When I’m looking for recipes that I know will work without any issue, that I know will be crowd-pleasers, and that I know I’ll enjoy cooking, I go to my collection of Ina Garten cookbooks. I’m so happy to add one more book to that category. The latest is Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and I received a review copy. This one is similar to her other books with soups and salads, dinner entrees, vegetables, and desserts. But this time, there are a few more personal stories included throughout, and there’s a chapter just for the cheese course. Ina occasionally mentions serving a cheese course before or instead of dessert, and it works well for a dinner party since it’s mostly just assembled before serving with any prepped items made in advance. The recipes include a fig jam to serve on goat cheese bruschetta, a roasted plum chutney for serving with Mt. Tam which is one of my favorite cheeses, and English Oat Crackers to go with cheese and fruit. I was so interested in the cheese course chapter I had to make the Port Wine Prunes with Stilton and Walnuts before trying anything else. Some of the many other recipes I want to try soon are the Smoked Salmon Pizzas for cocktails, the “16 Bean” Pasta e Fagioli soup, the Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower, and the Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel. And, the Herb and Apple Bread Pudding and Pumpkin Flan with Maple Caramel have me pondering Thanksgiving menu possibilities. Getting back to the cheese course concept though, I like the idea of sometimes ending a meal with something not completely sweet or at least with a mix of sweet and savory. For the Port Wine Prunes, my only concern was that they would be messy to pick up and eat with your fingers. I imagined the wine would drip off the prunes and leave stains on the way to your mouth.
To begin, the prunes were plumped by placing them in a single layer in a saucepan and adding Port wine. The wine was brought to a boil and them simmered for a few minutes before removing the pan from the heat, covering it, and leaving the prunes to steep for an hour. Stilton was crumbled and mashed together with some mascarpone. The cheese mixture was left in the refrigerator until serving time. Last, walnut halves were toasted. To assemble, the prunes were placed on a platter. Each prune was topped with a spoonful of the Stilton mixture and then a walnut half.
I should have known that Ina would have had a solution if these were messy to eat. The prunes weren’t drippy or messy at all. These are one-bite items, and they were easy to pop into your mouth with no issues. The classic flavor pairing of Port with Stilton was lovely, and the toasted walnuts added nice crunch. These were a delicious, simple way to end a meal and would also make a great addition to a larger cheese board.
Port Wine Prunes with Stilton and Walnuts
Reprinted from Cooking for Jeffrey. Copyright © 2016 by Ina Garten. Photographs by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
serves 6 to 8
One of my favorite things to serve for a cheese course or dessert is English Stilton and a glass of Port wine. This recipe combines both of those flavors with sweet prunes, and they’re a really surprising addition to any cheese board.
24 large pitted prunes
2/3 cup ruby Port wine
2 1/2 ounces English Stilton, crumbled
2 tablespoons Italian mascarpone cheese
24 walnut halves, lightly toasted
Place the prunes in a saucepan just large enough to hold them in a single layer and add the Port. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for at least an hour for the prunes to become infused with the Port.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash the Stilton and mascarpone together with a fork. Cover and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, place the slightly warm prunes on a serving platter, place a small mound of the cold Stilton mixture in the hollow of each prune, and top with a toasted walnut, pressing very lightly. Serve as part of a cheese platter.
Prepare the prunes and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Warm slightly, complete the recipe, and serve.
I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program.