It used to be that clafoutis were always baked French pancakes studded with cherries.
Some clafoutis were smooth and flanlike; others puffed and turned golden brown on top. Some versions called for pitted cherries for greater ease of eating. Others insisted on whole cherries so the pits could add almondy nuance. And when cherries weren’t in season, different fruits stepped in: apricots, plums, berries, even pears.
But sweetness was a necessity, part of the deal. Until one day it wasn’t.
Clafoutis have moved on to the savory side. Now, in addition to classic recipes served for dessert or brunch, you’ll see them studded with meat, vegetables and cheese for lunch and dinner. For anyone who loves puffy, eggy savories like the soft interior of a quiche, a cheesy frittata or a custardy Yorkshire pudding, this is a very good trend indeed.
Making the switch from sweet to savory is simple to do, as long as you don’t mess with the structure of the pancake. The ratio of eggs to milk to flour needs to remain largely in place.
But beyond that, anything goes. Adding herbs, spices and grated cheese will give you a nicely piquant base in which to stir more substantial fillings: meat, vegetables, bits of leftover curry stashed in the fridge. Just make sure that whatever meats and vegetables you use are cooked through before you fold them in. They won’t cook any more while the pancake is in the oven; they just heat through while the egg batter around them sets and inflates.
This vegetable-rich version is an excellent vehicle for using up the last of the summer corn, to which I add Swiss chard and leeks for color and heft, along with garlic, herbs, cheese and both red and black pepper for bite.
It bakes up browned and almost souffléd on top, with a dense, rich middle. But it will deflate quickly. So for maximum drama, have your guests seated at the table when you pull it out of the oven. This said, it’s perfectly delicious after it flattens out. It may not be as striking, but with its salty depth of flavor, it’s just as irresistible.
Time: 1 1/4 hours
Yield: 4 servings
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup crème fraîche
4 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more as needed
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère or cheddar (about 4 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large or 3 small leeks (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 cups corn kernels (from 2 to 3 ears, or frozen and thawed)
1 large garlic clove, grated on a microplane or minced
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (8 cups)
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Fresh lemon juice, for serving
Red pepper flakes, for serving
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, whisk together milk, crème fraîche, eggs, flour, parsley, dill, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Whisk in 3/4 cup Gruyère.
2. Heat olive oil in a 9-inch oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until they are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn, garlic and a pinch of salt; cook until garlic is fragrant and corn is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chard leaves a handful at a time, and cook until they are wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Season the mixture with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
3. Pour crème fraîche mixture over the corn and chard mixture, and then sprinkle the remaining Gruyère and the Parmigiano on top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until custard is lightly set, about 40 minutes. Serve topped with a sprinkling of lemon juice and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Yield: 8 servings
450 grams (3 cups) mixed blueberries and blackberries (or use just one type), rinsed and drained on paper towels
2 tablespoons kirsch, eau de vie de myrtille, or crème de cassis (optional)
105 grams (7 tablespoons) sugar, preferably organic
40 grams (approximately 1/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
35 grams (approximately 1/3 cup) almond flour
3 extra large eggs (165 grams)
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
165 grams (2/3 cup, approximately) low-fat yogurt or kefir
1. Toss berries in a medium bowl with the kirsch, eau de vie or crème de cassis, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together all-purpose flour and almond flour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9- or 10-inch ceramic tart pan or clafoutis dish.
3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs with remaining sugar, seeds from the vanilla bean or vanilla, and salt. Place a strainer over the bowl and drain berries, allowing all of the liquid from the berries to run into the egg and sugar mixture. Whisk to combine. Arrange drained berries in the buttered baking dish.
4. Beat the sifted flours into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Add yogurt or kefir and combine well. Pour over fruit, scraping out all of the batter with a rubber spatula.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the top is browned and the clafoutis is firm and puffed. Press gently on the top in the middle to see if it’s firm. If it isn’t, return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.