Monday, July 30, 2012

Clafoutis, Day 2

After eating a quarter of the clafoutis, just trying to wrap my mind around whether or not I liked it, I put the remainder in the fridge. The photo above better illustrates the green hue I mentioned in the last post. Yes, the clafoutis became more green.

Check out the crust! It's just egg, an impressive golden brown.

The custard-y portion of the clafoutis that was not exposed didn't become quite as green as the exposed part. I'm not completely sure what is going on, but I think the color is coming from a combination of the cherries and oxidation.

If you're dying to know, the clafoutis tasted exactly the same as when it was fresh, drunk cherries and all. And it did get greener over the next few days.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook Clafoutis

Fancy-pants dessert is fitting after a fancy-pants chicken and potatoes dinner.

Per Larousse Gastronomique, clafoutis:
A dessert from the Limousin region of France, consisting of black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with fairly thick pancake batter. It is served lukewarm, dusted with sugar. As a rule, the cherries are not stoned (pitted) but simply washed and stalked (stemmed), since the kernels add their flavour to the batter during cooking. The Academie francaise, who had defined clafoutis as a "sort of fruit flan", were faced with protests from the inhabitants of Limoges, and changed their definition to "cake with black cherries". Nevertheless, there are numerous variations using red cherries or other fruits. The word comes from the provincial dialect word clafir (to fill).
I followed the Les Halles recipe exactly; I think it turned out like it was supposed to since everything went along just like the recipe indicated.

Oh, and I noticed that in this recipe, unlike the potatoes recipe, a tablespoon of butter does weigh 14 g.

from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
found here with Americanized measurements
click to print

1 1/2 lb cherries, pitted
75 mL kirsch or kirschwasser
14 g butter
112 g sugar
6 eggs
112 g flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Place the cherries in a small bowl and toss with the kirsch. Let macerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Grease a 9-inch round baking dish with the butter and coat with a pinch or two of the sugar. Place the pan in the refrigerator.

I like this pie dish. A lot. It's a Pampered Chef dish purchased back in the mid-90's; pie crusts bake in this sucker like nobody's business. The idea of chilling it and then throwing it into a 450°F oven was a little cause for concern. Pampered Chef doesn't even have this listed in their stoneware section anymore (a damn shame)!

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk, then add the sugar and beat well to fully incorporate.

Mix in the flour and the vanilla extract, stirring enough so that all the ingredients are homogenous but without overworking the flour.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the cherries and their accumulated juice into the flour and egg mixture, then pull your prepared baking pan out of the refrigerator and turn the mixture into it.

I had to be really, really, really, really careful inserting this into the oven so as not to slosh the thin batter everywhere. Consider putting the prepared plate on a baking sheet near the oven, then fill it, then be really, really careful slipping the whole thing into the oven.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a golden brown crust has formed on top. A testing skewer inserted into the center should come out clean, not wet.

Done at 33 minutes. So puffy! And the dish held up through major temperature variations like a champ!

Using a small strainer or sifter, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Huh. I really wasn't sure whether the egg mixture was going to bake appropriately to yield a brown crust, but it sure did. Really puffy when it first came out of the oven, it settled a little bit as it cooled. The volume was perfect for the dish I love so much. The clafoutis looked really pretty and I couldn't wait to try it, which contributed to my non-critical assessment of the chicken since I was eyeballing this cake the whole time I ate dinner.

Serving it was a cinch, the first wedge popped right out - the bottom even has sliver of a crust. By the time I got around to eating it, the clafoutis was just room temperature. And eggy. The texture reminded me a little bit of jello, dry yet firm, the crust distinctly like too-cooked egg. Shockingly, the cherries had such an alcoholic flavor, or counter-intuitively an alcoholic content, that my lungs/breath had that "just had a swig of my stiff drink" feeling. Recovering alcoholics, steer clear of this one.

Overall, this didn't turn out to be a favorite for me. A little overwhelming, the drunk cherries were ok (I mean, they're cherries!). The egg action in this was a little too much. And the faint green hue of the "custard" part, was a slightly off-putting reminder of Dr. Seuss.

It might just be that this particular variation of clafoutis doesn't float my boat. I'll have to try the recipe in the Larousse and see how that compares. So, it turns out this entire meal will be repeated next cherry season!

  • cherries: $1.94
  • kirschwasser: $6.46
  • butter: $0.05
  • sugar: $0.18
  • eggs: $1.75
  • flour: $0.17
  • vanilla extract: $0.08
  • confectioner's sugar: $0.02
Total: $10.65. That's $1.78 for each of six, or $1.33 for each of eight, servings.

Pommes Puree

What goes better with juicy chicken than mashed potatoes? I can't think of anything else either. Realizing six Idaho potatoes would yield a tremendous quantity of Pommes Puree, I cut the recipe in half. Well, most of it.

Pommes Puree
adapted from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
recipe in it's entirety can be found here
click to print

3 Idaho potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 c heavy cream
6 tbsp butter*
black pepper, freshly ground

Place the potatoes in the large pot and add enough cold water to completely cover them. Add the salt and bring to a boil.

Water and salt added to potatoes, water coming to a boil after 18 minutes.

Cook in the boiling water until they are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, discarding the hot water, and when they are just cool enough to handle remove as much of the skins as possible.

In the small pot, combine the heavy cream and butter and bring the mixture to a boil watching closely.

This took less than 4 minutes; when it starts boiling, it's seconds before it's boiling over.

In the meantime, return the potatoes to the large pot and mash them with the potato masher.

Once the cream mixture has come to a boil, pour it in increments into the potatoes and mix well. Add cream. Mash. Add cream. Mix. Do not overwork the potatoes.

When the mixture is creamy and smooth, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Guessing, incremental cream additions should've been more generous with the cream and less frequent. I think all of my mixing and mashing to incorporate each little bit of cream at the beginning resulted in my potatoes being overworked, thus a little gluey. Notice how I was catching on to this even as I was mashing them, at the end dumping in the equivalent of the first three cream additions. Flavor-wise though, they are very good and went exceptionally well with the Chicken Marbella, still able to absorb the main dish juices.

I'll certainly do this again, particularly when I repeat the Chicken Marbella. Next time I'll anticipate how long it takes for the potato water to boil so I can better align the dishes coming together. The chicken had to stand around a little while so I could finish the potatoes.

*Interestingly, there seems to be a discrepancy in the cookbook regarding US and metric units. For instance, it says "6 tbsp/75 g butter". My unsalted butter package says 1 tbsp butter is 14 g, which makes 6 tbsp 84 g. I thought I was using 6 tbsp when I measured 77 g at the time. Pricing below reflects the 77 g I actually used. 

  • potatoes: $2.30
  • cream: $1.99
  • butter: $0.27
Total: $4.56 or $1.52 for each of the three huge servings.

Chicken Marbella

Yonetta's onto Pinterest and has this pinned on her Food board. Seeing that it calls for a variety of chicken pieces and a bunch of prunes caused me to put it at the front of my chicken queue.

I had to do a couple of changes out of necessity: one whole 5.26 lb chicken cut into eight pieces rather than two small chickens quartered (I can't find a 2.5 lb chicken to save my life!), minced garlic instead of pureed, and little pimiento-stuffed manzanilla olives instead of large Spanish. Out of laziness, I skipped chopping the parsley even thought I bought some for this. That's pretty lazy.

Chicken Marbella
adapted from Simply Recipes
click to print

5 1/4 lb chicken cut into 8 pieces, bone-in, skin-on
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tbsp dried oregano
coarse salt to taste
freshly coarse-ground pepper to taste
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c pitted prunes
16 pimiento-stuffed manzanilla green olives, cut in half
1/4 c capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c white wine

In a large bowl combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves.

Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade.

Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, several hours or overnight.

My chicken marinated about 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly.

I wasn't sure if "shallow baking pan" meant a baking sheet or a 9x13 baking dish. I rolled with the dish.

Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

I measured out the 1/2 cup of brown sugar. While sprinkling it on with my fingers thought about half of it on the chicken looked like quite a lot and called that enough.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with the pan juices.

Basted at 35 minutes and removed from oven at 53 minutes.

Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest point, yield clear yellow juice (not pink). Or a probe poked in the thigh indicates a 165°F.

With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter.

Wow, that's a lot of pan juice remaining.

Add some of the pan juices. Serve remaining juice in a gravy boat.

This was good, but I didn't think it was crazy good like the folks commenting on Elise's post did. Maybe I wasn't as excited about having chicken when it was done as I was when I was putting the marinade together. Maybe I was having an off day and was just looking forward to eating dessert. Maybe it's because I should've used all of the sugar called for, or vinegar that wasn't best by sometime mid-2011, or big olives. Maybe it's because I was put off by the quantity of juice that remained in the baking dish after cooking.

I'm going to do this again, next time using all of the sugar, new vinegar, and a baking sheet.

  • chicken: $4.16
  • garlic: $0.25
  • red wine vinegar: $0.33
  • olive oil: $0.47
  • prunes: $0.66
  • green olives: $0.58
  • capers: $1.57
  • brown sugar: $0.11
  • white wine: $1.50
Total: $8.97 or $1.50 for each of six servings.

Clear Creek Distillery Kirschwasser

Kirschwasser, aka cherry water, aka alcool blanc.

A white spirit, a true fruit brandy distilled from cherries; it should not be confused with the sweetened cherry brandies made by most of the great liqueur establishments.

The type of cherry used depended originally on where the distillate was made, but nowadays firms reputed for their Kirsch, such as those in Alsace, Franche-Comte, and the Black Forest in Germany, may have to buy in fruit to supplement the local cherries. The kernels of the cherries are included in the 'mash'.

As with many spirits that are widely used for culinary purposes, there are less expensive types of Kirsch, which are used for flaming pancakes, incorporating with whipped cream and fillings for pastry and cakes, and in confectionery. The top-quality liqueurs are particularly appreciated as a digestive after a meal.
So says the Larousse Gastronomique. I say this cherry brandy smells like tequila.

Clear Creek Distillery Kirschwasser, available in the fruit brandy section of BevMo! by the 375 mL bottle for $29.99 each.