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Once Upon a Central Valley Plum

Pluots, photographed by Flickr user Dawn Endico
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but laziness and impatience are not without their merits. In a past life, I found myself with a flat and a half of the Central Valley's finest plums and pluots. (That's a flat box of fruit to the rest of you!)

As time passed and I continued to do nothing with the fruit, an image of it fuzzy and deflated burned itself into my brain; I could hear it weep spoiled juices like a human child. By continuing to ripen on my counter, the fruit passively aggressively insinuated that I didn't have what it took. I stared at the dusty, color-saturated skins of the Flavor Queens, Dapple Dandies and Yummy Rosas (pluots have the best names--like porn stars of the stone fruit world) and felt myself pulled in two directions: search out a recipe that employed a copious amount plums and pluots and go buy ingredients VS. the amazingly strong desire to not leave the house.

At the time, I was working two jobs and stage-ing (restaurant-speak for working for free) in a pastry kitchen. On the illusive Day Off, I felt no shame indulging my laziness, but I would feel ashamed if I let such a bounty of produce go to waste. Deeply ashamed, in fact, because my flat and a half had been a gift and letting it rot felt like an affront. But I really, really didn't want to drive to a grocery store and lose my parking space. Anyone who's ever lived in Hollywood knows where I'm coming from there. But the fruit!

Mired in produce guilt, I poured myself a finger of bourbon. I looked at the plums and pluots. I sipped my bourbon. I looked at the plums and pluots. I sipped my bourbon. My eyes and tastebuds had a brief conference and I found myself pouring bourbon into a pot of melted butter, stirring in brown sugar, adding skinned, sliced stone fruit. That was one of my better decisions and I would later realize there was a name for what I had done: poaching.

Poaching--cooking in liquid--distributes heat evenly, imparts flavor and creates a sauce. Poaching plums and pluots in butter softens the fruit without totally breaking it down into mush, lending a sophisticated flavor to the whole mess. The sweet woodiness of the bourbon plays very well with the dense tartness of plums and pluots. I don't have a recipe, per se, so have yourself some bourbon and let the specifics take care of themselves. Basically, you want enough liquid in the pot to cover the fruit and enough brown sugar to cut the alcohol, without making the sum total too sweet. Bring the butter/bourbon to a simmer, stir in the sugar until dissolved, add the fruit and simmer gently until you like what you taste. This concoction makes a great topping for ice cream or pancakes, and an excellent filling for a cobbler or crumble.

If you don't cook with booze, substitute a vanilla bean, split and scraped, for the bourbon. Maybe toss in a cinnamon stick? I haven't tried that, but it sounds nice.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Dawn Endico. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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