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28 July 2012

Clafoutis and Marseille, France


As I emptied my luggage, I looked at the accumulating gastronomic souvenirs I took home with me from my trip to France.  There's an odd mixture of jars of tapenade, flower syrups, specialty sweets, a variety of saucisson, a big bottle of soupe de poissons of Chez Fonfon that I was debating whether to take home or not and some other biscuits I stuffed in my carry on for my daughter's impulsive bouts of hunger while traveling. 


I also managed to squeeze in some food prop musts.  Yes, it's every food blogger's vice.   Wherever I am, I find something that I am absolutely convinced will go well with my future food posts.  I don't know (or rather I refuse to acknowledge) when I have completely filled up all the free spaces in my cupboards.  And the peculiar thing is, they are just singular items of different kinds, practically useless unless I serve my meals with a hodgepodge of cutlery, glasses, plates and table napkins.



With all these souvenirs that took up most of my luggage weight allowance, I took home something more valuable that didn't even take a single gram.   Packed in my bag was a a few pages of recipes of classic French dishes that my friend cooked, made me try, patiently translated and wrote for me.  


One of these recipes is le clafoutis, that, after trying for the very first time (Yes, you read right.  First time!), made me wonder why I never tried it before in the first place!  I loved it!  And my  friend and her husband didn't miss that point after I ate 3/4 of the whole dessert.  


I was intrigued that the classic clafoutis uses unpitted black cherries because the seeds add flavor to it.  That suited me well.  I never liked pitting cherries anyway.   My friend gave me this recipe that she got from a French cooking magazine that her mother-in-law uses.  Her mother-in-law is someone whom you would want to stay with in the kitchen all day.  I had the opportunity to meet her in her house over  a weekend ten years ago and believe me, I can still taste all the dishes that she cooked.  

As soon as I arrived home, I went to the supermarket to fill up our kitchen with food again.  I was convinced that cherry season is already over and I was lucky to have chanced upon a new delivery of black cherries at the supermarket.   Immediately, I recreated my new discovery, le clafoutis!


In every trip, there is something that ranks as the most valuable ornament to your experience or something you would rather forget.  Marseille epitomized both for me.  I always believe that it's better to hear the negative part ahead of the good one, so let me quickly tell you what it is.  My friend's car was broken into while we were having lunch.  One window was broken and the stuff that we left at the trunk were strewn in the front seats of the car.  Nothing was stolen, thank God, because we really didn't leave anything valuable anyway.   Having gone through this misfortune, I feel the need to warn you in case you arrive in Marseille with a car, get excited that there are some parking spaces at La Corniche, where the telescopes to see Chateau d'If are located.  We didn't know that there was a reason why the area had free spaces.  Everyone, even the police, knew about the notoriety of the place. 


Now for the wonderful part of Marseille.  Bouillabaisse was born in this seaside city.  And for that, after 10 whole years and still craving for it, one of my priorities was to have some bouillabaisse in Marseille.  That meant traveling for almost 2 hours just to experience it again. 


We booked a table at Chez Fonfon, one of the few restaurants in Marseille serving the genuine one.   Everything about the restaurant impressed me.  From the way they dealt with my 2-year old daughter, the over-all service, the kir, the fish tapenade, the whole process of serving the bouillabaisse, the dessert, the calisson and the coffee.  Did I miss anything?  Everything was well-orchestrated to perfection.  The bouillabaisse was worth the plane trip from Rome and the 4-hour round trip car ride. 


Let me leave you with a few pictures of what we were able to see in Marseille before we discovered our broken window.  We weren't able to go around much but hey, lunch was more than perfect!  

And I hope you enjoy this clafoutis too.  This weekend would be the perfect time to make one!  Enjoy your weekend!


Clafoutis

Ingredients:
Serves 6
  • 450 grams black cherries, washed and stems removed
  • 150 grams white sugar
  • 80 grams flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 ml. liquid cream
  • 200 ml. milk
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla powdered sugar for sprinkling on top
  • butter for greasing the pan
Directions:
  1. Mix the cherries with 50 g. of white sugar in a bowl and leave them for 30 minutes.  
  2. Beat the eggs then set aside.
  3. In a bowl, mix the flour, the remaining sugar, salt and beaten eggs.  Mix well.
  4. Add the cream and milk.  Continue mixing.
  5. Rub the butter on baking pan.  
  6. Put the cherries on the baking pan.  Pour the mixture on the cherries.  
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes.   To check if it's cooked, insert a toothpick at the center of the cake.  If it comes out clean, then it is cooked.  If it doesn't come out clean, then cook longer.
  8. Let it cool.  Sprinkle with vanilla powdered sugar on top before serving.  Serve lukewarm or cold.