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When author Diana Henry wrote A Bird in the Hand offered recipes from near and far. This one is not too far from Great Britain. Inspired by the cuisine of southwestern France, she’s adopted the cooking method for the standard British, and American, home kitchen.

So, let’s start with the tricky part. When was the last time you cooked with prunes? Been a long time? Been forever? Try this recipe and you may find yourself using them more often, in this recipe and others, too.

Here the chicken is cooked alongside prunes while the chicken itself has an herbed crust of bread crumb, garlic and parsley. This is a recipe you can prepare on a weeknight, in about an hour, or wait until the weekend, take a little more time, and sip as you chop and cook.

French regional food is superb. Too often we go to Paris, stay in Paris, and eat Parisian. Here’s a wonderful alternative.

Chicken with Prunes in Red Wine Sauce

Yield: serves 4


For the chicken:

  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 large onions, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ¼ cups red wine
  • 16 mi-cuit prunes, or soft, good-quality prunes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tablespoon creme de cassis (optional)

For the herb crust:

  • Good handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons coarse bread crumbs (I prefer whole-grain bread here)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or Armagnac


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Trim the skin on the chicken so it just covers them (you just want to get rid of the ragged edges). Slice each onion half into large half-moon shaped wedges (about ¼ inch at their thickest). Heat the oil in a shallow Dutch oven that can hold all the chicken in a single layer. Season the chicken and brown it on all sides over medium-high heat, just to color it, not cook it through. Remove the chicken and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes, season, and return the chicken, skin-side up. Make sure both the chicken and the onions are quite moist with fat. Put into the oven for 20 minutes.

Heat the wine in a small pan and add the prunes. Simmer for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and the cassis (if using; I just like the extra fruity taste it imparts), then set aside.

To make the herb crust, put the parsley, salt flakes (and some pepper) and the garlic into a mortar and pestle and pound together. Or, just chop the parsley finely and mince the garlic and season.

In either case, mix to a rough paste with the bread crumbs and olive oil, then add the brandy.

When the chicken has cooked for 20 minutes, turn the onions over to color on the other side, dot the prunes among them, and add the wine. Cook for 10 minutes, then spread the herb paste over the chicken. Cook for another 10 minutes. The wine should be reduced and the prunes plump.

Source: A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry [Mitchell Beazley, 2015]