Cherry season is well under way. I love this time of year, when locally harvested summer berries appear in the grocery store with a generous price slash (ah, the economics of abundance). I buy cherries weekly, and enjoy the proverbial bowl while I work.
But I feel these balls of pep deserve something more than hand-to-mouth, a more romantic preparation that adequately conveys my cherry-love.
While in culinary school, I was taught a dish called clafouti (pronounced: cla-foo-TEE). The dish stayed with me because it was fun to say, and almost guiltily easy to make, unlike most of what I learned in my pastry program.
The dish is from Limoges, France, and locals consider it a proper clafouti only when made with fresh cherries. To take it a step further, purists insist on using cherries with their pits still inside, as the pits are said to contribute flavor.
Flavor, shmavor -- by keeping the pits in, I just saved 15 minutes of prep time.
Plus, by leaving the cherries whole, the berries swell and plump as the clafouti cooks, scarlet balls rising from a sea of yellow custard. As one who delights in finding the bay leaf in her winter stew (it's good luck!), and chicken bone in a tamale (thank goodness, it's actual chicken), I enjoy finding a pit in my pie.
Clafouti has an unusual texture, something between a custard and a baked pancake. The batter is a combination of ingredients you probably already in the fridge, spun in a blender and poured over a skillet full of cherries. As the dish cooks, it gets golden and puffy -- you'll feel proud removing it from the oven.
It may be a cliché, but who cares? Life is a bowl of cherries. Pits and all.
1 tablespoon butter
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour
1 generous pint black cherries (2 heaping cups), stems removed
Confectioner's sugar (for serving)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Generously coat a 9-inch cast-iron skillet with butter and set aside. In a blender, combine eggs, milk, sugar, brandy, vanilla extract and salt. Blend to combine. Add flour and blend until incorporated.
2. Put cherries in the prepared skillet and pour batter over them. Place in the oven and cook until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Lightly dust with Confectioner's sugar before serving, if desired.