Inspiration from France


While working and living in Paris earlier in the summer, I pored over French cookbooks and culinary magazines, marking many pages that featured recipes I wanted to try. Of the many tantalizing dishes, one in particular -- grilled brochettes of magrets de canard and prunes -- stood out. I didn't get a chance to try it during our stay but dutifully brought the instructions home with me.

In France, I would have had no trouble buying duck breasts, or magrets, for cutting into chunks to thread onto the skewers, but in my small New England town they were next to impossible to find. Undeterred, I decided to pair cubes of pork tenderloin with the prunes. As in the original version, I cooked the prunes quickly in red wine, honey, spices and brandy (which replaced the Armagnac called for in the French version), then reduced the mixture to a glaze to brush on the grilled meat and prunes. I also made a few changes, omitting bay leaves and adding orange peel for seasoning.

After preparing the pork and prune brochettes several times for my family and culinary assistants, I was ready to try them out at a late summer dinner, and a perfect occasion presented itself last week. Friends whom we had not seen for more than 30 years called to say they would be in our part of the country and asked if we could all go out to dinner. I suggested that they come to our house instead, and they quickly accepted, offering to bring wine for the evening's meal.

The pork brochettes turned out to be an easy entree to use when entertaining because they could be assembled in advance. I cooked the prunes early in the day and made the glaze, then threaded the fruit and pork onto the skewers. At serving time, the brochettes needed only a few minutes on a hot grill. Side dishes of steamed sugar snap peas tossed with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds plus a watercress and cucumber salad made simple accompaniments to the delicious pork and prunes.

Maybe I'll try the duck breasts when I'm in France the next time, but for now I am pleased with my American variation.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

Grilled Pork and Prune Brochettes

Makes 6 servings

40 large pitted prunes (about 14 ounces)

2 1/4 cups dry red wine

6 tablespoons brandy

4 1/2 tablespoons honey

three 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken in half

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

3/4 cup water

2 pork tenderloins (each 12 to 14 ounces), trimmed of any excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes



2 large navel oranges

6 metal or bamboo skewers (see note)

Place prunes in medium heavy saucepan and stir in wine, brandy, honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves, pepper and water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Using slotted spoon, remove prunes and set aside. Discard cinnamon sticks. Return saucepan to high heat and cook until mixture becomes syrupy and is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes or longer. Watch carefully. Remove from heat and set aside.

When prunes have cooled to room temperature, thread them alternately with pork cubes onto metal or bamboo skewers. (Brochettes can be prepared 4 to 5 hours ahead. Place on a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling.)

When ready to grill, oil grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Brush prunes and pork with oil, then salt and pepper them generously. When grill is very hot, add skewers and grill, turning frequently. If you have a lid, cover grill, leaving vents open. When done, pork cubes should be browned and meat cooked through so that meat thermometer inserted into several cubes registers 155 to 160 degrees. Grilling time should be 10 to 12 minutes, depending on type of grill used and intensity of heat.

Meanwhile, use citrus stripper to remove peel from oranges in long strips, or you can use a sharp paring knife to remove just the color portion of the skin in long peels. Cut peels into very thin matchstick strips.

Arrange cooked pork and prune brochettes on serving platter. Brush skewers on all sides with some of the reduced wine mixture. Sprinkle with orange strips.

Note: If using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water to cover for 30 minutes. Pat dry and then use.

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