Last Saturday was the last week of the season at the market for Cliffside Orchards. I've purchased Jeanette and Jeff Herman's apples and pears for years. I included Cliffside Orchards in my revised cookbook, now called THE NORTHWEST VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK: 200 INSPIRED RECIPES THAT CELEBRATE LOCAL FLAVORS. This Northwest cookbook will be published by Timber Press in Spring 2010.
Some of the farmers profiled in my book contributed recipes, and Jeanette's Pear Clafouti is so good, I made it for our Thanksgiving brunch. It starts with one simple Northwest ingredient--pears.
I've made this recipe so many times, I love to experiment with it. Jeanette used Bartlett pears, but I'm a Bosc pear fan, so that's what I used. I couldn't find my 10-inch cake pan so I made it in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. And since I didn't have any milk on hand, I substituted organic soymilk. Also, I tried a vanilla bean this time, cutting it lengthwise and scraping out the vanilla into the soymilk. Then I heated the soymilk and vanilla slightly before using so the vanilla infused the milk.
4 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut in half
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy (optional
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter a 9 or 10-inch round pan.
2. Lay pears cut side down in pan.
3. Combine the eggs and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and beat until foamy and thick. Add the flour and continue to mix until s smooth batter forms. Add the milk, vanilla and brandy, if desired. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and mix well.
4. Pour the mixture over the pears and bake 30 minutes or until browned. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and add a dollop of ice cream, whipped cream or sorbet.
Eaten warm, the pears melted in my mouth. I didn't need lemon sorbet but it added a visual contrast and the sweet hot clafouti and cold tangy sorbet was a sweet-tart delight.
If any Clafouti is left over, it's also good the next day. As you can see (below), refrigeration changes the texture but there's something exotic about the vanilla-infused cool, firm sweet dish that makes me want one bite after another. If you used a vanilla bean like I did, don't mind the dark speckles, it's just vanilla.