Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Like I said last week, it’s cherry season! For the past two weeks, the farmer’s market has been a veritable carpet of deep red and black sweet cherries. The farmers have been very vocal in their encouragement that we buy up their stock, particularly one woman who has pretty much be braying how much she detests strawberries but loves cherries on a continuous loop. Kind of weird, but she did compliment my blue nail polish, so all was forgiven.

Anyway, I spent an excellent week mainlining cherries, then decided it was time to do something with them, specifically, make a clafoutis. Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert made with lots of cherries in a little batter. The batter is egg-heavy, with just a little sugar and flour, but it contains more cherry than cake--a great way to feature cherries in season.

First, macerate about a pound and a half of cherries in a few ounces of kirsch. Hoookay, first problem--who keeps kirsch around the house, honestly? It's a clear cherry brandy from Germany, and used in fondue and cakes when not drunk straight. But, it being Sunday, I had no way of getting any kirsch at short notice. So I substituted maraschino instead.

What's maraschino? Why it's an Italian cherry liqueur (as opposed to a German brandy). The main differences, as I understand it by tasting them both in days gone by, is that maraschino has a richer and sweeter flavor, whereas kirsch is stronger and dryer. I figured that in a cake, the difference wouldn't matter so much (in a cocktail the difference would make or break it), and since my cocktail geek husband had a nice bottle of maraschino in the liquor cabinet, it would serve.

So! The cherries macerate in the liqueur for an hour, releasing their juices and taking on that tasty liqueur flavor.

When the cherries are done, beat six eggs...

Then add some sugar, flour, and vanilla.

The batter will be liquidy... almost like pancake batter. Fold the cherries in, and pour into a buttered and sugared pan, then shove it in the oven at 450 degrees for 40 minutes.

Or... so I thought.

After about 20 minutes in the oven, the clafoutis had completely puffed out of its pan, and was starting to burn. OH MY GOD!!! I freaked, thinking it would lead to horrible burned-on-the-outside, raw-on-the-inside bad times. I even TURNED DOWN THE HEAT IN MY OVEN (wow such a bad baking idea) to try to fix the issue. When the thing came out after 40 minutes, it was looking a little grim...

But a knife stuck in the middle came out dry, so I decided to slice things up. I served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

And guys, it was really good! Even the burned bits were nice--turned out, the batter puffed so much that only a thin layer was burned, but most of the batter was a creamy, eggy deliciousness. The cherries, soaked in their maraschino, were completely delicious. In fact, it was even better the next day over a cup of milky coffee.

I absolutely loved this dessert and will make it again as soon as possible... maybe with some oven tweaks.

Lessons learned: Maraschino is an ok sub for kirsch in baking (not cocktails); maybe it is time to recalibrate my oven (how do you even do that with an ancient gas oven?)

Next week: Not sure... I might do a non-Les Halles post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Celery Remoulade and Mayonnaise RAAAAGE

Ohhhh my god you guys. Guys. Guys. So, yeah, it has been a little while, hasn't it? I wish I could say that I was committed, or in rehab, or something but noooo, just lazy. I mean, I had gotten pretty lax about posting there, and then just dropped of the planet. And I feel kind of bad because it's like every post on this blog starts with an apology for how long it has been since posting. So yeah, this blog is sporadic, DEAL WITH IT.

I have been in a bit of writing malaise, and cooking malaise, where like nothing I seem to do turns out proper. But, I managed to complete another recipe just last week, so I'm here to talk about it now, and hey, that's what is important, right? No matter how sporadic I am, I have not, and will not, give up on this project because GOD DAMN IT I AM A KITCHEN VIKING.

So. Celery remoulade.

This is an easy recipe, one of the easiest in the book. It involves no cooking, only a little chopping and stirring, and locating the correct ingredients. So, fool that I am, I decide this needs a little complicating--by way of making my own mayonnaise to mix into the dressing.


I was super successful at making mayo in that one post I did, 'memba that? And I was all bragging and swaggering about how easy it is to make one's own mayonnaise? I TAKE IT BACK. I tried so hard, with my food processor, my blender, my electric whisk, and all it got me was a bunch of broken bowls when they slid through my egg coated hands off the counter and onto the floor. And tears, lots of them, like I was starring in "Julie and Julia" except without the whole sequel where I get divorced (yeah Husband J stood by me through my mayonnaise rage, no idea why).

So I decided that homemade mayonnaise can go fuck itself, it's time to make out with a bottle of Whole Foods mayo.


So, you get your bottle of mayo (after a nice makeout session) and squeeze a good amount into a bowl. Add some Dijon mustard. Now, this is a magic combination people, a good enough sauce to stand on its own (or with a little horseradish) for the purposes of dipping steamed artichoke leaves into its creamy goodness. But we will be fancifying this up. Add some walnut oil! OOH FANCY, it comes in those pretty skinny bottles from Whole Foods and costs like $20 a pop, so you know it's quality eating.

Mmmm... creamy goop.

Now, put that whole mess in the fridge. Tony tells us to chop the celeriac first, then mix the sauce, but this is a FILTHY LIE. Make the sauce first THEN chop the celeriac, so it doesn't brown. It takes a while. Because celeriac looks like this:

Oh yeah, that looks nothing like celery does it? Yeah. Celery remoulade does not use celery. It uses celeriac, which is the root of the celery plant. To be quite honest, I'd never eaten a celeriac before this dish, and wouldn't have known what those things were unless they had a big sign on 'em at the farmer's market last week. They are a sort of solid-yet-a-little-spongy root that has a celery-ish flavor. Like if you made a potato or turnip out of celery.

Anyway, all you need is one celery root and a mandoline, but then you have to take out your chef's knife and julienne the slices. Keep a lemon by your side and squeeze some juice over each batch of celeriac slices as you put them in the bowl so they don't go brown.

Once the whole root has been julienned, dump it into your dressing and toss to coat. Then, toss in some chopped walnuts, salt, pepper and... that's your salad. Seriously.

And it's good, too! It is a great mix of creamy dressing coating slices of slightly starchy celery flavored goodness. Both Husband J and I enjoyed the hell out of this salad. I'd definitely make it again, since it's so easy and enjoyable. But with my new boyfriend, Whole Foods mayo. I'll never cheat on you again, bb.

Lessons learned: Mayonnaise is, literally, the devil.

Next week: Ugh, guys, I don't even know. Should I make a promise I can't keep? All I know is, it's cherry season and I have an unreasonable craving for clafoutis, so...