Saturday, January 30, 2010

finally, a dessert recipe: clafoutis

In the minimalistic spirit of many other recipes on this blog, I bring you clafoutis - easily one of my favorite desserts of all time (and the first dessert recipe on HOUSEKEPT). There are only about five ingredients, all of which you should have on hand, so make it this weekend. I had the distinct pleasure of eating copious amounts of this pudding-like dish while studying in Pau, France. My host mother was from Limousin, a rustic region of France known for cherries, porcelain, and beef. At the time I was completely unaware of this wondrous dessert; that is, until my host mother prepared two of these in late spring when cherries are in season. Essentially a baked custard-like cake, clafoutis tastes a lot like a very thick crepe mixed with fresh cherries.

Clafoutis embodies what a rustic, homemade dessert should be - the effortless combination of a few pantry staples (sugar, eggs, and flour) and ripe, seasonal fruit. Because you mix the fruit into the batter, almost any fruit will work well. Countless cookbooks contain variations on the classic cherry version, but the most common other fruits would be berries, stone fruit (peaches, nectarines), or pears. The traditional recipe calls for kirsch, a cherry-based spirit, but you could also use cognac, armagnac, bourbon, or some other digestif-type booze. Now for the recipe...

After making clafoutis from quite a few different recipes, I think Anthony Bourdain came the closest to what I ate in France (though I really should ask my host mother) in Les Halles, his manifesto of a cookbook. As a stickler, he uses weight instead of volume for the dry ingredients, but you should be able to convert these quite easily. I made it with pears recently, but the same recipe works well for a number of different fruits.

  • 1.5 lbs cherries or other fruit
  • 3 ounces booze (kirsch, cognac, etc.)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 oz flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
  1. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with the kirsch. Let macerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a 9-10 inch baking dish with the butter and coat with a pinch or two of the sugar. Place the dish in the refrigerator.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk, then add the sugar and beat well to fully incorporate.
  4. Mix in the flour and the vanilla, stirring enough so that all the ingredients are homogenous but without overworking the flour.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cherries and their accumulated juice into the flour and egg mixture, then pull your dish out of the fridge and turn the mixture into it. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until a golden brown crust has formed on top. Also, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean - no wet.
  6. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, January 22, 2010

recipe: winter herbless pesto

As you may have noticed, I haven't written nearly as much over the past few months, and the recipes I've published are quite spartan. This is because we had our second child, a boy, in October, and it's hard enough to cook something healthy, much less write about it. However, I am learning a lot about (and practicing) fast, wholesome, winter meals, such as the broiled eggs I wrote about earlier this month. Some people fall to convenience foods during such times, but I choose to strip down my cooking even more.

Yesterday I think I perfected what may be the perfect two-young-children-cold-winter-weeknight-that-you-could-still-serve-company meal: pasta with an herbless pesto sauce. One of the many challenges of cooking with small children is a sudden decrease in trips to the co-op. Combine that with a lack of fresh local produce, and one begins to find new romance in the pantry. After you make this one time you'll be able to make it blindfolded, without a recipe or planning.


  • 1 pound dried pasta (whole wheat spaghetti or penne taste great with this)
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 lb parmesan or other hard cheese, plus more for grating
  • 1 heaping cup of walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. In the small bowl of a food processor, fitted w/ a blade attachment, combine garlic, cheese, walnuts, oregano, pepper, and salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  2. Turn the food processor on and add olive oil until mixture resemles an oily paste (much like basil pesto).
  3. Cook pasta, drain, and toss briefly with the pesto sauce. Top individual plates with grated cheese.
*Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a first course.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

broil your eggs for a change

The word "broiled" isn't the finest or most elegant, but the eggs that result from this recipe surely are, with very little effort. This is a great recipe for house guests, or a leisurely brunch with your mate sans children (although, kids like these eggs, too). I found this recipe in Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook, which I received as a gift from a good friend who also loves to eat. It's a very concise book that serves as a thoughtful introduction to French cooking, with an emphasis on simple, beautiful food, such as this dish.

As with most egg recipes, the key to this one is timing. The cooking times listed below work well for my oven and baking dish, but it will take you a few tries to perfect this recipe. The good news is that these eggs still taste good slightly overcooked, so don't worry if you miss the mark. It's also critical to use the best eggs you can find, since there isn't much else in the dish - 99 cent CostCo eggs will taste like 99 cents.


  • 8 very fresh, large eggs (organic, free range if at all possible)
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced with a knife (don't use a press, as it will taste too strong)
  • 1/2 cup finely (and freshly) grated super-hard cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, minced (thyme, rosemary, basil, or parsley work well)
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 slices of crusty bread (toasted or warmed)
  • 4 small gratin dishes (just large enough to hold 2 eggs) or a ceramic/glass baking dish (large enough so that 8 eggs are about 1.5 inches deep).
*I use a baking dish because I don't have gratin dishes, so the process and timing described below may not work as well for several smaller dishes.

  1. Preheat your oven using the broil setting (Note: my oven has a drawer-style broiler, below the main oven space. When I set it to broil the drawer and oven heat up, which is useful in this recipe.)
  2. Using a fork, mix the garlic, herbs, and cheese in a small bowl until well combined.
  3. Liberally grease the gratin dishes or baking dish with some of the butter. Pour in the cream so that it covers most of the bottom of the dish. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and scatter these around the baking dish. Place the dish in the oven and heat until the cream begins to bubble and brown slightly around the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on stove top.
  4. Carefully crack the eggs into the dish so that the yolks remain whole. Try to keep them evenly dispersed. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and the cheese/herb/garlic mixture.
  5. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, or until the whites begin to set up but the yolks and tops of the eggs are still liquid.
  6. Move the dish into to the broiler drawer and cook 2-4 additional minutes, or until the top has browned slightly, the eggs are somewhat firm (it's good if the whites are a bit runny), and the yolks are still soft (some yolks may be softer than others - that's ok). This is the part of the recipe that takes the most practice, as it's really a visual judgment. Keep in mind that the eggs will continue to cook in the hot dish after you remove them from the broiler, so use a knife to see how thorough they're cooked and check them again after resting on the counter top for a few minutes.
  7. To serve, use a knife to cut eggs into sections and use a spatula to gently place them on plates with the bread on the side.
*Serves 4 people

Monday, January 4, 2010

holy f. i just read the ingredient list for Cool Whip.

Well, the planets aligned and somehow I ended up with a donated tub of Kraft (owned by Phillip Morris) Cool Whip in my fridge during the holidays. I ate this amorphous whipped topping more than I care to admit during my childhood, but I never really cared to look at the ingredient list. OMFG. Not only is it long and loaded with polysyllabic chemical compounds, but the ingredients fail to include the one substance that most quickly comes to mind. Can you guess which one?


Cream! It seems you can have whipped cream without eating cream. Of course, they did manage to squeeze in some sodium caseinate, which is a milk-based derivative, but it seems Cool Whip exists without any naturally occurring ingredients (except water).

Mmmm... Sorbitan monostearate.