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!”
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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.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
Can't get enough of Jenny? Check out her previous column on the Lotus Cocktail.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).