This recipe was taught to me by Christian Delouvrier, executive chef of La Mangeoire on Second Avenue and 53rd Street. It looks more difficult than it actually is, and it never fails to impress. Serve with mashed potatoes—the sauce is too good not use on something else. This is cannot be a last-minute decision, because you need to marinate the prunes for two days before roasting the meat. Serves eight.
2 cups pitted prunes
1 cup Armagnac
1 cup Armagnac
One rack of pork with 8–10 chops (Ask the butcher to prepare so it can be cooked whole but sliced into chops once cooked.)
¾ cup duck fat (or vegetable oil)
2 large tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and cubed
2 cups chopped onions
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
½ cup dry white wine
3½ cups veal stock
¼ cup clarified butter
4 endives, trimmed and blanched
Two days before roasting, place the prunes in Armagnac in a nonreactive bowl, seal with plastic film and refrigerate.
On the day you plan to serve the roast, using a sharp knife, make a 2- to 3-inch-deep cut running lengthwise into the meat toward the bones. Open as you would a book and place the marinated prunes in a neat line along the cut. Fold the meat back over. With butcher's twine, tie the meat closed in between each chop Generously season the roast with salt and pepper.
In a large, ovenproof skillet, melt half of the duck fat (or heat half of the oil) and sear the roast on all sides until nicely browned. Remove the meat. Lower the heat and add the tomatoes, half the onions, half the carrots and half the garlic to the skillet. Sauté for five minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add thyme, bay leaf and wine. Using a wooden spoon, stir to deglaze the pan. Simmer for another five minutes while the wine reduces by about half. Add half the veal stock. Set the roast on top of the vegetables and place the skillet in the hot oven for 35 minutes, basting with the liquid every ten minutes. Lower the oven to 375° F and roast the pork for another hour and ten minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife, or until a meat thermometer reads 145° F. Baste every 15 minutes, and keep adding water to avoid the liquid getting too thick and evaporating. When done, take out of the oven and wrap with aluminum foil to keep warm and rest. Keep the oven on at 375° F.
About a half hour before serving, heat the clarified butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the endives and sauté for about ten minutes until golden on all sides. Season and remove from the heat. Heat remaining duck fat in an ovenproof skillet and sauté the rest of the carrots and onions and garlic for about five minutes. Place the reserved endives on top of them. Add the remaining veal stock and place in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the endives are cooked.
Remove aluminum-foil covered meat from the skillet and heat the braising liquid for about eight minutes. Pour through a fine strainer and pour into a gravy boat. Remove the aluminum foil and the twine from the pork, and with a large, sharp knife, cut in between the bones to form individual pork chops with the prunes stuffed in the middle. On a warm platter, place the endives with the vegetables and the pork chops. Spoon a bit of the sauce over each chop and serve with mashed potatoes and the sauce on the side.