From Chris Halpin
Prunes need a facelift! There is a certain cachet to dried mangos, cherries and even apricots, but the prune has been given a bad rap – the brunt of jokes and subjected to derision for too long. But, all they are is dried plums, delicious and great to cook with. These recipes will make you a believer.
bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed prunes
These lovely bites freeze very well. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Stuff 12 pitted prunes with 12 blanched almonds. Take 6 bacon strips, cut them in half and wrap around each stuffed prune; secure with a bamboo skewer. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. If you’re going to freeze them, arrange the uncooked morsels on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze them uncovered for 24 hours before storing them in a container. This will ensure that they don’t stick to each other. Bake from frozen following the above instructions. When the bacon is crisp, they will be thawed and hot in the centre. Makes 1 dozen.
veal scaloppini stuffed with prunes and green peppercorns and wrapped in vine leaves
The veal wrapped in vine leaves makes it so juicy and wonderful. Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a bowl put 1 c. pitted prunes, chopped, 1 T. green peppercorns, lightly crushed, 1 t. ground coriander and a pinch of salt. Mix with your hands and work into a ball. On a work surface, lay out 3 large veal scaloppini, slightly overlapped, and arrange it so that the overlap is vertical to you, then lightly salt. Work the prune filling into a coil so that it goes the full width of the veal and place it across the bottom part of the veal. Roll the veal up. Remove the stems from about 6 vine leaves in brine to be able to wrap the veal. Wrap the veal snugly, place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush it with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vine leaves are crisp and the meat is done to your liking. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes before slicing into medallions. Serves 4.
savoy cabbage braised with prunes and chestnuts
I like using savoy cabbage because it has a fine texture. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté 2 T. butter and 1 small onion, sliced, for 5 minutes. Add 9 chestnuts, quartered, and sauté a minute more, then add 1 c. chicken or vegetable stock and 1 small head of savoy cabbage, finely sliced, 3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, and salt to taste. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until very tender, about 20 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add 9 pitted prunes, quartered and 1/4 c. cider vinegar. Increase the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring from time to time, until the liquid is almost gone, but still saucy. Serves 6.
sautéed chicken livers with prunes and poblano chiles
I just love the combination of the mild spiciness of the poblano and sweet of the prunes, just perfect with the chicken livers. In a large pan over medium-high heat put 1/4 c. olive oil and 1 shallot, diced, and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Rinse, blot and halve 12 chicken livers, add them to the pan with 1 t. salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add 1 fresh poblano chile (I’ve found them at Co-op, Superstore and Safeway), cored and sliced, and 6 pitted prunes, quartered, and sauté another 5 minutes, or until the livers are cooked through. To finish, add 2 T. sherry vinegar and 1 T. fresh thyme leaves, and sauté a minute more before serving. I like to serve this as a starter with crostini. Serves 4.
pan-seared pork tenderloin with prunes and armagnac
Prunes and armagnac are pretty much as traditional as you can get in France. Salt and pepper 1 large pork tenderloin. In a heavy skillet, over high heat, put 2 T. butter. When the butter sizzles, add the pork and brown on all sides. Once the pork is evenly browned, remove from the skillet and set aside. Turn the heat off; add 4 garlic cloves, minced, 1 t. crushed fennel seeds and sauté a minute. Then add 1/2 c. armagnac and, with a wooden spoon, rub the bottom of your skillet to deglaze. Add 1 c. water, bring to a boil, and return the pork to the skillet. Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, turning from time to time. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add 8 pitted prunes, cut in half, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. When cooked, remove the pork from the skillet to rest while you finish the sauce. Make a paste with 1 T. cornstarch and 2 T. water, and stir into the sauce to thicken. Slice the pork into medallions, arrange on plates and spoon sauce over. Serves 4.
These are the kind that “dance in your head.” So easy and delicious, with no baking required. In a food processor put 1 c. hazelnuts and process into a medium-fine consistency, then put into a bowl. Add 2 t. orange zest, 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. nutmeg, 1/2 t. allspice and mix well. Into the food processor, put 1 c. dried apricots and 1 c. pitted prunes and process to a medium-fine consistency. Add to the bowl with the hazelnuts and add 1/4 c. liquid honey. Mix well with your hands and work into a ball. Take a generous tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a small ball. Repeat until you’ve used all the mixture. In a small bowl, put 1 c. coloured sugar. I get extra-fancy coloured sugar at Brûlée Patisserie. Roll each ball in the coloured sugar, place in an airtight container and store at room temperature. These are best if you allow the flavours to meld for a couple of days before serving. They will keep fresh for up to 4 weeks. Makes 24.