Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Clafoutis Season - What Are You Waiting For?

Clafoutis is a French, fruit-filled (dark cherries are classic) dessert, sorta like a cross between a baked pancake and a flan. I was first exposed to clafoutis while learning how to "professionally" cook, at Peter Kump's NY Cooking School, way up on E. 92nd St. When I say "way up," I'm not kidding. The school was in an old brownstone, and to get to class you first had to climb a few flights of steep, rickety stairs; once up the stairs, a whole new world awaited. That world included, among many other revelations, clafoutis.

Fast forward a few, ummmm, decades - and I'm reading one of my favorite food writer/Francophile's web site, and whaddya know? David Lebovitz is writing about clafoutis!  David gave up the restaurant grind years ago (after many years in the kitchens of Chez Panisse), and has since published a number of fine cookbooks, including 2 favorites of mine, The Perfect Scoop (really one of the great ice cream books ever) and My Paris Kitchen. And - as the title of his most recent book states, he lives in Paris full-time.

The timing of the clafoutis piece was perfect; I had a few pounds of beautifully ripe NY cherries in my fridge, and was wondering what to do with them. Weirdly, I can't eat raw cherries like I used to when I lived and worked in Silicon Valley, California. Back then, I would race out of work at lunch time during cherry season, to buy a few pounds of the best Bings I'd ever tasted, from C. J. Olsen's cherry stand, in Sunnyvale. Now, I eat a few at a time, and I'm happy. Or, I cook them.

I wanted to follow David's recipe exactly, and indeed I did, other than adding a pinch of salt to the batter. But I didn't want to turn on my regular oven (it is the middle of summer), so instead I used my Cuisinart Combi oven - and because of its size limitations, I made two separate clafoutis, which meant I could experiment a little. First one was in an enameled, cast-iron gratin dish...
Pitted cherries
Then, you pour the batter over...
Ready for baking
 And bake, per David's recipe, at 375°F, till done...
Clafoutis #1, with spoonful gone
This was quite good, but I wanted to try a slightly lower temp, in a different type of dish, so...
Pitted cherries in cazuela
With batter...
Ready for baking
And baked, per my adjustment to a slightly lower 350°F...
Clafoutis #2
We actually liked the second one a little more; I found it a touch more tender without the browning that occurred at the higher oven temp. But both were delicious.

Now, cherry season doesn't last forever. Actually, it's really short, especially using local stuff. But I think the clafoutis would work just fine with frozen cherries. And other fruits? Well, I did find some apricots in the market last week, and they worked out just fine!
Apricot clafoutis
A great thing about clafoutis is that it can be served warm, room temp, or even out of the fridge - you can even make it the day before! Thanks, David!