionally eaten because all the oil represents the miracle of the oil that Hanukkah is based upon. We use duck fat in the dough and in the fryer when we make doughnuts. You will agree this is divine once you taste them.  

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Duck fat doughnuts.

Of course, for a smaller gathering on any night of the holiday (Hanukkah lasts eight nights…does that mean Thanksgivukkah does too?) , a de-boned turkey breast that has been slathered with black truffle butter before roasting makes a very satisfying feast.

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Turkey roulade with black truffle butter.

Perhaps our newest product offers the simplest solution. Our Jean Reno Reserve Oil is much like the oil used in the Jewish temple to light the menorah. It is pure and is made using ancient techniques. And you can use it as a finishing oil without much fuss or forceful combining of recipes. It’s a lazy, but elegant solution.

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Celebrate the miracle of the olive oil.

Whatever you eat, however you celebrate it, Thanksgivukkah is the rarest of holidays. Enjoy it!

Duck Fat 50: The Duck Fat Doughnut

The duck fat doughnut is a savory miracle. We love this recipe by the incomparable Ian Knauer from  Gourmet magazine, and we continue to believe it is the best doughnut ever. But we might be biased. There is a lot of duck involved.

It’s a perfect recipe for Hanukkah, or for that rarest of holidays, Thanksgivukkah. Sufganiyot, or doughnuts, are traditionally served to commemorate the miracle of the oil at Hanukkah; when you make them with a savory filling of duck confit, they are practically a meal.

We took plenty of photos of the process, which you can enjoy in the slideshow after the recipe….which comes with our heartiest of recommendations.

17 Donuts on the Rack

Savory Duck Fat Doughnuts from Gourmet, August 2009

Recipe: Ian Knauer

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Scant 1/2 cup warm whole milk (105-115°F)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus additional for dusting
1 large egg
About 4 cups rendered duck fat, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 confit duck leg
2 tablespoons sour cherry or red currant preserves plus additional for serving

EQUIPMENTa stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; a deep-fat thermometer

1. Stir together yeast and warm milk in mixer bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Mix in 3/4 cup flour at low speed until combined. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 1 hour.

2. At low speed, mix in egg, 2 Tbsp duck fat, sugar, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup flour until combined, then beat at medium speed until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape dough into center of bowl and dust lightly with additional flour. Cover bowl with kitchen towel and let dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. Discard skin and bones from duck confit, then shred meat. Stir together meat and preserves.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and lightly dust with flour. Punch down dough (it will be soft) and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 16 equal pieces. With lightly floured hands, flatten 1 piece of dough and put a heaping tsp duck confit mixture in center. Gather dough up and around filling and pinch to enclose. Roll into a ball and transfer to baking sheet. Make 15 more balls, arranging 1 inch apart on sheet.

5. Heat 2 inches duck fat in a 2-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat to 350°F. Fry doughnuts in batches of 4, turning frequently, until puffed and golden, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 350°F between batches. Serve doughnuts hot, with additional preserves.

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Duck Fat 50: Potato Pancakes AKA Latkes with Foie Gras

These golden potato pancakes are crisped in duck fat before being crowned with silky foie gras and tart apple. Delicious. And appropriate for Hanukkah. Or Thanksgivukkah. After all, the history of foie gras in Europe can be traced back to Jewish immigrants, who brought the technique of fattening ducks and geese from Egypt. Schmaltz, anyone?

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INGREDIENTS

2 medium Granny Smith or other tart green apples, peeled, cored, and cut crosswise in 1/8-inch slices (reserve trimmings)
2/3 cup simple syrup
1¼ cups duck and veal demi-glace
2 medium-large baking potatoes (about 1¼ pounds), peeled
1 small onion
1 small golden delicious or other sweet apple, peeled
1 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1 egg, beaten
6 or more tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 duck fat
6 foie gras slices

PREPARATION

1. Combine sliced apples with simple syrup in a bowl and soak for 8 hours or overnight.

2. Add apple trimmings to demi-glace, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and keep warm.

3. Grate potatoes, red apple, and onion. Gently stir in parsley, egg, and flour, and season with salt and pepper. Heat enough duck fat to measure about ½ inches deep in a large heavy skillet. Form mixture into 12 pancakes. If too moist, add a little more flour. When fat is hot, about 375 degrees F, add only as many pancakes as will comfortably fit in pan without crowding, flattening them slightly. Cook until browned and crispy on both sides, turning once. Remove with a slotted spatula, blot on paper towels, and keep warm in a warm oven. Discard fat and wipe out pan.

4. Heat pan until very hot. Season foie gras with salt and pepper, and sauté until lightly browned and medium-rare inside, about 45 seconds per side.

5. On warm plates, place a potato pancake, then add an apple slice and a foie gras medallion on top. Spoon on sauce, and serve.

Turkey Stuffing v. Dressing

Whether a stuffing is a dressing, or vice versa, is as much about semantics as whether it is cooked inside or outside the bird. One thing that is certain, both are tasty, fragrant, comforting and satisfying; accompaniments with a balance of texture and taste that complement the bird and pay compliment to the cook. While recipes for many holiday dressings tend to build on bread, plenty call for grains like rice (wild or tame), or even cooked chestnuts as a primary foundation. A dressing also presents you with an opportunity to add a few choice ingredients that can elevate the level of your meal, or step up to an elaborately prepared gourmet bird. Several recipes take advantage of the bounty of autumn and fall harvests, and include fresh ingredients such crisp apples and pears, wild chanterelle and black trumpet mushrooms, and various truffles like the White Alba and Winter Black varieties.

If your dinner is a more formal affair, another grand way to stuff or accompany a bird is with a loose dressing, not based on or bound by starch at all, or with forcemeat such as chicken mousseline. For a full-on gourmet departure, fill your bird with a simple loose dressing of just a few choice yet intense ingredients; for example fresh Wild Boar Sausage and minced bits of turkey liver sautéed with prunes plumped in black tea, and golden raisins darkened in port – of course, with the port thrown in. For a true delicacy, consider a boned bird or turkey breast filled with a duxelles of fresh wild mushrooms or beautiful pieces of foie gras incorporated into a chicken breast mousseline.

For our take on the traditional bread stuffing, try making this Wild Boar Sausage with Apple Stuffing. The wild boar sausage has a hint of sage that is perfect for Thanksgiving, and tastes just enough like traditional pork sausage that finicky eaters will not have word of complaint.

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A D’Artagnan favorite: Wild Boar Sausage & Apple Stuffing

INGREDIENTS

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 package of Wild Boar Sausage
4 cups stale bread cubes, or unseasoned stuffing cubes
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
1 to 2 apples peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

1. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery and onion and cook until soft and translucent. Break up sausage meat into small chunks (about the same size as the bread cubes) and add to the pan. When the sausage is cooked through, add the apples, sage and broth (or water). Bring to a simmer.

2. Place the bread in a large mixing bowl and pour the cooked ingredients over the top. Mix thoroughly to moisten all of the bread. Test seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a covered casserole until completely heated through and starting to turn golden brown on top and around the edges.

More in the category of dressing, this recipe for Sauté of Chestnuts, Walnuts, Fennel and Onions is inspired by the cuisine of Joël Robuchon, and adapted from Patricia Wells’ book Simply French. Ariane loves to make it with our already-prepared chestnuts, black truffle butter and demi-glace, as you will see below.

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Saute of Chestnuts, Walnuts, Fennel and Onions

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups Ready-to-Use Chestnuts
20 pearl onions, blanched and peeled
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Black Truffle Butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 fennel bulb, cut into fine julienne, fronds reserved
4 shallots, cut lengthwise into eighths
1/2 cup walnut halves
Duck and Veal Demi-Glace, as needed
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

PREPARATION

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter each in two medium sauté pans over medium-high heat. Add the onions to one and the chestnuts to the other and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and chestnuts have started to turn golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle each pan with 1 tablespoon sugar. Continue cooking the vegetables, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until evenly glazed and caramelized. Set aside.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons truffle butter in a large skillet over high heat and add shallots. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the shallots are translucent, one to two minutes. Add fennel and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring frequently, until the fennel and shallots have started to color. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.

3. Add glazed chestnuts and onions to the pan with the shallots and fennel and cook everything together for another minute or so. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and add demi-glace by the tablespoon-full if the mixture seems dry. You may not need the demi-glace. Stir in walnuts and reserved fennel fronds and serve.

If you decide to forgo stuffing altogether, and brave the ensuing riot, or cook your dressing outside of the bird in a baking dish, you can still make good use of the cavity. There is a method of stuffing intended only to add flavor to the meat. It can be as simple as placing rough chopped onions and carrots lightly sautéed with a sprig of fresh tarragon, or tart apples with the skins pierced, inside the cavity. You then remove and discard these dressings after cooking.

One of Ariane’s favorite things to do when not stuffing the bird is to put a few pieces of garlic confit in the cavity. To make garlic confit, melt enough rendered duck fat in a saucepan to generously cover your peeled cloves of garlic, and simmer gently over medium heat until the garlic becomes soft. You’ll be delighted with how delicious these little babies are, especially so without that sharp garlicky edge. Make a big batch and keep them in the refrigerator to use for everything from spreading on bread to flavoring your mashed potatoes.

Holiday Helpers are 15% OFF this Week!

This time of year it’s all about the turkey at D’Artagnan. But let’s not forget all the side dishes that are vital to the Thanksgiving feast.

Mashed potatoes, anyone? We always add black truffle butter to ours.  And who doesn’t love stuffing? You need wild boar sausage and chestnuts for that.

Duck fat and demi-glace are workhorses in the kitchen. And what holiday is complete without a little foie gras and fungi?

Be prepared for anything with our holiday helpers, all 15% off this week.

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Ariane Talks Turkey on TV

Ariane appeared on ABC 7 Eyewitness News yesterday to share her tips for making the perfect turkey this Thanksgiving.  If you missed it, you can watch the video  and get Ariane’s recipes here. For more turkey recipes, go to our website.

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Ariane preps for the cameras.

Ariane brought three different types of turkeys — wild, heritage and organic — to the studio. Each offers something different for your Thanksgiving feast. Learn more about our birds here.

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Michelle Charlesworth asks Ariane about the different turkeys available at dartagnan.com.

With a whole Thanksgiving meal (and wine!) set up in the studio, no one went hungry.

Ariane on Eyewitness News

Ariane force feeds the team. L-R Amy Freeze, Ariane, Michelle Charlesworth, Alisha from D’Artagnan and Phil Lipof.

Happy Veterans Day!

veterans day 2013

Thanks to all our veterans, today and every day.

Turkey Breast Recipes

The question of whether you prefer white or dark meat is a crucial one at Thanksgiving. But how can one turkey yield enough of the preferred meat for each diner? The simple answer is to augment the whole roasted turkey with a turkey breast.  And the overwhelming majority of people prefer the pale, juicy meat of the breast (don’t look at us! We like it dark).  You can roast the breast whole, or debone it, stuff and then roast it. Here are three tempting recipes that work for Thanksgiving, but are also perfect for any meal.

Simple Roasted Turkey Breast

Here’s a basic technique for roasting a bone-in turkey breast, which is great for smaller holiday gatherings or even a sunday roast. Add your favorite herbs and spices as you wish.

Recipe_Simple_Roasted_Turkey_Breast_HomeMedium

INGREDIENTS

4-6lb bone-in turkey breast
2 tablespoons duck fat, softened
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water, if needed

PREPARATION

1. With the rack in the center position, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fit a small roasting pan with a V-shaped rack.

2. Rub softened duck fat (or olive oil) over turkey breast, and season with salt and pepper. Center turkey breast on rack, skin side up. Transfer to oven, and roast until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. (If at any point the butter/juices in the pan start to burn, add about ½ cup water to the pan.)

3. Transfer to a platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Turkey Roulade with Black Truffle Butter

This simple turkey breast roulade not only makes a fabulous holiday centerpiece, it makes versatile leftovers too!

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INGREDIENTS

4-6lb bone-in turkey breast
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3oz. container black truffle butter, softened
½ cup water, if needed

PREPARATION

1. With the rack in the center position, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Using a sharp boning knife, place knife close to bone and carefully remove breast from bone, keeping breast meat connected. Place deboned breast skin-side down on work surface. If necessary, carefully pound breast between plastic, keeping skin intact, to make even. Season with salt and pepper then spread evenly with truffle butter.

3. Fold left and right sides in toward center and roll evenly until both sides meet. Turn rolled breast so skin side is facing up and adjust shape as necessary. Using kitchen twine, tie at 2-inch intervals. Transfer to a roasting pan and season the outside with salt and pepper.

4. Transfer roasting pan to oven and cook for 30 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour more. (If at any point the butter/juices in the pan start to burn, add about ½ cup water to the pan.) Remove turkey from oven and transfer to a cutting board. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Turkey Breast with Mushroom Stuffing

This simple turkey breast roulade is packed with earthy flavor from mushroom duxelles and sauteed leeks. Delicious.

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INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons black truffle butter
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 pound organic chef’s mix mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons water
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small leek, cleaned, trimmed, and finely chopped
1 teaspoon sherry-wine vinegar
6-8lb organic turkey breast
½ cup unsalted butter, melted

PREPARATION

1. Heat truffle butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add 2 tablespoon water; season with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more.

2. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a food processor; pulse 2 to 3 times to coarsely chop. Set chopped mushroom mixture aside. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil to skillet and heat over high heat. Add leek and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring until leek is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chopped mushroom mixture to skillet and stir to combine. Remove from heat and add vinegar; stir to combine. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature before using. (This can be done up to 1 day ahead!

3. With the rack in the center position, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

4. Using a sharp boning knife, place knife close to bone and carefully remove breast from bone, keeping breast meat connected. Place deboned breast skin-side down on work surface. If necessary, carefully pound breast between plastic, keeping skin intact, to make even. Season with salt and pepper then spread evenly with mushroom stuffing, leaving a half-inch border on all sides. Don’t mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. Starting at 1 end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides. Carefully turn roulade skin side up and reshape if necessary. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder.

5. Place roulade on a rack over a sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees F in the center. Remove turkey from oven and transfer to a cutting board. Let stand, loosely tented with foil, at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Turkey Breast Roulade with Brioche & Sausage Stuffing

This recipe is great for smaller holiday gatherings. Once you master the roulade technique, you can use any of your favorite stuffings, but we love this one which contains both salty and sweet bites.

Recipe_Turkey_Breast_Roulade_with_Brioche_Stuffing_HomeMedium

INGREDIENTS

7-10 lb organic turkey breast, deboned & butterflied
Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 cups stale brioche cube
1 package duck & Armagnac sausage
12 pitted prunes, diced
1 small stalk celery, diced
½ medium carrot diced
1 two-inch section of leek, sliced thin
1 shallot
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 leaves fresh sage, chiffonade
4 tbs butter, melted
1 cup chicken stock

PREPARATION

1. Make your stuffing: Remove the duck & Armagnac sausage from its casing and place in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, breaking up any large chunks as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a large bowl and set aside. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the sausage fat from the pan. Place the pan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, shallot and leek. Cook, scraping up the crispy browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until soft and translucent. Add to the sausage.

2. While the sausage/veggie mixture is still warm, stir in the herbs. Add toasted brioche, mix to combine. Season with salt & pepper. Add melted butter and chicken stock. Using your hands, turn the mixture to combine, squeezing the bread cubes to moisten. Stir in prunes. Set aside.

3. Debone your turkey breast: using a sharp boning knife, carefully run the blade as close to the bones as possible, all around the rib cage and up to the back, to remove. It’s easiest to work on one side at a time. Be mindful to keep the breast intact. Reserve bones for stock. If the breast meat is too thick to roll, butterfly it or carefully pound with a meat mallet to flatten a bit. Keep breast skin side down, season with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Spread stuffing evenly, leaving a half-inch border on all sides. Don’t mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. Starting at 1 end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides. Carefully turn roulade skin side up and reshape if necessary. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder.

4. Place roulade on a rack over a sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees F in the center. Remove turkey from oven and transfer to a cutting board. Let stand, loosely tented with foil, at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Happy Halloween!

halloween 2013

Yes, that is Vincent Price in the kitchen. Known as a true gourmand, a wonderful host, and an expert on wines, Price was also a world traveler. He and his wife Mary collected recipes from the chefs they met at restaurants, and together they authored quite a few cookbooks. Several can be seen below, and are now out of print and considered collectible. If you find one at a flea market, snatch it up.

vincent price cookbooks

And long before there was a channel devoted to cooking, Price made recordings of recipes, such as this one describing roast pork with prunes (“even prune haters will love this!”), and a pickled mushroom preparation. And let’s not forget the wine. In another record, Price talked about gracious entertaining, which must include wine, and thus: Wine is Elegance. Thrill as you hear him draw out the word “riesling.” And naturally, he raves about California wines long before the rest of the country caught on.

These dramatic recordings in his unmistakable voice even inspired this silly mashup on Youtube.

If you feel like seconds, check out this marvelous online exhibit dedicated to the many aspects of Vincent Price. It seems a fitting activity for Halloween.

Four Prunes Day

A message from Ariane

Today is a strange food holiday: Four Prunes Day. I believe it refers to the idea that four prunes a day will keep the doctor away. But I am happy to take the opportunity on this official holiday to share my affection for this little wrinkly fruit with you.

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Sadly, prunes seem to be the punch line to a joke in America, valued only for their fiber, not flavor. But in Gascony, where there are about 3 million plum trees, we know that prunes are special.  Prunes have been part of the gastronomic heritage of Southwest France for centuries.

Originally brought by the Greeks and Romans from China, and planted all through the Mediterranean, the plum holds a special place in the city of Agen, where the famous Prune d’Ente trees produce luscious plums that are well-suited to drying. These are the renowned pruneaux d’Agen, or Agen prunes.

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Vintage postcard of harvest in Agen

These particular plum trees were developed in the 13th century by Benedictine monks who crossed the existing trees with a variety the Crusaders brought home from Syria. The tree survived harsh winters, world wars and triumphed in the 21st century, when it was recognized in 2002 by the EU with the Indication Géographique Protégée.

Sorting prunes

Sorting plums in Agen

Everyone in France knows that Agen is the place for the sweetest, juiciest, plumpest prunes, and a visit there would reveal a myriad of ways to eat prunes.

Agen Prunes

Agen prunes in their natural setting

At D’Artagnan, we have incorporated prunes into several products that reflect the flavors of my area of France: Duck Terrine Mousquetaire, which is a coarse-ground pâté of duck (the livers, too), pork meat, a dash of Armagnac and studded with prunes.

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D’Artagnan Duck Terrine Mousquetaire

And our famous French Kisses, which are prunes that have been marinated in Armagnac and then stuffed with mousse of foie gras. They are the perfect amuse bouche, and are a favorite at parties. I wouldn’t be caught without them on New Year’s Eve.

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D’Artagnan French Kisses

Which reminds me of a fun story. Back in the early days of D’Artagnan, I was invited by Michel Richard to help honor Julia Child on her 80th birthday. He invited many prominent chefs and 500 guests to his Los Angeles restaurant, Citrus, for a feast. With so many meals to prepare, the mise en place (prep work) was being done all over town. I was supposed to work at the hot foie gras station. I had also brought foie gras mousse and pitted prunes soaked in Armagnac with me from New Jersey, so I could make French Kisses.

That morning the kitchen was a mess. Celebrated chefs such as Jean-Louis Palladin, Vincent Guerithault and Thomas Keller were working like maniacs to get their dishes organized. TV reporters and journalists followed them around, asking questions, trying to get a sound bite or quote. Cameras flashed.

I found a little corner to work in the hallway, and started by draining the Armagnac from the soaked prunes into Styrofoam cups, which were the only thing I could find to use. As Laurent Manrique and I piped the mousse into the drained prunes, the smell of foie gras and Armagnac filled the air. Daniel Boulud, standing nearby, got a whiff of the Armagnac-prune juice and took a judicious sip from one of the cups.

Just then the late Pierre Franey came ambling down the hall and asked Daniel what we was drinking. “Coffee,” he said with an obvious wink, and offered the cup to Franey. Without thinking, Franey knocked back a swig of fruity Armagnac, and at 10 A.M. got a true French kiss. And the best part was that the live TV cameras were in tow behind him. So after his first big gulp he tried to hide his surprise, with some difficulty. By the second gulp he got it right and kept a straight face.

Prunes soaked in Armagnac are a common item served in Gascony, and when sipped with some of Franey’s “coffee,” they make a lovely after dinner treat.

And for a truly luxurious dessert, try my father’s recipe for prune and Armagnac ice cream. Are you sensing that prunes and Armagnac were made for each other? It’s common knowledge in Gascony.

Ulterior Epicure Prune Armagnac Ice Cream

Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream, photo via flickr user Ulterior Epicure

Ages ago my father, Chef André Daguin, not only pioneered this now-famous recipe, but also was the first to use liquid nitrogen in his kitchen to make it. This was before anyone heard of molecular gastronomy, of course. Get started on this 2 weeks before you want to eat it, so the prunes can really marinate in the Armagnac.

ANDRE DAGUIN’S VANILLA ICE CREAM WITH PRUNES AND ARMAGNAC

Four to six servings –  Preparation time: 25 minutes  -  Standing time: At least 2 weeks  -  Chilling time: Several hours  -  Freezing time: Varies

16 pitted soft prunes
1 cup Armagnac
1 cup whole milk
1 long vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, giving four quarters—or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
1/2 to 3/4 cup natural wildflower honey to taste
Pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream

1. Two weeks or more in advance, place prunes in a large clean jar or crock. Add Armagnac to cover. Cover jar or crock and set aside in a cool place to steep.

2. When ready to make ice cream, measure out 1 cup moderately packed prunes and fill up remainder of cup with Armagnac; set aside. Use remaining prunes for garnish.

3. Scald milk with vanilla bean (but not vanilla extract); set aside. Whisk egg yolks over very low heat in medium, nonreactive saucepan until warm. Continue whisking, adding honey gradually. When all honey is added and honey has begun to dissolve, remove saucepan from heat. Do not boil. Whisk in hot milk and salt.

4. Return saucepan to low heat. Cook and stir until custard is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily, about 170 to 180 degrees on an instant-registering thermometer. Do not boil. Immediately strain mixture into a bowl. Stir in cream and vanilla extract if using.

5. Refrigerate, covered, until very cold. Then beat very vigorously with whisk or electric beaters.

6. Strain custard mixture into an ice cream freezer. Follow manufacturer`s directions for freezing. When ice cream is just beginning to set, drop in prunes one by one (while machine is still in operation) and drizzle in Armagnac. Continue freezing until ice cream is firm.

7. To serve, scoop out ice cream, top with an extra prune, and drizzle some Armagnac over it.

You can cook savory dishes with prunes, too. Roasted with meats like porklamb, rabbit, or game, prunes can offer a bit of sweetness.  A favorite little treat of mine is a prune wrapped in bacon, either duck or pig variety work just fine.

prunes pork

Stuffed Pork Loin with Prunes and Porcini, recipe at dartagnan.com

Whether  coated in chocolate, stuffed with foie gras or Roquefort cheese, soaked in Armagnac, baked in pies and pastries, or simply eaten out of hand on a cheese board, the prune is a ubiquitous part of life in Agen, and a beloved fruit of Southwest France. So Happy Four Prunes Day!  I hope you will enjoy some prunes today, and if you have a little Armagnac, wash them down with that elixir. You can’t go wrong.

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