My pretend kitchen

I had my first culinary lesson in my international cooking series last night. This is, hands down, the best birthday present my husband has ever given me. Some people might not think cooking for nearly 3 hours after working for 9 as an enjoyable way to spend the evening, but I had such a great time that I woke up this morning in a great mood!

We studied French cuisine last night and made four traditional French dishes: Pear Clafouti (a custard and fruit dessert); Apricot Chambord Brie (appetizer); Chickan and Sausage Cassoulet; and Duck A L’Orange.

I have cooked French foods before. Chicken Elegante is one of my favorite recipes and I finally tackled Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon this past year, but French cooking as a while can be intimidating. The dishes themselves sound so involved. Duck A L’Orange? Really? Chef Daniel wanted us to make that our first night out?

Here’s the thing most chefs won’t tell you. French food, at least the French food I made last night, is very simple. It is quality ingredients and basic techniques that result in a delicious dish.

We tackle Italian cuisine next week, but already I’m planning to make Chicken and Sausage Cassoulet for dinner soon. It turns out the boy likes it. Who knew?

PEAR CLAFOUTI

  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups pear slices
  • 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish or 9-inch deep dish pie round with the softened butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt until it forms a smooth, thin batter. Spread 3/4 cup of the batter onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake it for 2 to 4 minutes. Watch the batter closely and remove it before it cooks completely. It should just start to thicken and set when it is removed from the oven.

Transfer the dish to a heatproof surface and arrange the pears in a fan pattern over the hot batter. Pour the remaining batter over the pears and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar over the finished calfouti and serve it warm.

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