Converting the Prunophobe


My wife has one of those ingrained childhood associations of prunes with prune juice that has left her avoiding the fruit in her adult life. What's more, the marketing efforts by the prune industry to re-brand the fruit as "dried plums" have been a total loss in her case. "They're still prunes," she would tell me.

But, when I saw her try (and, better yet, actually enjoy) a dessert of prunes cooked in red wine and served with mascarpone at Frankies 457 Spuntino (457 Court Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn), I felt a tinge of victory that prunes had penetrated her culinary conscious.

I recently attempted a reconstruction of the dish at home and succeeded through sheer improvisation, particularly since we did not have any red wine on hand. Instead, I used port, and although port can be saccharine and potentially exaggerate the super-sweetness prunes, I found that adding lemon cut the sugar, added some acidity, and brought a touch of tartness.

I made up the recipe on the fly, so the measurements that follow aren't exact. The technique's the thing, starting with reducing about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of port over medium heat. As the alcohol burned away (watch out for a flame-up), I added two cloves, a cinnamon stick, and enough sugar to fill my palm. When the port had reduced by almost half, I strained out the spices and added about a dozen prunes, continuing to cook the sauce down until it became a thick syrup. At this point, I added the juice of one half of a lemon to tame the sweetness. If the sauce gets too thick and threatens to turn from a syrup into something closer to tar, just stir in some water. When it finally had the right consistency, I removed the pan from the heat. You can stop here if you'd like and refrigerate everything, reheating the prunes and sauce for serving later.

Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of mascarpone onto the middle of a plate (or, if you want to be fancy, form quenelles with the cheese), and layer the prunes on top, spooning the sweet sauce over and around the mascarpone. Warm, sweet fruit and cool, creamy mascarpone -- a combination even a lifelong prunophobe can't resist.




That's a gorgeous photograph. And it sounds delicious. But I'm a prune-lover, always have, always will be.


Happy new year, Josh - I'm not a prune person either, but this looks really tempting... beautiful photos! How is Anya doing? I'd love to see more of her gorgeous shots too...


I'm solidly in the pro-prune camp, so it doesn't take much to convince me, but those prunes look and sound absolutely delicious, Josh! Beautiful.


I import for our Fairway Markets the world's greatest prunes -- pruneaux d'Agen, from southwest France, the d'Ente variety. We sell them in bulk. They are vastly superior to any prune from California. They're dirt-cheap, too. And for the record, I (Fairway) was the first to introduce mascarpone to New Yorkers, back in 1980. Mimi Sheraton wrote about it. That was the first time I got my name in the damn paper.


Pruneaux d'Agen are divine! I had them for the first time at Bouley - I don't know how I could ever go back to Sunkist.


Prunes. Armagnac, chocolate, bacon. marriages made in Gascon heaven. I live and write smack dab in the middle of acres of plums and other delcious fruits near Agen, France.
Hurrah for you for helping break the 'food as medicine' mentality regarding prunes. Merci from the prune-oh! growers of France!


Fantastic post! One dish that helped me appreciate the culinary potential of prunes is Carbonnades Flamandes (Belgian beef stew with beer). Petite Abeille here in New York does a pretty good version.


It looks and sounds delicious. I think I'll try it soon. Did I get that right? 1 serving = 12 prunes? The common USA supermarket variety of prune?Considering the prune's effect on, uh, digestive tract motility, that sounds like a lot of prunes.

The photo looks more like 3 to 4 prunes per serving, which seems more reasonable. A nice little bite of dessert.


Definitely 3-4 prunes per person! I started with 12, we shared about half of those (among 2 people) and had the other half as leftovers.


Sounds wonderful. However I am searching for a recipe that is just called prunes in Port. Starting with 1 kg prunes, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel strips plus port. I'm sure the port is warmed and the sugar dissolved, and then everything is packed into jars and it keeps for months.
Does anyone have anything similar please?


Thank you so very much for taking the time to share…very useful, indeed!


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