Le Prince D’Aquitaine À La Tour Abolie

I reread my France posts recently, and it already feels sort of like if it happened to someone else, especially the early ones (since I was so jetlagged). And there are still so many photos and so much information left to process. Since the freshness of the experience fades in inverse proportion to said processing, future posts in the “Things What I Learned In France” department are likely to be less literal and more an organic assimilation of the information I absorbed while there. This post is about an homage to Gascony that popped into my head as I unwrapped the many goodies I had stashed in my luggage, including a sampler of the Chapolards’ charcuterie–saucisson sec, saucisse sèche, and noix de jambon–which Dominique graciously gave me and which somehow ended up swaddled in plastic bags and dirty laundry and buried deep in the recesses of my suitcase for the trip home.

I kid, of course; bringing those things home would have been illegal. Also, there was the Armagnac. And the prunes, and the Tarbais bean and Espelette pepper seeds, and pistachio oil and truffle salt and other items that would be at the top of your must-have list if your plane happened to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle and leave you stranded on some desert island somewhere like in a certain TV show that actually managed to be more annoying than Twin Peaks. I’m all about the pragmatism.

Pruneaux d’Agen and Armagnac are two of the most famous agricultural products in Gascony, and rightly so. The prunes are mi-cuit, (“half-cooked”) in that they are dried only up to the point where they shrivel and darken into prunes but the centers, surrounding the pits, are still moist and taste of fresh plums. It’s the best of both worlds. Prunes soaked in Armagnac are a popular treat, and as I fondled my illicit booty (which, if you’re going to fondle some booty, is the best kind) it occurred to me that the combination would make an excellent ice cream: a refined and region-specific take on the tired and dated Rum Raisin flavor of yore.

Soaking the prunes in booze for a few days softens the fruit back towards its plump origins and sweetens the brandy into a lusciously seductive liqueur. It’s a winning combination, and deeply evocative of the region. I used the bottle I bought at La Grangerie, which makes pleasant sipping but is not too fine to deploy in a culinary context.

After maceration, I took most of the prunes and blended them smooth with the armagnac that remained in the jar, then pushed it all through a sieve to remove any fibrous bits of skin. The remaining prunes I chopped coarsely to add texture and visual interest to the finished product. And then I made ice cream according to my normal recipe, using maple syrup for sweetener because it’s a flavor that I knew would mesh seamlessly with the brandy and fruit and because it’s the season for syrup around here and we have a big jar or two that I wrote about a couple of posts ago.

Thus:

Homage à Gascogne: Glace aux pruneaux d’Agen et au Armagnac

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

4 egg yolks

10 Agen prunes

1/2 cup Armagnac

1/2 cup grade B maple syrup or more to taste

Put the prunes in a small jar and just cover them with Armagnac. After four or more days, remove and pit them, reserving the brandy. Purée seven of the prunes with the brandy and push through a strainer. Coarsely chop the remaining prunes and add to the prune purée.

Beat the egg yolks. Scald the milk in a sauce pan with the maple syrup and stir it into the cream. Add the milk/cream to the yolks, whisking in a small amount to temper them, then some more, then add the rest, whisking the whole time. Strain this into the top of a double boiler set over simmering water and add the prune mixture, whisking until the custard thickens enough to coat a spoon. Transfer custard into a covered container and refrigerate overnight. Process in your ice cream maker until good and thick, yielding a proud curl when scooped. Place in freezer for another 30-60 minutres before serving to firm it up. Serve with more Armagnac on the side.

17 comments to Le Prince D’Aquitaine À La Tour Abolie

  • I like your food pictures better when they have a setting besides “white background”. It makes the food more approachable. That being said I would happily approach a bowl of this ice cream. When I was Cathy’s assistant for her charcuterie course we served the students boudin blanc sausages over mashed potatoes with a prune soaked in armagnac. It was amazing. I can only imagine how good that ice cream is.

  • Rum raisin indeed. This is great, Peter, and sure to happen over here tout suite. I know how Gascony sneaks into food thinking. Totally get it.

  • bill

    oh peter this looks positively decadent…
    when i returned from my charcuterie experience with kate i soaked some of those same agen prunes in armagnac and used them to make a clafoutis. it was spectacular but this takes those prunes to a whole ‘nuther level !

  • My imagination is loving this ice cream. Great idea! I also like Amanda’s suggestion of the Armagnac-soaked prune with boudin blanc and mashed spuds. Gotta try that!

  • Anna Dibble

    looked for you on fbk – don’t have another email address for you. Saw that Taylor Farm is hosting a salami workshop. Is that you?! Don’t know if I can make it. We’re down in FL – panhandle, and am just getting back (driving north on Fri) on Monday night. But will try. Wish you were doing it later in the month!! Maybe you’ll do it again….

  • Peter

    Amanda: It’s really good.

    Cathy: As you know, this combination is one for the ages.

    Bill: It lends itself well to ice cream.

    Zoomie: The best part is that they work with both sweet and savory.

    Anna: That is me, and I hope you can make it. If not, my guess would be late summer for a repeat.

  • I love this idea for ice cream, especially how you macerated the prunes and then filtered the prune armagnace mix while adding the chopped prunes for texture. What a delightfully decadent ice cream!

  • Beckie Lippman

    As a former ink developer I know what you say is so true. I am looking forward to seeing the exhibition.

  • nina

    I actually said “shut up” aloud while reading this, alone. I meant it in the best possible way, no I can not handle reading about this any longer with out getting to taste it.

  • El

    I am sure the stemware and bowl have a story behind them.

    But now, it’s too cold for ice cream (yay)…though I could make an exception…!

  • Dillon

    I think the Armagnac is going to your head. Posting recipes now?

  • Dominique, Christiane & I were burning your ears yesterday as we feasted at Jehanne’s foie gras farm. I love that Gascony got under your skin and is now oozing out your culinary pores. This long culinary adventure continues as you make your own terroir chez vous- maple syrup indeed!

  • Anna Dibble

    Peter, I was going to show up tomorrow, but Mimi emailed me and said it was off. Please keep me posted – really want to learn about making salami.

  • Stu

    Looks well nice, will have to wait though…no ice cream churner.

  • Mr Z

    “..the tired and dated Rum Raisin flavor of yore.”

    Tired?

    Dated?

    Them’s fightin’ words! At least, they would be – if everything you said wasn’t true. One of my favorite childhood flavors, forever vying with Butter Pecan for the Palate Pleasin’ Championship Belt, Icebox treats Division.

    Lovely to see it get the attention it deserves. I’d ask you to take a look at Spumoni, but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort :D

    Cheers
    Mr Z

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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