24 October 2010

What the devil...?

A few days ago I made a batch of what are called Pruneaux au lard fumé in French and "Devils on Horseback" in England. They're an excellent apéritif finger-food. And they're easy to make, though it takes a little time.

I don't know why the English call them Devils and what Horseback has to do with it. Is the Devil the prune or the bacon? There's also a concoction called Angels on Horseback, which is oysters wrapped in bacon and then baked, broiled, or grilled. I guess the Devil is the prune, then, and the oyster is the Angel. The bacon is the Horeseback part, even though bacon is pork, not horse meat. Maybe I'm being too literal.

It's a little like Devil's Food Cake vs. Angel Food Cake, isn't it?

Pruneaux au lard fumé, or Devils on Horseback

Prunes are a good way to preserve plums. In French, the plum is la prune and the prune is le pruneau — plural pruneaux. The most famous pruneaux come from the French Southwest around the town of Agen, and are called pruneaux d'Agen. Evidently, plum trees were brought to Agen from the Middle East at the time of the Crusades, a thousand years ago. They thrived.

The prunes known as pruneaux d'Agen in France

The dried fruit and the Southwestern town between Bordeaux and Toulouse are an automatic association in France, and Agen prunes are available, whole or pitted, in all the supermarkets. Actually, I've read that a lot of the prunes sold in France are now imported from California.

The ones I used were packaged and distributed by a company in Marseille. They were sold dénoyautés, which means the noyau, the pit, was already removed. And according to the label on the package, they were dénoyautés à la main — by hand, not by a machine. I seldom buy pitted plums, but these looked good and weren't expensive.

The French equivalent for U.S.-style bacon
is also known as lard fumé.

And I used French poitrine fumée, which is also called lard fumé, because that's the closest equivalent for U.S.-style streaky bacon. What I got was very lean, in nice even slices. It comes from the supermarket. At the open-air markets, a charcutier or charcutière will thinly slice a slab of smoked bacon for you too. Or you can buy the slab and slice it yourself, or cut it up into chunks called lardons for other recipes.

Wrap each prune in half a slice of bacon
and stab it with a toothpick.

To make 20 pruneaux au lard fumé, you need ten slices of bacon. Cut them in half down the middle, because half a slice is long enough to wrap around a prune. Pit the prunes if they aren't already dénoyautés.

Sprinkled with black pepper and ready for the oven.

Wrap each prune in a half-slice of bacon and attach it with a toothpick. Bake the wrapped prunes in a hot oven for 10 minutes, or until the bacon is browned and starting to crisp. Serve warm at apéritif/cocktail time with a glass of wine — red, white, or rosé.

No strike news from me today. Gas and diesel fuel are still only spottily available around the Loire Valley. The employees of the requisitioned oil refinery near Paris are planning to take the government to court again on Monday to try to get the latest requisition order overturned. Across France, trains are still running on reduced schedules, but not so reduced as before.


  1. They have the same name here in OZ. I can say that Sue seduced me (in an epicure sense) with them in our very early days.

  2. Mmmmm, those look tasty. I bet the mix of sweet and salty is delicious.


  3. Beside my computer I keep a spiral bound small notebook which I've recently started listing new french vocabulary I am learning from your blog as well as other french language sites. Your descriptions of the products, the photos and the french make your blog interesting as well as informative. I have told my other classmates about your site. I am hoping you will start to hear from them as well.

  4. Those bacon slices have the perfect balance of fat and meat. Did you select the best, or was the whole package from SuperU like that?

    I'm going to have to try this, and oysters, and who knows what else, "on horseback".

  5. John, the bacon comes in packages containing 10 slices. I looked through the dozen or so that were in the refrigerated case and picked the nicest-looking ones.

    Mary, thanks, I'm glad to know I'm helping.

    Leon, ooh la la.

  6. Are you expecting a hungry army for a visit? Looks like you prepared enough for an army. Don't expect they freeze very well.

    Or maybe you will take them yourself to the front lines (in this case the strikers) to feed the troops.

    These go on the list of stuff that I want to try during my next visit.

  7. That looks good. I must try it.

  8. The Prune is the Devil and the Oyster the Angel.. and even though I am from the UK , I have absolutely no idea what it has to do with "horseback". Such a ridiculous name ..



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