Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sgt. Clafoutis

Our hero has returned!

My dear friend (and Evan's past roommate), Mike, has returned to Seattle... from over a year on tour with the US Army in Iraq. We missed Mike like crazy during his time abroad, and have been waiting impatiently for him to come home. Leading up to Mike's return, we were informed that he had a few requests: fried chicken at Ezell's and a 12 egg omelet at Beth's Cafe... not to mention he had been reading Loves Food, Loves to Eat, and was expecting something delicious from my oven. Instead of going out on the town with the guys on Mike's first night back, I took off my heels, put on an apron, and hit the kitchen.

What does one make for a returning soldier, someone who was without homemade treats for so long, someone who hasn't hugged his mom or kissed a girl for a year, someone who's been living off of nothing but bland military rations and crude male humor since 2007? A clafoutis, of course!

Not only is clafoutis fun to say, it also represents all the things Mike has been living without...fruity, chocolaty, custardy, and feminine- a perfect welcome home treat! I had never actually made a clafoutis, and turned to my trusty Gourmet magazine for inspiration. Tweaking a Chocolate Raspberry Clafoutis recipe to make use of the bag of cherries on my counter, I got to work making a very 'girly' sounding dessert for a very manly man- chocolate cherry clafoutis.

Having never even tasted clafoutis before, I decided there was absolutely no way I was serving this new dessert to friends without first tasting it myself. I thought Mike wouldn't mind if I ate one little sliver of the custardy cake. On my first slice, I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy custard center, and in love with the crispy chocolaty edges. On my second slice, I savored the sweet, juicy cherries. On my fifth slice, I marveled at how the chocolate chunks on top melted into a perfect rich glaze. By my eighth slice, some of the chocolate topping had hardened, creating a not-to-sweet chocolaty crunch that contrasted amazingly with the silky smooth custard... Before I knew it, I had devoured half of Mike's welcome home clafoutis.

The next morning, after the boys had their big night out, the wait at Beth's Cafe was too long, and Ezell's was too far away. Lucky for Mike, he had (less than) half a clafoutis waiting for him, chocolaty and rich, gooey and fruity, the perfect dessert for a great friend. Next time, I'll try to make Mike a full clafoutis... but we'll see how far that gets me.

Chocolate Cherry Clafoutis
(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

2-3 cups pitted & halved dark cherries
1 T sugar
1 cup whole milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t salt
1/2-3/4 cup coarsely chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 400°F
Butter a shallow baking dish or tart pan
Toss berries with granulated sugar and let stand 15 minutes.
Blend milk, butter, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in a blender until smooth.
Scatter berries (with juices) evenly in baking dish, then pour batter over top.
Bake on center rack until slightly puffed and firm to the touch, about 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Cool to warm, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature... with a friend... or by yourself.
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