Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

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My husband has never met a custard that he didn’t like, so when he asked me what a clafouti was that was in the case of a local bakery, I decided to surprise him by making one. I confess that I actually enjoy the occasional mindless, slightly tedious task that can be involved with food preparation. It’s a great time to catch up on my own thoughts or to have a cozy moment with a child, spouse or friend. So when this recipe called for 1 pound of stoned cherries, I didn’t flinch. If you don’t enjoy snapping the ends off of crisp green beans or peeling vegetables, then you can use a different fruit or a well-drained canned, pitted cherry. I, however, had some lovely, ripe cherries, a sharp paring knife and 20 minutes to spare for the task.

This recipe comes from an old French pastry book that I purchased in 1977. It is the Gaston Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries. So what is clafouti? It’s a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. This recipe uses a short pastry crust underneath. I know that my husband will be very happy tonight when dessert-time rolls around.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

Yield: Two 8-inch flans (about 6-8 servings)

Ingredients

Short pastry dough for 2 8-inch pie plates or flan pans

1 cup of whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

6.5 Tablespoons heavy cream

4 large eggs

Generous 3/4 cup, granulated sugar

4 drops orange blossom water (about 1/4 teaspoon)

1 pound of fresh, ripe cherries, halved with the pits removed (You will end up with about 3 cups of fruit)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough and line 2 lightly buttered 8-inch pie plates or flan pans
  2. Refrigerate the pans for at least 1 hour before baking. This can be done one day ahead.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Line the 2 pie shells with waxed paper or foil and using dried beans or pie weights, bake the pie shells for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the paper or foil and weights and set the shells aside.
  5. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan and allow it to gently boil for one minute. (If you are using a vanilla bean, you will add it in with the milk.) Don’t do what I did which was to carry on a texting conversation with my husband while the milk was on the stove. Of course, the milk boiled over. What a mess! After 1 minute, turn off the heat and add the cream and vanilla bean paste, if using. In all honesty, I’m not certain that this step is necessary. I have made plenty of flan and other custards over the years and I never cook the milk first…
  6. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with a wire whisk, until smooth and light yellow in color. Beating constantly, add the milk mixture a little at a time to temper the eggs. Stir in the orange blossom water. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and cold. You should end up with 3 cups of liquid.
  7. Fill the half-cooked pie shells with the cherries. Pour the creamy filling over the fruit. The pie pan should be no more than 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve the clafouti warm or cold. IMG_3342

NOTE: If you use a fluted flan pan instead of a pie plate, you will have more ingredients than the pan can easily hold. I used one flan pan and one pie plate (both 8-inches) and ended up with a little of the custard left over because the flan pan isn’t as deep as the pie plate. The flan pan baked in exactly 20 minutes. The pie plate which was deeper took somewhat longer.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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It doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn to salad for a summer dinner. Since it has been in the 90’s all week with no true respite in sight, I not only want a salad but I want some spice as well. It’s well known in Asian and South Asian cultures that you want to eat “Heat” when it is hot outside. The theory being that the spice makes you sweat, thereby cooling down your body.

I used to make a salad with cold glass noodles from the Frugal Gourmet, but I decided to change it up a bit. For starters, I’m not wild about glass noodles and I also wanted a bit more complexity to the chicken. I did make this dish with Banh Pho, a large Thai rice noodle, but I think that next time I might even use an Udon noodle instead. All of the prep can – and should – be done ahead, so you can make the individual elements the night before or in the morning and then do your assemblage when you are ready to eat. If you are really pressed for time (or lazy) you can use prepared roasted chicken from your grocery. It won’t have the same depth of flavor, but will still be good. A slightly fruity Rosé would be lovely with this or a Pale Ale.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)

3-4 star anise

2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

Water to cover

1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder

2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

2-3 small jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced, with the seeds (optional)

For the noodles

8 ounces wide Banh Pho rice noodles

Water to cover

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon cubes or 2 teaspoons “Better than Bouillon”

Sesame oil for drizzling

For the cucumbers

2 Persian cucumbers, sliced and cut into matchsticks

2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sugar (I used raw sugar but granulated will do)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the peanut sauce

2 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

4-5 Tablespoons hot water

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 very generous teaspoon Red Chili Paste with Garlic or Sriracha to taste

Garnishes

Roughly chopped cilantro

Roasted and lightly salted peanuts

Directions

For the chicken

  1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the other chicken ingredients and enough water to cover the chicken.
  2. Cover the pan tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. While still warm, remove the chicken breasts and shred them using 2 forks. Place in a bowl or container large enough to hold all of the shreds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour the liquid over the chicken. Pick out the jalapeno slices if used and the star anise and add them to the chicken. Cover and allow to cool. This can then be refrigerated.

For the noodles

  1. If using the rice noodles, place in a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with tap water, place the lid on the pot and allow to soak for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add the bouillon and bring to a boil with the lid on. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the noodles for 10 minutes. (If using another kind of noodle, follow the package instructions.) Drain the noodles and drizzle with sesame oil to prevent them becoming too sticky. Allow them to cool, uncovered. They can be refrigerated.

For the cucumbers

  1. Place the cut cucumbers in a glass bowl or dish. Marinate them in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

For the peanut sauce

  1. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together until they are the consistency of heavy cream. Start with 4 Tablespoons of water and add more if necessary.

Assemblage

  1. Pour the well-mixed peanut sauce over the noodles and using tongs, toss it through. The noodles may have stuck together some, but you can carefully separate them as you mix.
  2. Place some 1/4 of the noodles in each bowl or plate and cover with 1/4 of the chicken shreds that you have drained from the liquid.
  3. Top with 1/4 of the cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro and some peanuts. IMG_3288

 

 

Radish Slaw with Remoulade and Pistachios

Looking for a light, refreshing summer salad? This the answer to any steak or other rich, red meat dish that needs a zesty sidekick (though this also went very nicely with salmon).screen-shot-2017-06-03-at-8-57-20-pm-e1496538875297.pngWe made this originally to pair with our steak with corn salsa, and then quickly realized it went well with an assortment main meats.

Ingredients

Remoulade

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 tbsp coarse grain mustard
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of EVOO
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp cornichons
  • 1/2 tsp liquid from canned chipotles in adobo sauce (optional but if you have the chipotles from the steak recipe then why not?)

—–

  • 1 large daikon radish, about 8 oz, peeled and dice
  • 1 bunch red radishes, sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • (optional but good if you’re repurposing leftovers) handful of mixed greens

Directions

  1. Place the egg in boiling water for 90 seconds using a slotted spoon.
  2. Take the egg out of the water, let it cool slightly. Tap the top of the egg to peel of the top of the shell and using a small tsp, carve out the egg from the shell (think of it as a flash soft boiled egg). Add to a food processor.
  3. Add the lemon juice, mustard, salt and the pepper and pulse or blend. With the motor running, add the olive oil until it is emulsified.
  4. Add the tomato paste, parsley, chives, capers, cornichons and the chili liquid and keep processing until well mixed.
  5. Separately, combine the radishes and celery in a large bowl. Add about 1/2 cup of the remoulade to coat completely and mix. (Save the remaining remoulade for seafood dishes or sandwich condiment. We still haven’t figure out what to do with our leftovers quite yet. Mainly because we forgot about it.)
  6. After mixing thoroughly, refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  7. Prior to serving, add the pistachios and mix.

Adapted from the Wine Lover’s Cookbook.

Steak with Corn Salsa

It’s always exciting to find yet another steak recipe when it seems that we’ve been cooking steak for years. This one was yet another gem from our favorite Wine Lover’s Cookbook that we feel vindicated in having picked up while in Healdsburg in Sonoma, California wine country.

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After all, we are truly wine lovers and food lovers, so who could turn down an entire book of pairings?! Food-wise, the recipe calls for a pairing with a radish daikon slaw, but easily would have been fine with just the salsa. In terms of wine, the recipe recommends a Zinfandel, and that a Sangiovese could work just as nicely. (We used the Zin and it was fantastic.)

Ingredients

Flank steak (1/2 lb/person)

Marinade

  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 3 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup of sliced yellow onions
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chiles in adobo

Salsa

  • 1 can corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted bell pepper (chopped, I buy the jar of roasted pepper which makes this a cinch)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of white wine Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp of minced jalapeños
  • 2 tsp sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a plastic bag or bowl and add the steak. Turn the steak a few times to make sure it is all covered in the marinade, and then let it sit in the fridge, in the marinade for 4-5 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. When oven comes to temperature, cut off the top of the head of garlic. Place it on foil and pour olive oil over the top. Stick in the oven for 45 minutes to make roasted garlic.
  3. Once roasted and soft, scoop the garlic cloves out of the head and place in a medium sized bowl and mash them lightly.
  4. Add the corn, chopped bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeños, sherry vinegar and basil. Mix thoroughly and then cover and refrigerate to let the flavors meld.
  5. Once the steak is finished marinating, bring a cast iron skillet or grill pan to high heat.
  6. Scrape the marinade off the steak, and add to the skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Turn off the heat, cover in foil and let rest for about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve the steak over the the corn salsa.

Adapted from the Wine Lover’s Cookbook.

Soft Shell Crabs in Lemon and Butter

About a year ago, a new fishmonger opened up in our neighborhood. Curious, and great seafood lovers, Matt and I decided to walk in.

IMG_20170603_194948.jpgMuch to our pleasant surprise, it turned out that not only was our new fishmonger a great source of cooking information, but also a purveyor of the rarer fishy creatures of the sea.

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While we haven’t quite made the plunge to try sea urchins, we did jump on the opportunity to cook soft shell crabs which we happened upon this weekend.

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As it turns out, they’re very easy to make, as in basically you dredge them in milk, and then flour, and then you sear them for 4 minutes total.

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Following Lisa’s advice, we went the simple route of lemon and butter and it was a perfect light summer dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk (we used skim milk and turned out fine)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 small (4-inch-wide) live or already dressed soft-shelled crabs, cleaned (I didn’t want to deal with live crabs and our trusty fishmonger had them fresh)
  • 1 cup Wondra or all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose and it was fine)
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee (we used ghee)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Combine milk, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and soak crabs 5 minutes. Lift 1 crab out of milk, letting excess drip off, and dredge in flour.
  2. Knock off excess flour and transfer to a tray.
  3. Repeat with remaining crabs, arranging them in 1 layer as coated.
  4. Heat clarified butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté crabs, upside down, 2 minutes.
  5. Turn over and sauté until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  6. Transfer crabs to a serving dish. Add butter pieces to skillet and cook until golden brown with a nutty aroma. Add lemon juice and parsley (mixture will bubble up) and remove from heat.
  7. Season sauce with salt and pepper and drizzle over crabs. Serve with fingerling potatoes or a light green salad.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Soft-Shelled Crabs Meunière.

Ricotta Blintzes with Berries

Blintzes are a brunch favorite that we almost never make because they are somewhat tedious, but the few times we do we are always left wondering – why don’t we make this more often?

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Some time ago Matt bought me Breakfast Comforts, a cookbook from Williams-Sonoma, as a Valentine’s Day gift. One might consider it a self-serving gift, but it’s turned out to provide joy for me to cook and for him to eat!

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We made a few modifications to the recipe as noted below, and the original recipe is from Sarabeth’s, one of the more popular brunch chains in New York. After making this recipe at home, however, it’s hard to justify going out and spending almost $21 per entrée!  The following makes about 10 blintzes.

Filling

16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
zest of a lemon (optional – I forgot it and it turned out fine)

Crepes

1.5 cups whole milk (I used goat milk, a new discovery in the store and delicious)
6 large eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1.5 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Topping

Blackberries, Blueberries, or Raspberries or some combination
2 tbsp honey

Directions

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and the six eggs.

2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and the salt. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, just until the batter is smooth.

3. With a rubber spatula, rub the butter through a wire sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps.

4. Brush a 7-8″ nonstick frying pan with the butter and place over medium high heat until hot. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

5. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about another minute. Transfer to a plate.

6. Repeat with all the remaining batter, adding butter as needed. Stack the blintzes separated by parchment paper until all done. You should have about 10 blintzes.

7. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the sugar and the lemon zest if you are using.

8. Place one blintz, spotted side up on a work surface. Place about 2 tbsp of the filling just below the center of the blintz.

9. Fold in the sides, and then roll up from the bottom, enclosing the filling. Repeat with the remaining blintzes and filling.

10. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat with butter. Add the blintzes to the pan and cook, seam-side down until the bottoms are golden, about two minutes.  Adjust heat as needed so that the blintzes cook evenly.

11. Flip blintzes and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes more, or until they are also golden.

12. In a separate small pan, (I just used the one I had for the blintzes) add the berries and honey and cook over low-medium heat so that the berries release their juices and it becomes like a compote.

13. To serve, put the blintzes on a plate and drizzle with the berry compote.  (Optional: add a dusting of powdered sugar.) Serve immediately!

Filling recipe from: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/ricotta-blintzes-with-berry-compote.html

Crepe and Assembly recipe from: Breakfast Comforts, by Rick Rodgers