I still have a lot of pears in the house from my friend Margit’s tree, sitting in a brown bag in the back of the refrigerator so that they will stay as green as possible for as long as possible: my mother only eats pears when they crunch — I’ll eat them slightly softer than that, but I do not enjoy pears that have turned yellow (It’s that mushy texture).
Yesterday I pulled out the pears and found about five yellow ones, two large and three small. I had volunteered to make a dessert last evening — my mother has a sweet tooth and is eating soft foods until her current round of dental work is over. Plus, I had done something that made her uncomfortable and needed to work my way back into her good graces.
What to make? I could roll out pie crust and make another pear tart tatin. But Johnny once said he wanted to elope with that when I served it at Ballad group, so it would be better to make that when he is around to enjoy it. Carly Sullivan had posted a recipe for clafouti that I had saved. I took a look at it again, and then adapted it for ingredients we had. Basically, I used white sugar instead of honey, milk and half and half instead of buttermilk, omitted the vanilla and added dried cranberries to the fruit layer, browned the butter and cooked the pears in it, throwing the sugar on top to caramelize, cooking it down until the mixture was fairly dry, giving the pears time to absorb butter, sugar, lemon, ginger and cranberry flavors. The cranberries made it pretty, too.
To make the clafouti I just made:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Select 2 large yellow pears (or 3 smaller ones). Core and slice them thinly, but do not peel them: the skins help hold the pear slices together.
Melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a skillet, allowing the butter to brown, but not burn, before adding the sliced pears.
Sprinkle about 1/4 cup sugar over the top and jerk the skillet a few times so that the sugar gets distributed among the pears.
Allow mixture to cook down until the pears have released their liquid and the liquids have reduced to a thin caramel.
Turn off heat.
Add the juice of half a lemon, a generous grating of fresh ginger (use your microplane and grate directly over the fruit), a small handful of dried cranberries.
Pour the fruit mixture into a tart pan or pie plate.
Now make the batter:
Crack 3 eggs and whisk them.
Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and whisk again.
Whisk in 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Add 1/4 cup half and half and 3/4 cup milk*
Add vanilla extract (I poured it into the cap from the vanilla bottle and used about half a capful).
Whisk until just blended.
Pour batter over prepared fruit in pan.
Bake for thirty-five minutes. Serve warm or cold, cut in pie-like wedges.
* Our standard milk is 1%. If you have whole milk, like Celi, just use a cup of whole milk — I added the half and half to make the milk richer, but you can make it with any kind of milk you have, including soy milk, nut milk or coconut milk.
Food Notes: This made a easy, delicious dessert, creamy and custardy with crisp, buttery edges. Cooking the fruit first on the stove meant no watery flavors. This would make an excellent Thanksgiving dessert if you are not utter traditionalists like we are, having to have pumpkin pie with whipping cream, made from the recipe on the Libby’s can, slightly modified. (We also make fruit pie of some description, cherry or apple or blueberry or mixed berry, depending on what is around).
The Lauren Project: Lauren is back in Santa Fe, still cooking up your recipes. Please be patient: we will announce the prize winners by the end of this month.