Friday, September 14, 2012

Celebrating Julia's 100th - Making Blueberry Flan

It was with great joy that we celebrated and reflected on the 100th anniversary of Julia Child’s birth last month. She left a great contribution to home cooks, and so many learned so much from her experience. Her book (written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) Mastering the Art of French Cooking helped American cooks better understand French cooking. More importantly, I think Julia Child inspired us and gave us the confidence to take on dishes that seemed complicated. It is still a joy to watch videos of her cooking programs and continue to learn from her.

As the world seemed to be recognizing her contributions on what would have been her 100th birthday, it seemed fitting to make one of her recipes for Cavalcade of Food. I wanted something relatively straightforward but decidedly French. This blueberry flan recipe could also be made with a few hands taking part, as the cottage was filled with company that weekend! We put our friends Mark and Melanie into service for this one – and together paid homage to one of the great culinary teachers and mentors of all time – Julia Child!


Julia Child’s Blueberry Flan (Clafoutis aux Myrtilles)

1 TBSP unsalted butter (for the baking dish)

3 eggs (at room temperature)

1 cup flour

1 ¼ cup milk (use whole or at least 2%)

2/3 cup sugar (divided)

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 TBSP vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter the inside of a 9x9 baking dish and set aside. Using an electric blender, combine eggs, flour, milk, 1/3 cup of sugar, vanilla and salt. Blend on high speed until all is combined (you may need to scrape the sides a couple of times). If you don’t have access to a blender, you can do this in a large bowl with a wire whisk – beat vigorously until flour is completely incorporated into the batter.

Pour enough batter into the baking dish to cover bottom with a depth of about a quarter inch. Place baking dish on stove top, and over low heat, warm batter until it just begins to cook and film begins to form on the bottom. Immediately remove from stove top. Distribute berries evenly over top of batter and then sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup sugar over berries. Pour remaining batter evenly over the berries. Place in oven 45-50 minutes.

Top of flan should be lightly brown and an inserted knife should come out clean. The flan will slightly deflate as it cools, but it is best served while warm. Serve dusted with powdered sugar, or topped with fresh whipped cream or your favorite ice cream. Bon appetite!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer's Candy! Making Pan Fried Sweet Corn!

Here in the great state of Michigan, we gobble up sweet corn by the bushel every summer. It’s a treat that we look forward to, and if we are lucky it starts coming in by the end of July and we enjoy it through the middle of September. There are a number of farmers in the Thumb that specialize in growing this delicious corn, and I try to make weekly stops.  One of the farms is the O’Hair Farms. They grow a number of crops including sweet corn. Driving by their farm one will find a large wooden cart with the day’s harvest – it doesn’t get any fresher than this!

Getting our sweet corn fix at the O'Hair Farms

Normally, we just steam the corn, maybe add some butter and salt, and enjoy. But if you find you have a surplus of sweet corn or are just looking for ways to change up how you prepare it, here is a recipe that you can take in a number of directions. We added some cherry peppers that we found at the farm stand – these little beauties pack a lot of heat, so we just used a couple small ones that were finely diced up. If you didn’t want the heat, you could use a sweet red or green pepper, or a shallot or onion. Or you could just make it all corn!  


Pan Fried Corn
8 ears fresh sweet corn
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 TBSP hot cherry pepper, finely diced
¾ cup water
2 TBSP butter
¼ cup chopped scallions 

Shuck the corn removing all the husk and silks. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cob. I use a Bundt pan for this job, which allows me to hold the cob up on end in the center hole of the pan, and then as I cut down the kernels fall into the pan (see video). You tube pan or Angel Food Cake pan would work just as well. After the kernels are removed, scrape cobs with a regular table knife to extract any additional “corn milk” from the cobs. 

Heat oil in a large skillet (I use my big cast iron skillet for this job) over medium heat.  Add corn and any corn milk you have collected. Saute until corn begins to slightly darken in color, about four or five minutes. Add flour, sugar, salt, pepper, cherry peppers (if using – or substitute with a sweet pepper) and cook until peppers begin to soften. Add water and stir until it is absorbed. You will notice something that looks like a light “glaze” on the corn. Add butter and stir until butter has completely melted. Garnish top of corn with chopped scallions. Enjoy!