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These days sleep is at a premium, and mornings are more hectic than ever. All the more reason to give in when the spirit, and appetite, cry out for the familiar, the homey, and the soothing.

The French call this recipe a clafouti, but don’t let it intimidate you (as anything with a Gallic slant can, and has, for so many of us ordinary home cooks). It’s just a custard with stewed fruit added. In France it’s usually made with cherries* and is technically a dessert, served warm, but I love it for breakfast. The eggs in it add a great punch of protein, which we can all use in the morning, no matter who we are or what’s on the docket for the day.

The clafouti is a staple in my house because it’s so delicious, so versatile, and so quick to throw together—you can take it from ingredients in the fridge to a pan in the oven in about half an hour. Kids don’t tend to argue with anything that’s sweet, creamy and fruity, either.

You can make it with any single fruit, really, or combine a few. Two of my favorite combinations are pineapples and mangoes with rum and apples and pears with apple brandy. Don’t worry about the alcohol; most of it burns off, leaving the custard with just a delicate fragrance.

After Hurricane Irene slammed us at the Jersey Shore, many of us lost power for days and with it, much of what we’d stashed for the winter in the freezer. I had picked mulberries from local trees in June and gorgeous organic blueberries in July. Berries are fragile—they take well to freezing once, but not twice—so I combined them for this. It was lovely, mellowly sweet.**

Take out an 8×8″ brownie pan and grease very well with canola oil or butter. In a medium bowl, combine 3 eggs, 1 c milk (any kind) or cream, 2/3 c all-purpose flour, a couple of tablespoons of melted butter, and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract. I use a 2 c glass liquid measuring jug as my bowl and then stir with a fork. Easier.

Take out a wide, flat skillet, put it on medium heat, add another pat of butter, let it melt a bit, then add your fruit. Any kind will do, about 4 c total. Put in 1/2 c sugar or honey and stir. If you’re using fall or winter fruits like pears, apples, or cranberries, brown sugar is awesome. Add a little booze, maybe a 1/4 c, or more if you’re feeding adults who are cranky in the mornings. Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur and is wonderful with most fruits; tropical fruits take well to their neighbor, rum; Amaretto, an almond liqueur, pairs well with any fruit in its family, like peaches, nectarines or apricots. Or just add extra vanilla extract, which is just vanilla steeped in alcohol. It’s kind of fun messing around with different combinations.

Cook the fruit until it’s a little soft and it’s hot, then pour it into your pan. Give the egg mixture one more quick stir, then pour that over the fruit. If you want, top the whole shebang with a little bit of cinnamon sugar—that’s maybe 1/4 c sugar mixed with 1-2 tsp cinnamon.

Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil (to catch any spillage). Bake in a 375 oven for 20 minutes if you want your clafouti soft and a bit loose, up to 30 minutes if you like it set.

I shot the clafouti photo above in a beautiful little milk glass bowl, but that’s false advertising. My favorite way to eat it is as the heathen I am, with a spoon and the entire pan in front of me. No, I don’t eat the whole thing. But Lord knows I could. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve come close.

*with the stones left in them. The French think they lend flavor to the dish. At least that’s what they say, and I’ve decided to believe them. I’d hate to think a nation that produced a smile button like Jacques Torres would be malicious at heart.

**It’s fun to say mellowly.

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