So to be fair, dinner expectations get a little lowered when you hear your spouse scream from the kitchen: “Can I get a little help here? My clafoutis is on fire!”
But the road to culinary recovery is often difficult and fire-singed, an effort of multiple attempts and perhaps even a few tears, all in the name of perfecting a single dish. The fact is, as easy as it sounded on paper, and as excited as I was to make use of the cherry tomatoes that had popped up in my garden during my two-week vacation in the west, Cherry Tomato Clafoutis did not work out on my first try.
The egg mixture was more scrambled eggs than custard -- perhaps due to undercooking -- and had a weird metallic aftertaste -- this I cannot explain -- and the whole effort seems to lack any cohesive flavor. It was all texture -- eggy, chunky, slippery (tomatoes) -- without any real lingering pleasure. “I don’t know what it wants to be,” said my husband, rather sadly, as this was our first home cooked meal in weeks. (Also: I was not involving the salad, as I had none of the ingredients in my garden, which was picked over with my blessing by my housesitter, whose results are astoundingly documented here.)
I have conquered Beef Bourguignon! I have been known to take on marzipan! I would not be undone by eggs.
Back in the kitchen a few days later, I began with a fresh car ton of eggs, as much a nod to superstition as freshness. I even got some new flour. As an experiment, I cut some of the tomatoes in half, just to see if that helped. I then ran outside and grabbed my new favorite weed -- that would be basil -- and put eight or nine leaves with the tomatoes in the bottom of my oval dish. After dumping my egg mixture on, I dotted the whole thing with a hard goat cheese, rather than the soft stuff, which I thought might yield something better than the cheese blobs of the last effort.
After about 25 minutes, I turned on the broiler and finished the dish under that flame, but was distracted for a few minutes by the press release wrath of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, which led to a teeny tiny oven fire that you should NOT be worrying yourself about. Caramelized edges. Okay black.
No matter, the results were so delicious -- a firm custard that still yielded easily to my fork, succulent tomatoes with a little basil and cheese zing. My husband agreed, then added, “Um, did you just eat half a claufoutis that was meant for four?” Well, this is Washington. Everyone’s interpretation of numbers is different.
Cherry Tomato Clafoutis:
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By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
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