Last Saturday I came home from Market with a fresh chicken and corn on the cob, respectively from Plew Farm and Charlie Brown. I take turns getting corn from Grabowskis, Charlie, and Woods. They’re all good, only difference being Woods’ is organic. Problem is, Leo likes his corn small and tender and sweet (you may precede each of those adjectives with ‘very’ if you like). I like mine assertively corny, with large, firm kernels, probably because I grew up with what I think was young, field, dent corn, at least at the beginning of the season. Cow Corn. Then we would switch over to real sweet corn from Grandma’s garden. That was a treat.
So I was looking forward to firing up the big green egg come evening, and sitting out on the deck with a glass of wine, my journal, my book, and NPR to satisfy my various senses while I grilled dinner, and to that end I cut up the chicken and, salting each piece well, fitted them into a bowl. In a couple of hours I’d add water to them and put a plate on top, thereby combining dry brine with wet in order to tease out those sinewy little chicken joints that happen with happy, flavorful, free-range chickens.
I don’t put anything else in the salt or the water because I’m convinced marinade is just a waste of good ingredients unless you do a dry rub just before grilling. Most people I know are passionate about their marinades, though. They’ll describe all these wonderful ingredients they put together to soak their meats in. I’m like – What a waste! But I just nod my head because what can you say. People think they’re tenderizing and flavorizing. Who am I to object? They only look at me in a puzzled way and kind of fade away. “I thought she was a foodie,” they’re thinking. It’s enough to make a person doubt their own findings, so I was glad to see Russ Parsons of the LA Times last week spouting my opinion in an article called “The Truth About Marinades: Most are a waste of time,” (not to mention product). He does recommend salting the meat in advance, an hour or two, or brining. “Simply salting meat and letting it stand may not have the romance of more complicated marinades, but it works.”
Anyway, then I saw my phone message blinking and it was my friend Wendy inviting us up for dinner that night! My first impulse was to make a counter invitation – invite them down, because I had this chicken, you know, and fresh corn... “But hey,” Friend said, “My dining room table is unloaded, uncluttered, and we have to take advantage of that...” She’s a set designer, so that’s her mindset, and after all, I could sit on her deck with a glass of wine and good conversation with good friends, so of course... My chicken would only get tenderer in the fridge. The corn was a different matter... day old corn? Doesn’t compute! So I sliced it from the cob and froze it. We will appreciate it even more come February.
My only problem then was to come up with a dessert. It’s kind of understood in Wendy’s and my dining relationship that I’ll do that. It’s usually a pie, but I didn’t want to make a pie. So there. I’d made a peach upside down cake for Leo’s birthday a few days before, so I had a couple of peaches – 3, to be exact – left over. I had eggs, very little flour, very little sugar... what could be done with these things.
As I was going through my ‘old recipes’ file, somehow – from whence? – up popped the word ‘clafouti’. I hadn’t made one in years, the idea had dropped right out of my food memory, but I did remember it was simple. And I did want simple. And really good. Delicious, in fact, and you always want Delicious!
And there were my notes on it, Larousse Gastronomique explaining that it was from the French Limousin region and consisted of unstoned black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a fairly thick pancake batter, served lukewarm, dusted with sugar. Clarifying that Clafir in Provencial dialect means “to fill”. It’s odd that the French dictionary calls it a pancake batter rather than a crêpes batter, which I think it more accurately resembles.
And Madeleine Kamman, comparing it to a cobbler “without baking powder”, although she also says the batter is never made according to fixed rules, and contains as much fruit as you can afford, “a good way to use bruised and partly overripe fruit”. And, might I add, fruit of any kind. Cherries, peaches, plums, berries...
The recipe I used – and wrote down so many years ago – came from the New York Times magazine, back when it actually had a smart cooking column. This is a cakier clafuti than what many people think – some think of one as simply a puff, a shell that then is filled with fruit. Anyway, this is the one I make:
Please note: Make the batter ahead of time, at least 15 minutes, but you could make it an hour or so ahead of time, too, to allow the gluten to relax.
Cherry (or Peach or Plum) Clafouti
or berry or apple or...
Preparation time: 10 minutes. Baking time, 40 to 50 minutes.
- ¼ pound (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled; Plus a tablespoon for buttering the pan;
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar (4.5 oz.)
- ¼ teaspoon or pinch of sea salt
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour (4 oz.)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (this really is optional; I’ve made them with and without)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 quart of Bing or Queen Anne cherries, about 1 pound, stemmed and (if you like) pitted, OR 3 or 4 peaches dropped into boiling water briefly, peeled, halved, and stoned OR a pint or so of plums, halved and stoned OR... your choice of fruit;
- Confectioners’ sugar for decoration
- lightly whipped cream*
Heat the oven to 350°
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and salt until the mixture is thickened and light lemon color. Add the melted butter, flour and vanilla, and beat until thoroughly blended. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
In the meantime, evenly coat a 10 inch pie pan with the 1 tablespoon butter. Place the fruit over the bottom of the pan.
When ready to bake, pour the batter evenly over the fruit and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and puffy.
Put a couple tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar into a fine sieve and gently tap it to sprinkle it on the clafouti.
*If you’re transporting whipped cream put a sufficient amount of heavy cream into a pint canning jar, add a sufficient amount of sugar and a touch of sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt, put the lid on and shake it until it thickens. Proportions might be ¾ cup to 1 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon. A touch of the sour stabilizes the cream so it doesn’t weep.
We had a marvelous dinner... Grilled corn on the cob (from Woods at the Market) smeared with a mashed cumin, garlic, and chili butter, marinated pork kabobs (grilled and charred, that marinade toasted the outside of the kabobs quite nicely), and a pestoed pasta. And the peach clafouti ended it nicely.
I liked this so much and the batter is so simple (and tasty) that I made a savory – Chiles Relleno – clafouti with poblano and jalapeno chilis, garlic, cheddar, tomatoes and some of that corn off the cob midweek. It was delicioso. And today I’m going to make one with little golden plums that I got from Rebecca Worthing at Rebecca’s Kitchen at the Rutland Farmers’ Market. She took time out from making her marvelous French pastries to pick them from her father’s trees.