We take Independence Day very seriously in my neighborhood, because, well, America. But when it comes to the neighborhood potluck competition at our annual July 4 block party, I have noticed certain advantage enjoyed by far-flung globally inspired entries.
It all started one year when dishes with elegant names like Panzanella and Caprese swept the blue ribbons, while more humbly named bread salad and sliced tomatoes with basil and cheese got the cold shoulder. Was it possible these chic European-accented recipes were upstaging their identical domestic counterparts simply because they sounded more sophisticated?
To test my hypothesis, the next year I entered my grandmother’s beloved but perennially un-victorious fruit cobbler recipe into the contest under the title Cobblereggio con Frutti, and guess who finally took home some hardware?
Fueled by the rebranding triumph of my Continental Cobblereggio, I recently cast about for other names that I could affix to my cobbler to jazz it up a little. (Just look at what becoming Dried Plums did for Prunes.)
The leading contender was “Clafoutis,” which refers to a French baked-fruit dessert often made with cherries. While Clafoutis shares a charming rusticity with my no-nonsense cobbler of Virginia origin, it differs in one significant way: Clafoutis contains egg, which lends it more of a custard or flan texture than the crustier cobbler.
This leads to a favorite joke that I haven’t quite figured out how to adapt to the current conversation, but here goes:
Why do Parisians never eat two eggs for breakfast?
Because one egg is un oeuf.
Well, mes amis, when it comes to cobbler, one egg is too many, as far as I’m concerned. But when it comes to Clafoutis, un oeuf is too few. The following recipe for the French confection calls for three eggs and—hold onto your chapeau—cherries with the pits still in! Have you ever heard of anything more divinely insouciant than leaving pits in cherries? (The stones allegedly impart an almond tinge to the custard, but if you ask me, that’s just a good excuse not to fool with pitting a bunch of cherries.) Other stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches and plums, also work well, but sans stones, obviously.
In any case, I double down on the jubilee of the cherry pits by adding a splash of Maraschino liqueur, which is also made with cherry pits and for which I am always scouting additional uses. The resulting Clafoutis is a dazzling steamed and mildly sweet custard punctuated by plump cerises, like so many cabochon stones in a bezel setting of blond batter. Speaking of stones, chew those hot cherries carefully, because emergency oral surgery is the pits.
Slow Cooker Clafoutis aux Cerises
We tested Clafoutis recipes in both a new-fangled oval Hamilton Beach slow cooker and an old-school round Rival CrockPot. The latter delivered a superior result, with enough depth to allow the batter to rise and envelop the cherries in a fluffy custardy cloud. It also cooked faster than the oval pot (1½ hours versus 2½ hours).
1 cup milk
¼ cup cream cheese
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla or Maraschino liqueur
1 pinch salt
½ cup flour
2 cups whole sweet cherries with pits (stems removed)
Powdered sugar (optional)
Turn slow cooker to High.
Grease slow cooker with butter.
In a blender, combine milk, cream cheese, sugar, eggs, salt, flour, vanilla OR liqueur.
Pour batter and cherries into slow cooker.
Bake for 1½ hours or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.
Turn off heat. Scoop into bowls. Dust with powdered sugar.