I was involved in a long conversation yesterday about clichés.
We were discussing lazy journalism and it’s reliance on hackneyed phrases, bad puns and, yes, tired clichés.
Food writing, at any level, is especially prone to these journalistic foibles. Writing about food is simply difficult to do with an original voice, eschewing all the literary turns that have come before. As food writers, I feel we must pick our poison. Me? I like bad puns. So for this post, I’m pulling out all the stops!
There’s something about The Fourth of July that simply screams out for clichés. Hot dogs! Strawberry shortcake! Jello salads! Beer coozies! Inflatable wading pools! The 1812 Overture (with real canons)! And of course… Fireworks! My favorite Independence Day cliché of all.
The thing is, there shouldn’t be anything cliché about the holiday. It’s a serious one. But, it’s been decreed by the government that we have fun, and so fun we shall have!
Me? I’m planning on going to the Greenmarket to score some sweet corn, maybe some buffalo steaks, a few sausages and definitely tomatoes. Oh, and berries. Lots of them. Whatever’s available. I don’t know how berry season’s been where you are, but here? It’s been ridiculous.
Every time I walk amongst the farmers’ stalls, I’m seduced into impulse purchasing something. Strawberries. Blueberries. Sour cherries. Black cherries. And now the raspberries and blackberries are on their way!
(And just so you know I’m not crazy, yes I do know that cherries are technically not berries but are actually fruit, but in my mind they all belong together in one happy, berry fruity universe).
The problem is, I buy them with the intention of snacking on them at work, but inevitably I’m too lazy to take them to the kitchen for a rinse, and too grossed out by the thought of washing them in the ladies room sink. So they come home with me where the linger in the fridge until I feel guilty and come up with a way to eat them all at once.
That bowl of blueberries and strawberries? That’s not ice cream on top of them. That’s goat’s milk ricotta with a little fresh cracked black pepper and a light glaze of aged balsamic vinegar. That’s how sweet the berries are this year. They need no extra sugar and actually benefit from a bit of acid to draw out their lusciousness.
And that big fluffy pancake looking thing? Oh, that. That’s just my first attempt ever at making a clafouti!
I was cruising around Tastespotting on Sunday morning when this sour cherry clafouti caught my eye. The ingredients list had too much stuff in it (flax seed & soy milk do not belong in dessert) so I turned to my old pal Roy Andries de Groot. I figured if anyone would have a simple recipe for a seasonal French pastry it would be him. And I was right.
It couldn’t have been easier to knock together, and reminded me an awful lot of the Dutch Babies that my mom used to serve us for dinner when I was a kid. Soft and luscious, not too sweet with the surprising bits of candied ginger scattered about, the clafouti was both the perfect finish to an all-American meal of clams and biscuits and the perfect breakfast to bring into work.
And so I say unto you. Go forth and enjoy your Fourth! May your hot dogs be plump, your beers frosty and your fireworks spectacular. Oh, and don’t forget the berries. They’re berry delicious!
Head below the jump for the recipe for the recipe for Berry Cherry Clafouti.
Berry Cherry Clafouti
prep time: 10 minutes + cherry pitting time ~ cooking time: about 1 hour
- 1 10″ x 10″ cast iron pan
- 2-3 cups of washed, pitted Cherries (a mix of Sour, Black, Ranier and Bing would be nice)
- 1 1/2 cups Milk
- 4 Eggs
- 1/3 cup + 1 tsp Sugar (I used half vanilla sugar and half brown sugar because a. I still haven’t bought vanilla extract and b. I still haven’t bought just plain old sugar)
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3/4 cup Flour
- 2 oz Candied Ginger, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Most recipes say to make the batter in a blender. I don’t have a blender so I beat this by hand.
To make the batter place the milk, eggs, sugar and salt into a bowl. Add the flour and carefully mix to incorporate. Once the danger of covering yourself in a cloud of flour is past, beat the batter vigorously for at least 2 minutes.
Butter the cast iron pan (all the way up the sides) and set the pan on the stove. Pour some of the batter into the pan to cover the bottom by about 1/4″ and place over a medium-low flame. Allow the batter to cook until just set. Turn off the flame.
Add the cherries to the pan to form a single layer (if your cherries are not very sweet or you prefer a sweeter dessert, sprinkle a little sugar over the berries now). Sprinkle the candied ginger over the berries then pour the rest of the batter into the pan. It should just cover the berries. If it doesn’t don’t panic. It’ll still turn out delicious.
Place the pan into the middle of the preheated oven and allow to cook until golden browned, puffy and set, about 1 hour. Mine made all sorts of noise while it was cooking, so don’t be alarmed if yours does too. The clafouti is done when a knife or wooden skewer can be inserted into the middle of the pastry and come out clean.
To serve: Bring the pan directly to the table so everyone can ooh and aah over its puffy magnificence. It will deflate nearly immediately so cut right into it and give each person a nice steamy wedge. Top with confectioners sugar or some freshly whipped cream. This is also delicious cold the next day for breakfast. Enjoy!
This recipe is adapted from “French Clafouti of Bing Cherries” from Roy Andries de Groot’s 1966 Feasts For All Seasons.