The Allure of the Common...
Everybody loves certain 'homey' dishes (and I'm not talking thug here, mind you) – those dishes that their family used to make when they were young. Apple pies, chicken and dumplings, etc, etc. Soul food, if you will. Simple to make, cheap, and above all else, delicious.
These kinds of dishes are great to fall back on when struggling to think up something to make, but they can lose a bit of their appeal after you've had them oh-so-many ways. So what do you do, then, if you want something just as tasty and simple as your gramma's cherry pie, but with a twist? Well, the easiest possible answer is to go abroad.
There are countless examples of soul food here in the U.S., but while the moniker may be unique to our locale, the concept is not. Every country in the world has their own hometown, simple style of cooking, and a lot of their dishes are similar (or even the genesis) of our own. Prime example? Well, we're covering it in this episode of the Savage Kitchen.
Clafoutis is an incredibly simple and easy dessert from the Limousin region of France. The name comes from the verb clafir (meaning 'to fill') and is basically a pancake batter poured over fresh fruit and baked off. No need for complex dishes or crazy ingredients. It can easily be 'spiced' up with fresh vanilla bean or other spices, and you can always use different fruit as the base. The basic version consists of pitted cherries inside the clafoutis, whereas this recipe uses fresh blueberries for a fun twist.
Peaches, apples, pears and most other fruits do great in a clafoutis, and it's a great dish all year long. If you're using fruit that needs a bit more cooking time (here's looking at you, apples), you can roast or poach the fruit before pouring the batter over the top. Also, since you're cooking the whole dish, you can even use frozen fruit if you get a hankering for a certain flavor at an inopportune time of the year.
So broaden your horizons, and start looking for those simple dishes from other countries – you'll find great alternatives when your momma's apple pie needs to take a break for a bit.
(makes 4 individual 6 oz. servings, or one large cake pan sized clafoutis)
1 ½ Cup Milk
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Vanilla Bean
3 Large Eggs
¼ Cup + 1 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 ea 6oz. container Blueberries
Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into ¼ cup of the sugar and rub with your fingers to separate beans. Combine the vanilla sugar with the milk and the scraped vanilla bean in a small saucepan and bring to almost a boil.
While the milk is heating up, combine the remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the flour and the eggs in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, pour a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper. Mix well, and then add the remaining amount of the milk.
Prepare your dishes by rubbing a small amount of butter along the insides and then dusting with a bit of sugar. Spread the blueberries evenly between the dishes.
Pour the batter over the blueberries, dividing evenly between the dishes. Use all of the batter, or, if using smaller dishes, fill as much as you can.
Place the clafoutis dishes in a pan large enough to hold them all, and place in a 375 degree oven. Pour hot water into the pan holding the dishes, up to about 2/3 the height of the dishes.
Bake until golden brown on top and the custard is set, about 20-30 minutes depending on the oven.
Carefully remove the water bath from the oven and let the dishes cool.
Clafoutis is best served warm, and is especially tasty with some vanilla ice cream or a dusting of powdered sugar.
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