Clafoutis


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Cherry Clafoutis

What is it? Here’s all you need to know: it is easier and more delicious than a pancake and will change the way you think about summer fruits (and maybe some other stuff like pears and apples and chocolate and hazelnuts and…?). I don’t think there is a consensus on the “classic” clafoutis, but from my research, I think it is either made with cherries or pears. Because they are in season and recently been reasonably priced, I made mine with cherries, but rumor has it that peaches and other stone fruit work really well, and I think that a combo of apricots and blueberries might be utterly amazing.

The most difficult part about making a clafoutis is hefting the cast iron skillet in which it is made in and out of the oven. You could probably make it in another kind of baking dish, but why? A cast iron skillet is something you should have in your kitchen at this very moment, hopefully out and showcased on the stovetop, ready and waiting for your next delicious creation. So here is how you do it:

Preheat your oven to 325.
Drop a knob of high-quality butter (try something other than store brand and you will be happy you did) into the skillet and, using your impeccably clean hands, smooth out all along the bottom and up the sides.
Whisk together in a large mixing bowl:
3 room-temp eggs
1/2 C whole milk (maybe half and half, if you feel like it)
1/2 C sugar
Dash of vanilla or almond extract
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP melted butter
1/2 C of flour (I used cake flour, but I think all-purpose is just fine)
The mixture should be smooth and lump-free when you finish (you don’t want any bits of dry flour). I think it’s best to let this sit for a bit while you prepare the fruit, so I make the batter right off the bat. Note: the batter will be thin; somewhere between crepe batter and pancake batter.

Next, prepare your cherries or other fruit. On the amount, I just eyeball it. You want enough to cover the bottom of your skillet nicely without being too crowded. You should probably have enough to that you can snack on while you are prepping them, too. You don’t have to do anything to them besides pit them. There is enough sugar in the batter to sweeten them up and I don’t really see any point to messing with them any further than that. Pitting is a drag and an mess, but just get through it – I know there are devices and tricks for doing this, but honestly, I see no point. You know where the pit is and you just need to get it out with your hands. If you’re making this for someone you want to impress (mother-in-law, love interest, professional chef), you might want to try out a cherry pitter or one of these tricks, but this clafoutis will look and taste just as good if your cherries are little mangled.

Remix the batter to make extra sure that there are no lumps, then pour into the buttered skillet. Then, evenly distribute your cherries over the top and pop into the oven immediately. Bake for about 20 minutes and, depending on how even your oven is, turn it halfway to encourage consistent browning. In total, it should take 35 to 45 minutes. You want the batter to puff and brown lightly, but watch that the edges don’t get too overdone. The middle will remain somewhat loose and custardy, so don’t freak out if it looks a little underdone in the center. That’s one of the best parts. =)

Do you need one more parting shot to clafoutease you?
Ha! My sweet friend Pari will love this.

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Clafoutease

Summer Chicken Soup


Final Product

Summer Chicken Soup (Green)

Saturday was one of those days that was so hot and so humid that all I wanted to do was be inside, in a frigid air conditioned space, not thinking about the oppressive heat/humidity of the season. I don’t mind a few hot days in the summer, but it is not my default; I don’t walk out into the summer heat and say, “ahhh, this is perfect.” I like the chill. I like the shoulder seasons – spring and fall. More than anything, I like an excuse to eat soup.

My boo was feeling under the weather on Saturday – hadn’t eaten anything all day by the time I saw him, so when I asked what would make him feel better, I rejoiced when he said “I dunno…chicken noodle soup?” I immediately thought about onions, celery, carrots, some herbs, and big fat egg noodles. Then a trickle of sweat rolled down my back and I remembered – it’s freaking summer, not one of the other three seasons here in Chicago when it is appropriate to eat old fashioned chicken noodle soup.

My mind started racing – what is reasonable here? What can capture that good-hearted feeling without seeming out of place in the heat? I consulted my homecook resources – I texted some of my best friends. What would they do? It took them a little while to respond, and I was hungry, so I had already started the shopping list in my head and on my phone (using the the Clear app, which I cannot recommend enough), but the result was a list of summer chicken soup recipes that shall be the source of inspiration in the next couple of weeks:

  • Asian-inspired, taking cues from Vietnamese pho, using ginger, garlic, lemongrass
  • Tomato-based, with some spice
  • Vichyssoise (not technically “chicken” soup, but I was glad of the reminder to make it)

I ended up doing what seems easy – swapping out the traditional ingredients in the old-fashioned soup for what’s more in season right now – kind of updating an old fave. Leeks instead of onions. Fresh peas and zucchini instead of carrots and celery. Fresh basil instead of thyme.

The result was maybe a little heavier than I wanted, but I think I can attribute that to the stock. I started with store-bought chicken stock (my go to: Kitchen Basics, though I may rethink this) and added bone in, skin-on chicken (two breasts, two leg quarters) to cook through, fortify the stock, and be the protein for the final soup. I probably should have used skinless chicken, since the usually welcome richness of the fat felt like too much for this version. Regardless, the result was delicious.

If anyone is interested in a full recipe, please let me know, but for the time being, here are a few prep notes:

  • Per my friend Crissy’s suggestion years ago, I always cook pasta for soups separate to ensure that the noodles don’t get too mushy in leftovers. This technique also helps to cool down the finished soup as you are serving it so you can eat it almost immediately.
  • To ensure that the zucchini didn’t get too soft in the cooking process, I cut them in generously sized chunks; I think this adds a nice bit of texture to the final soup (see photo, above)
  • Clean leeks are happy leeks, and I can’t reiterate this enough. Once you eat a single pot of soup where you didn’t take time to clean them of sandy grit, you’ll see what I mean. I am here to tell you how to avoid this unfortunate circumstance without having to experience it in the first place.
    • First, trim off the tough, fibrous green tops – you can use these to flavor stocks, but they never really cook up nicely enough to eat in soup or otherwise
    • For this soup, I cut the leek lengthwise and then into quarter-to-half-inch halfmoon slicesDirty Leeks
    • Break up the slices into a colander sitting a bowl of cold tap water – be sure that this combination is large enough to allow the leek pieces to separate and get cleanClean Leeks
    • Let sit for a few minutes and then pull the strainer out of the bowl of water; you’ll probably notice a bit (or a lot) of grit and sand in the bowl of water and NOT in your soup. Hurrah!

Kool. Aid. Pie.


Kool Aid Pie

Kool-Aid Pie (Pink Lemonade)

Huh?

That’s what I said.

I love my mom more than anything. I really do. Where some mothers stop evolving past their role as “mom,” Hope has somehow recognized that, if she wants to continue being a part of her kids’ lives, she has to move on, treat us as adults, and help us tackle our adult problems with respect and support. She never ceases to amaze me in her capacity to love me and encourage me, in spite of the many mistakes I have made. I could go on and on about that, but this is not the place.

What also never ceases to amaze me is my mom’s complete and utter enthusiasm for what I call “gross-good” food. What is gross-good? Boiled down (ha) to the essence, it is food that sounds truly wretched on paper/in concept, but in execution lands on so many levels. Most often, these recipes are made up of processed ingredients that I rarely eat, require little to no effort, and are an overall affront to good cooking. My mom loves these recipes. LOVES them. Not only that, she relentlessly talks about them until you love them, too.

It starts something like this:

“Oh, I made this recipe you will love.”
“Really? What is it?”
“You take a package of cream cheese…”

She goes through the recipe, which usually takes all of 3 minutes, and then punctuates it with something like, “it’s wonnnnnnnderful.”

I then dismiss the conversation because that recipe is gross and I will never make it. Gross.

Over the next few weeks:
“Did you try that [disgusting recipe] yet?”
“No, I haven’t had time, sorry. Maybe for my next get together with friends.” (har, har)

“I made that [disgusting recipe] again on Saturday, have you had a chance to try it?”
“No, it’s not really my thing, mom. Sorry.”
“Oh, I know you will love it if you just try it. Do you need the recipe again?”
“No, I got it the first time, thanks.”

“Sally’s having a little cookout on Sunday and I am gonna make that [disgusting recipe]. Everyone loves it and keeps asking me to make it.”
“Oh, nice.”
“You should really try it. I know you think it’s weird, but if you just try it, I know you will love it.”

Eventually, I wear down, because this goes on and on and on. Her enthusiasm gets the best of me and I crumble like a graham cracker pie crust. Much like the one you will need for her latest gross-good conquest:

Kool-Aid Pie
You take a package of cream cheese, put it in a bowl, and get it to room temperature before mixing in one can of sweetened condensed milk with a hand mixer. Add one envelope of unsweetened Kool-Aid (any flavor you like – lemonade is particularly good, and black cherry is pretty much TDF) and mix until completely combined and smooth. Then, with a rubber spatula, fold in one container of thawed Cool Whip to combine; make sure there are no streaks left and that the mix is a single color. Press mixture into a prepared, store-bought graham cracker crust and chill for a few hours.

To serve, slice with a sharp knife run under hot water (this will help to make picture-perfect slices*) and top with additional Cool Whip, if desired.

Is it gross? Yes. Will you love it? Almost guaranteed. Welcome to a new category of “cooking” on Shallots Web. Thanks, Hopey.

Kool Aid Pie (Black Cherry)

Kool-Aid Pie (Black Cherry)

*Image quality is shite for this post, but I promise it will get better as I learn to use my new camera better.