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Pear and Blackberry Clafoutis

8 Jun

I find the human mind fascinating. The way a smell can trigger a memory has always seemed incredible. It’s really one of the reasons I like to cook and bake so much. Most of us know the comfort brought on by the aromas of our mothers’ chicken soup, tamales, or whatever favorite dishes might have graced our childhood home.

Music is another one of those triggers. Do you know The Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace tune?

Chantilly lace and a pretty face
And a pony tail hangin’ down
A wiggle in the walk and a giggle in the talk
Make the world go ’round.

While this song and especially the pronunciation of Chantilly have almost nothing to do with the small city town itself, it will forever remind me of the first time my lips touched the simple yet beautifully presented dessert known as clafoutis. my mother-in-law sang the silly song to Atticus the entire way to the Château de Chantilly and back to our Marriot rental in northern France.

At the end of our visit to the Chateau de Chantilly in 2010 (Chris, Atticus, Granddad, and Grammy)

I can also never forget the amazing creme Chantilly with which the subtly sweet clafoutis was served.

Creme Chantilly with strawberries. Yes, you really can eat this by the spoonful– it’s that delicious!

I’m convinced that the richness and heavenliness (I don’t even care if that’s not a real word) of the creme is directly related to the milk cows’ diet, and that I will never, ever be able to replicate it unless our little family moves to France. Sigh.

So, when I asked my co-worker Chrissy what she would like me to make for her birthday, she opted for something simple like a German pancake or a Dutch baby. I’ve like both, but I thought the clafoutis would fare better at room temperature for an in-office type of meal, plus the presentation would be a good one. And, actually it’s really easy. The most difficult, labor-intensive part is peeling and slicing the pears. Big deal!

Pear and Blackberry Clafoutis

Ingredients:

1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 C plus 1 T organic raw, granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 T all-purpose unbleached flour, organic
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
12-15 blackberries, or enough to place sparingly over the dish
1 T powdered sugar, for dusting
creme Chantilly, whipped cream, or creme fraiche (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter a 10 X 3 X 1 1⁄2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the raw, granulated sugar.
Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, extracts, zest, and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish.
Pour the batter over the pears.
Then, gingerly place the blackberries throughout the top of the dish.
Bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream.*

* I strongly encourage anyone with a tested creme Chantilly recipe to fill me in on the secret!

Happy eating!

Poached Eggs al Ranchero with Curtido

1 Apr

There are few things about moving into an apartment in the OC to which Atticus, Christopher, and I have had some difficulty adjusting. We can’t complain about the amenities, and we certainly do not regret our proximity to the ocean (sigh). But, as the primary household cook, I had been accustomed to snipping a little of this along with a fistful of that to complete any planned or impromptu meal at home.

In short, I miss my garden. So, yesterday I spent some time gathering information and seeking inspirational images. It turns out that there’s quite a collection of apartment gardening “out there.”  I already have potted plants, but my enthusiasm is renewed by the thought of vertical gardens or ‘living walls.’ There’s hope for my spring and summer!

  

Oh, there is another thing– I miss my parents and brother. Christopher and I invited them over for brunch. And, as I did manage to transport some of my favorite potted herbs from our former yard to our present patio, I decided I ought to highlight the plants that remind me of home. I came up with this one. It’s Mexican-inspired with an El Salvadoran twist. Thyme and oregano were the humble heroes of our meal today, my take on huevos rancheros.

Poached Eggs al Ranchero

Curtido Cabbage Salad (the El Salvadoran part):

1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, grated
1 quart boiling water
1 bunch green onions (white part or bulb, saving the green for dressing), sliced
1 C vinegar, (I use apple cider)
1/2 C water
1 tsp oregano
3-5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp sea salt
1 serrano pepper, sliced and de-seeded (optional)

Combine the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over the mixture. Allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes; drain well. Return the cabbage and carrots to the bowl. Mix in the green onion bulbs, vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, oregano, thyme, and salt. Toss until all ingredients are combined. Chill for 20 minutes before serving.

Poached Eggs in Salsa Molcajete:
16-18 oz. roasted molcajete salsa (sometimes found in the deli or international cheese section in markets)
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
1 C roasted corn
4-6 large organic eggs
8-12 yellow corn tortillas, toasted on a cast iron griddle (or ‘tostadas’)
1/2 bunch spinach
green onions, remaining green part for garnish
additional molcajete salsa

In a wide covered saucepan, simmer salsa, beans, and corn for 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low and add eggs. It might help to use a wooden spoon to make “holes” in the salsa mixture for each individual egg. Cover and cook just until egg whites as no longer translucent.
Place two tostadas on each plate. Smear with extra molcajete salsa. Layer with a few spinach leaves, hot salsa mixture, and one poached egg. Garnish with green onions. Serve with Curtido Cabbage Salad.

Oh, and next time, just because they are in season, please add one ripe avocado, sliced. I forgot to use the one I had! It seems I will have the burden of finding some other use for that creamy deliciousness.

Happy eating!