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Jason Dady Opens Shuck Shack

Jason Dady Opens Shuck Shack

Oysters at Shuck Shack

Oysters at Shuck Shack

Jason Dady at Shuck Shack

Jason Dady at Shuck Shack

It’s oyster time at Shuck Shack, Jason Dady’s latest venture. The casual new seafood restaurant is at 520 E. Grayson St.

The menu features a half-dozen oysters from different spots along the Northeast coast, such as Cooks Cocktail and Cavendish Cup, both from Prince Edwards Island, Mallet from New Brunswick and Black Bear Point from Bagaduce River, Maine. Gulf oysters are also available. Or, if you prefer them cooked, you can order your orders in several styles: Texas, Casino and Rockefeller.

If you prefer soup, there’s Clam Chowder a la minute, Oyster “Chowdah” and Lobster Bisque. There are also fish and chips, salads, sandwiches and snacks you can share.

If you prefer something not from the sea, there’s a big burger, a bacon-wrapped hot dog and a “funky” grilled cheese with broccoli.

Cocktails are on the menu.

Cocktails are on the menu.

There’s also a full bar with playful drinks meant for the San Antonio summer, including a Limonaide made with Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka and a lime paleta, a caipirinha, a gin and tonic with a dash of rhubarb bitters, Trash Can Punch and a frozen Negroni pitcher.

The sign over the building is hand-painted on a piece of flotsam that Dady said washed up during the recent flood.

There’s a play area for kids and picnic tables for those who want to sit outside as well as air conditioned comfort for those who don’t.

Shuck Shack opened to the public on July 4, then took a few days off. From July 7 to 18, it will be open for dinner; thereafter, it’ll be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday. Sunday brunch will be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Call (210) 236-7422 for information.

Just shucked bivalves at Shuck Shack.

Just shucked bivalves at Shuck Shack.

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5 Easy Watermelon Treats for a Family 4th

5 Easy Watermelon Treats for a Family 4th

“The hot Texas sun brings on a thirst that can only be quenched by delving into a delicious Texas watermelon,” write the authors of “Lone Star to Five Star: Culinary Creations for Every Occasion” (Favorite Recipes Press, 2004), who are also members of the Junior League of Plano.

How true.

watermelon1They go on to tell you how to pick out the best melon there is, whether you’re at the market or a roadside stand: “At the peak of ripeness a watermelon should be firm, symmetrical and heavy. Another sign of perfection is a creamy yellow spot on the underside of the melon indicating that it was sun-ripened. Watermelons are produced in almost every county in Texas and are harvested and sold throughout the world 11 months of the year.”

Since most of us Texans can’t spend a summer without a few melons, it would seem that cookbooks covering the state’s culinary gifts would be filled with ideas of what to do with this juicy fruit. But that’s not the case. I looked through more than 50 cookbooks, but only a handful of ideas showed up. Here are five simple treats, ranging from aguas frescas and salsa to salad and sorbet, that celebrate Texas at its boldest and most refreshing.

Minty Melon Pops

“Whenever you have melon, you rarely have just a little. You have lots of it,” writes Denise Gee in “Sweet on Texas” (Chronicle Books, $24.95, 2012). “This is a great way to use that leftover melon. Think of it as agua fresca on a stick. (And you know how we love our sticks o’ anything.)”

Mint-Lime Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup losely packed fresh mint
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup pureed watermelon (black seeds removed)
1 cup pureed honeydew melon
1 cup pureed cantaloupe

To make the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Add the mint and set aside; let cool to room temperature. Pour the mint syrup through a strainer into a clean container, add the lime juice and stir to combine. Refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To make the popsicles: Using three medium bowls, keep the pureed melons separate.

Pour equal amounts of mint-lime syrup into each melon bowl and stir well.

Fill popsicle molds three-fourths full (leaving room for expansion) with individual melon mixes or a combination of them (see note). Set the lids in place and insert sticks through the holes. If you don’t have popsicle molds, fill small freezer-proof cups about three-fours full'; stretch plastic wrap across the top and affix with rubber bands. Make 1/2-inch slits in the center and insert sticks.

Freeze the popsicles until firmly set (3 to 4 hours).

Remove the popsicles by squeezing the sides of the molds or cups and twist slightly to disengage. If necessary, briefly rinse the outside of the molds or cups under hot water.

Note: For a layered, rainbow effect, freeze each mold, fitted with a stick, about third full and keep frozen for about 1 hour or more before adding the second layer of a different juice. Let it freeze for about 1 hour more before adding a third layer of a different juice, then freeze until completely firm.

Makes 16 servings.

From “Sweet on Texas” by Denise Gee

Watermelon Sorbet

This simple sorbet recipe, from Peg Hein’s “More Tastes and Tales from Texas … with Love” (1987), doesn’t require an ice cream maker or any special equipment.

4 cups watermelon chunks
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
Additional sugar, if needed

Place watermelon chunks in a food processor or blender bowl. Puree until smooth. Remove seeds with a slotted spoon. You should have about 3 cups watermelon puree.

Add orange juice and sugar. Mix thoroughly and pour into a large flat bowl. Freeze until solid around edges but still slushy in the center. Stir until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff, adding a little more sugar if needed. Fold into sorbet. Freeze for 1 to 1 1/2 hours without stirring. Serve in individual sherbet dishes or in small dessert bowls.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From “More Tastes and Tales from Texas … with Love” by Peg Hein

Refreshing Watermelon Delight (Refresco de Sandia)

“This fruit-flavored water, or aguas frescas, is especially delicious, and it looks beautiful served in a clear glass pitcher,” writes Diana Barrios Treviño in “Los Barrios Family Cookbook” (Villard, $18.95, 2002).

2 pounds watermelon (see note)
3 1/2 quarters Water
2 cups sugar
Remove the seeds from the watermelon, slice the flesh from the rind, and cut it into chunks. Transfer to a blender, in batches, if necessary, and blend for a few seconds; there should still be some small chunks of watermelon.

Combine the water and sugar in a large pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the watermelon puree, blending thoroughly. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.

Note: You can substitute cantaloupe for watermelon.

Makes 1 gallon.

Watermelon Salsa


2 cups coarsely chopped watermelon
1 cup roasted corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1 lime

Combine the watermelon, corn, onions, jalapeño and lime juice in a bowl and mix gently. Chill until serving time.

Serve with tortilla chips, over salads or with grilled chicken or fish.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Lone Star to Five Star: Culinary Creations for Every Occasion” by the Junior League of Plano

Watermelon and Basil Salad with Goat Feta Cheese

“This is a unique summertime salad, especially when the Hempstead watermelons are at the ripe and flavorful best,” writes Terry Thompson-Anderson in “Texas on the Table” (University of Texas Press, $45, 2014). “It’s such a simple, easy-to-make salad, but the combination of flavors and textures is the real essence of a Texas summer.”

6 cups (1-inch) cubes of seedless Texas watermelon, grown in Hempstead, if possible
10 ounces crumbed Texas goat feta cheese
1/2 small red onion, sliced paper thin
1 cup fresh basil, cut in julienned strips
Texas extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Combine the watermelon chunks, goat feta and red onion in a bowl and toss to blend. Just before serving, cut the basil leaves and add to the salad. Add just enough olive oil to moisten the ingredients and salt to taste. Toss to blend in the basil and salt. Serve at once before the basil strips turn dark.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Texas on the Table” by Terry Thompson-Anderson

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Relax with Raspa de Sandia y Campari (Watermelon and Campari Sorbet)

Relax with Raspa de Sandia y Campari (Watermelon and Campari Sorbet)

A grown-up dessert. How refreshing. That’s what Adán Medrano offers in this frosty raspa or sorbet, which mingles sweet watermelon with pleasantly bitter Campari. The San Antonio native includes the recipe in his “Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes” (Texas Tech University Press, $29.95). Here’s the story of this treat:

This refreshing dessert is … an example of cooks constantly remaining current by carefully observing and relating to their local context. It has only (a few) ingredients and correct ratio/blending is the feat.

Watermelon Campari Sorbet

Watermelon Campari Sorbet

Although not native to the region, the sandia has become a Texas Mexican staple, as any Mexican American family will tell you. Watermelon (sandia) and Mexican lime are a natural blend in agua fresca, of course, but the addition of Italian Campari may give you pause. Fear not, for it harmonizes beautifully. How did I get the idea? By looking at our Texas cactus.

Italy’s Campari was already connected to Mexico and our Texas Mexican region because when it was first invented, and until 2006, its color used to come from the crushed cochineal beetle that lives in the nopal cactus of Texas and Mexico. The little insects are in those white powdery specks that you see on cactus paddles.

Our ancestors, the Texas Native Americans, had discovered and widely used the beautiful radiant red color. Until recently Starbucks used it to produce the hue in its strawberry frappucino.

The right proportions and blending make this a truly complex bitter-tart-sweet, grown-up dessert. Glazed spearmint adds contrast both in texture and color.

Raspa de Sandia y Campari (Watermelon and Campari Sorbet)

4 cups watermelon cubes
2 1/2 tablespoons Mexican lime juice
1 1/2 fluid ounces simple syrup (Make simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water and heating until fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature.)
3 ounces Campari
12 spearmint leaves

Mint Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup

In a blender, blend the watermelon, lime juice, syrup and Campari until totally smooth.

Pour the watermelon puree into a 9-inch or larger baking dish and place it in the freezer. After 45 minutes, scrape the sides of the dish and push the frozen crystals to the center of the dish. Thereafter do that every 30 minutes, making sure that fine crystals form evenly with no big chunks. Total time will be about 3 hours.

To glaze the spearmint leaves, heat the sugar, water and corn syrup in a small pan. Heat gradually to the point where if you drop the syrup into a cup of cold water it forms a firm ball. The syrup temperature at this stage is 245 degrees. Remove from heat. After the syrup cools down, dip the mint leaves, shake off excess, and place them on a platter until you are ready to garnish. (I learned this candying technique from my mother because she was always making red candied apples on Sundays to help raise money for our Catholic parish church. The candy glaze was beautifully red, glass-like and delicious. Keep this glaze recipe for other uses.)

When ready to serve, scoop into sorbet dishes and garnish with the glazed spearmint. The spearmint adds a wonderful finishing taste to the sorbet. In Spanish we call it yerba buena, the good herb.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes” by Adán Medrano


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A Hive of Activity on the Roof

A Hive of Activity on the Roof

A ride to the roof

A ride to the roof

Thyme grows in an irrigated wall.

Thyme grows in an irrigated wall.

It was a truly unique way of getting to lunch. You had to ride a cherry picker up to the roof over a portion of the Omni Colonnade, 9821 Colonnade Blvd. alongside I-10.

The jaunty trip above the pavement was long enough to give you time to take in the view, which included the verdant USAA campus to one side and subdivisions to the other.

Once you stepped out of the cage, the hotel’s executive chef, Sam Boisjoly, could be found serving up an array of treats. He stood surrounded by pots bearing everything from assorted herbs and peppers to tomatoes and edible flowers.

Those ingredients from the rooftop garden were then used in the chef’s menu for the day, which included jalapeño cornbread Caprese salad, lemongrass chicken satay and honey-roasted opa alongside a pitcher of cilantro watermelon lemonade.

Boisjoly’s pride was in evidence. In addition to being charge of food at the hotel, he’s also in charge of the garden, which he has tended with care, despite the unrelenting heat and exposure.

Jalapeños ripening in the sun.

Jalapeños ripening in the sun.

Also on the roof were the hotel’s bee boxes, filled with about 400,000 bees who have been busy making honey. During the press conference, the first harvest occurred with a suited beekeeper removing the honey-filled slats while exposed but interested visitors kept a respectful distance. The hotel plans on drawing honey twice a year, once in the summer and again in late fall.

All of this was to promote the hotel’s new approach of bringing a farm-to-table approach to the food being served. The farm of potted plants and  on the roof is being used in Bolo’s, the hotel restaurant, while the honey, which was extracted back on the ground, will be bottled and sold at the hotel.

And you don’t have to ride a cherry picker to taste the bounty that the hotel is harvesting.

Executive chef Sam Boisjoly (right) cooks with the foods he's grown.

Executive chef Sam Boisjoly (right) cooks with the foods he’s grown.

The hives are home to about 400,000 bees.

The hives are home to about 400,000 bees.

The view from the roof

The view from the roof

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Chefs’ Corner: Joel Herrera’s Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Chefs’ Corner: Joel Herrera’s Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Chefs have long enjoyed using watermelon in inventive, fun dishes that showcase its sweetness and it juicy texture.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

In this dish, Joel Herrera, a founder of the local chefs group, Los Cocineros, matches the summer favorite with pork belly.

But he doesn’t stop there.

He infuses the watermelon with jalapeño and whiskey. Then he adds sweet spices, including fennel, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom to the pork belly, creating an engaging counterpart to the watermelon.

If it all seems too much for a hot summer day, then let Herrera cook it for you. It’s on the menu of Los Cocineros’ upcoming pop-up dinner, which is set for 6 p.m. July 10-11 at Amaya’s Tacos & Bakery, 1502 E. Commerce St. The price is $35 a person and you can bring your own bottle.

To make a reservation, go to Los Cocineros Facebook page and select the date of your choice.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Dry Rub:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds pork belly in one rectangular piece, at least 60 percent lean

Braising Liquid:
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
3 whole tomatoes
2 cups dry white wine
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
2 whole juniper berries
1 cardamom pod
1 whole clove
1 quart chicken stock

For the Dry Rub: Combine salt, fennel, allspice and black pepper thoroughly. Rub onto all sides of the pork belly, place in a nonreactive pan and top with any remaining dry rub marinade over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove pork belly from refrigerator and place in a roasting pan.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

To make the braising liquid: In a large saucepan, saute onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add cinnamon stick, star anise, juniper berries, cardamom, clove and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

Pour hot braising liquid over pork belly. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 1/2 hours or until completely tender when pierced with a fork. Note: The pork belly can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated in the braising liquid until ready to proceed.

Remove the belly from the braise and cool. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut belly into 4 portions. Saute in a hot skillet with a little oil for two minutes, fat side down. Finish warming in oven for 5 minutes.

Compressed Watermelon:
1 watermelon
1 jalapeño
¼ cup whiskey

Remove the watermelon rind and cut the watermelon flesh into slabs that are 8 inches square and about 1 inch thick. It is fine to have smaller slabs.

Place the slabs into several vacuum seal bags. Do not overlap. Spread the jalapeño slices over the watermelon and pour in the whiskey and vacuum seal the watermelon.

Place the bags into the fridge for an hour and drain when ready to plate.

Pickled Watermelon Rind:
Clean the rind and leave only the green of the skin, make a mixture of a cup of rice vinegar, 1 garlic clove, ½ tablespoon of peppercorns, ¼ cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over watermelon rinds and put the bowl in the fridge. These can hold for a couple of days and the longer they set the better.

Kimchi Mole:
1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about a 2-ounce piece)
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves (from 6 to 8 medium cloves)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups coconut milk
1 ancho chile
¼ cup lime juice

Bring red pepper powder, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk, ancho chile and lime juice to a boil. Season to taste, blend and pass through a chinois or mill.

To plate the dish, arrange the Kimchi Mole on four plates. Cut the pork belly and slabs of watermelon into smaller pieces and arrange on each plate. Add a cube or two of pickled watermelon rind. Garnish as you see fit, with cucumber matchsticks, mint leaves, microgreens or whatever you like. Use either of the photographs accompanying this article as a starting point.

Makes 4 servings.

From Joel Herrera/Los Cocineros

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It’s Napa Cab Time at J Prime

It’s Napa Cab Time at J Prime

J Prime Steakhouse, 1401 N. Loop 1604 W., is hosting its first horizontal wine tasting at 6 p.m.  July 8.

Inglenook“Together we will compare six Cabernets from multiple Napa Valley wineries to fulfill the ‘horizontal tasting’ experience,” the steakhouse says. “Wine enthusiasts, start planning for an evening made to enlighten and unwind – you may even find a new Cabernet favorite!”

The lineup includes:

  • Stag’s Leap, Stag’s Leap Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District 2012
  • Cade, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Napa Valley 2011
  • Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2012
  • Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District Napa Valley 2012
  • Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder Napa Valley 2011
  • Inglenook “Cask” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford Napa Valley 2012

The price is $35 a person. Light appetizers will be served. Call (210) 764-1604 for reservations.

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Sausage and Heirloom Tomato Salad Is Great for Your Next Picnic

Sausage and Heirloom Tomato Salad Is Great for Your Next Picnic

Substitutes are often a way of life when it comes to recipes. Take this recipe for Sausage and Heirloom Salad, which appears in the July 2015 issue of Food & Wine magazine. The cover announces that the issue is filled with “Simplest Recipes from America’s Greatest Chefs,” and this winner from Ellen Bennett of The Apron Squad qualifies under the simple part.

sausage tomato salad

Sausage and Heirloom Tomato Salad

It sounds likes like a great way to start a picnic, because you can grill the sausage early and feed your crowd while waiting for the main course to be ready.

Trouble is, I couldn’t find the right kind of sausage to cook. Bennett calls for Calabrese, a hot and hard Italian sausage, or fresh Spanish chorizo. Usually, I would use Aurelia’s Chorizo, but I couldn’t find it at three H-E-B’s I went to. So, I ended up using a jalapeño sausage. It added a welcome bite, even if the texture might not have been what the creator of the recipe had in mind.

A friend who’s cutting back on meat liked the sounds of the salad — except for the sausage part (heresy in most of Texas, I realize, but she lives in upstate New York). No problem. One solution would be to substitute avocado for the sausage, leaving you with a vegan salad; another would be to use avocado with hard-boiled egg, providing a type of chunky guacamole salad.

Those who hate cilantro could also sue flat-leaf parsley, sorrel or celery leaves in the mix. Remember, recipe are outlines; you can adjust them to fit your tastes or what you have on hand. All that’s important is that you enjoy the final product.

Sausage and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Five (4-ounce) Calabrese or fresh chorizo sausages
1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 (15-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and sliced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the sausages over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted in each sausage registers 165 degrees, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a carving board. Let rest for 5 minutes, then slice 1/2-inch thick.

In a large bowl, toss the sausages with tomatoes, hearts of palm, kalamata olives, oil, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt. Serve.

Makes 8 servings.

From Ellen Bennett, The Apron Squad/Food & Wine

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Lone Star Spirit: Bending Branch Petite Sirah Brings Home the Gold

Lone Star Spirit: Bending Branch Petite Sirah Brings Home the Gold

Bending Branch Petite SirahBending Branch Winery in Comfort has won a gold medal for its 2012 Old Vine Petite Sirah, Shell Creek Vineyards at the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The wine received a 90-point rating from the judges. According to a release from the winery, “We make this wine with grapes harvested from 43-year-old vines at Shell Creek Vineyards in California’s Paso Robles American Viticultural Area.”

It’s been a good year for the Texas Hill Country winery. The Bending Branch 2012 Tempranillo won a gold medal in the 2015 Lone Star Wine Competition.

You can buy both of these wines through the winery’s online store. Or you could taste them when you visit the winery, which is close to I-10 in Comfort.

Several upcoming events include:

—A wine tent during the Comfort Fourth of July festivities at Comfort Park. A parade begins at 10 a.m., followed by  music from noon to midnight. Wine cocktails will also be available at the downtown Comfort tasting room, 704 High St.

—Two Tons of Steel will perform during the annual Crush Fest, July 18, 6 to 9 p.m. This will be at the winery, 142 Lindner Branch Trail. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

For more information, visit the winery’s website.

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Chefs Get Seasoned for ¡Destinación Chile! at the Omni Hotels

Chefs Get Seasoned for ¡Destinación Chile! at the Omni Hotels

Making Chilean-style empanadas during a week of classes in the food and culture of Chile.

Making Chilean-style empanadas during a week of classes in the food and culture of Chile.

Each year, Omni Hotels shines a spotlight on a new cuisine. This year, the focus is on the foods of Chile, and it will be featured in a three-month promotion beginning in October.

Fine seafood is a standard of Chilean cuisine.

Fine seafood is a standard of Chilean cuisine.

To get ready for ¡Destinación Chile!, more than 60 chefs from around the country descended on San Antonio recently to work with two chefs from Chile as well as professionals from the Culinary Institute of America at the Historic Pearl.

As you can see from these photos, the week-long immersion resulted in some fine looking food, a foretaste of culinary treasures to come later this year. Both La Mansion del Rio and Mokara will be participating in the promotion.

I wasn’t there for the classes, but I have been to Chile, so I can tell you to expect some excellent empanadas as well as winning salads, fine seafood, tender and juicy beef, hearty potato dishes, maybe some exotic ice creams and some exceptional wines.

Chefs from Omni Hotels around the county learn the flavors of Chilean cuisine.

Chefs from Omni Hotels around the county learn the flavors of Chilean cuisine.

Diners at Omni Hotels will get to try the Chilean dishes for three months, starting in October.

Diners at Omni Hotels will get to try the Chilean dishes for three months, starting in October.

The Chilean immersion involved more than 60 chefs.

The Chilean immersion involved more than 60 chefs.

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Get Your Clafouti Fix While the Cherries Are Good

Get Your Clafouti Fix While the Cherries Are Good

Whenever cherries come into season, I often think of cherry clafouti, not necessarily because I love the dish, but because I love the way the word “clafouti,” in all its French charm rolls off the tongue. Say it: clafouti (kla-foo-TEE).

What exactly is clafouti?

Cherry Clafouti, Cooks Illustrated style

Cherry Clafouti, Cooks Illustrated style

“Food Lover’s Companion” says it’s a “country French dessert … made by topping a layer of fresh fruit with batter. After baking, it’s served hot, sometimes with cream. Some clafoutis have a cakelike topping while others are more like a pudding. Though cherries are traditional, any fruit such as plums, peaches or pears can be used.”

Most versions I’ve had have been on the cake side, dense and a little too bready with the occasional brightness of fresh cherry breaking through all that flour. The latest issue of Cooks Illustrated goes strictly for the custard version, and it’s what I tried recently with good results.

I wasn’t expecting the custard aspect of the dish (I’ll admit I only read the recipe and not the page-long background), so the batter described was far more liquid than I was expecting. But it only had 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour to its load of eggs, cream and milk. The end result was light and airy, an eggy and rich encasement for those delicious cherries.

One twist of this recipe is that the folks at Cooks Illustrated suggest roasting the cherries first. “Briefly roasting halved and pitted cherries for our clafouti adds a little time to traditional approaches that call for tossing whole raw cherries into the batter — but we think it’s worth the effort,” they write. “Instead of bursting and leaking juices into the custard, which leave it soggy and stained red, the fruit adds bright, sweet-tart flavor that complements the rich custard.”

I used coconut palm sugar instead of white sugar, which left the batter darker than expected. No matter. It tasted good. A word of caution: The recipe says that the edges will be dark brown; mine burned slightly, but they were easily removed before serving. If they burn too much before the center reaches the desired temperature, just top everything with whipped cream, which covers all defects.

So, while cherries are in season, enjoy them in this light and delicious dessert, And if you want to know more about clafouti, look for the July and August 2015 Cooks Illustrated.

Cherry Clafouti

“We prefer whole milk in this recipe,” Cooks Illustrated writes, “but 1 or 2 percent low-fat milk may be substituted. Do not substitute frozen cherries for the fresh cherries.”

A slice of cherry clafouti.

A slice of cherry clafouti.

1 1/2 pounds fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup flour, divided use
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper middle positions; place 12-inch skillet on lower rack and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place cherries, cut side up, on sheet. Roast cherries on upper rack until just tender and cut sides look dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer cherries to medium bowl, toss with lemon juice, and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine 2 teaspoons flour and cinnamon in small bowl; dust flour mixture evenly over cherries and toss to coat thoroughly.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until smooth and pale, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and milk until incorporated.

Remove skillet (skillet handle will be hot) from oven and set on wire rack. Add butter and swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet (butter will melt and brown quickly). Pour batter into skillet and arrange cherries evenly on top (some will sink). Return skillet to lower rack and bake until clafouti puffs and turns golden brown (edges will be dark brown) and center registers 195 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Transfer skillet to wire rack and let cool for 25 minutes. Sprinkle clafouti evenly with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From Cooks Illustrated

For a more cakelike version of clafouti, click here.

Posted in In Season, Recipes0 Comments


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