Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Clementine clafoutis

It's one of those wacko fruits that we don't see much in Queensland, or ever. But I really wish we did. Wikipedia says:

A Clementine is the fruit of a variety of mandarin,
(Citrus reticulata), named in 1902. The rind is of medium
thickness; moderately firm, but easily peelable and does not puff until well
after maturity. Smooth and glossy surface of color deep orange to
reddish-orange. Flesh color deep orange; tender and melting; 8 to 12 juicy
segments; flavor sweet. The Clementine is not always distinguished from other varieties of mandarin: in German, it is generally referred to as "Mandarine". However, it should not be confused with similar fruit such as the satsuma, which is
another name for the Japanese mikan, and is another popular
variety. The clementine is occasionally referred to as Algerian

Known for its low total heat requirement for fruit maturity
and the sensitivity of the seedless fruit to unfavorable conditions during the
flowering and fruit-setting period; in regions of high total heat, the
Clementine matures very early—only slightly later than the satsuma mandarins.
Such regions also favor production of fruit of maximum size and best eating
quality. As a consequence, Clementine is without doubt the best early variety in
the Mediterranean basin, particularly in North Africa, and in other regions of
similar climate.

I have lovely happy memories of buying 2-kilo bags of fresh sweet clementines at the local markets in France, for what seemed like months on end. They were perfect: better than any mandarin I've ever had in Australia. None of that floury, square, loose-skinned, bitter, hard-insides thing going on. None of that loaded-with-pith thing either. The clementine skin was easier to peel than an orange, but more difficult than a normal mandarin. The flavour was indescribably delicate and with very little acidity. Anyway, I went through a bag a week, and when the last one was eaten, I was counting down the hours until Saturday morning when I could get back to the fruit guy in the market square for my clementine fix. They must have thought I was totally nuts.

Meanwhile, clafoutis are great too. Basically, it's a French traditional enriched pancake batter that you pour over fruit pieces and bake in the oven. The result can be custardy and comforting, or cakey and rich. Usually it's done with cherries (and I better get on with it while cherries are so cheap and good), but the below American recipe does it with the ole' clementine. Really, this is impossible to make in Queensland, but I'm going to use either cherries or another seasonal stonefruit. Probably plums. Yellow peaches might be a goer too. Or strawberries. The important thing is to make sure you have lots of fruit and that it is perfectly ready to eat. The dish should be filled to almost-full with fruit, and then the batter is poured over and settles around it. Too much batter equals a povvo clafoutis.

It needs to be served either at a lavish breakfast, or as the showpig dessert after a simple French bistro-style dinner, dusted with sugar and served with thick cream for those who would care for it I would say definitely no icecream.
Clafoutis are rustic and homely. Traditionally they would be baked in a cast-iron skillet, in a slow oven, while the rest of the meal was being eaten. I've seen this done in small individual ramekins, but in my mind that is just twee posturing, and an insult to what a true clafoutis can be, puffed up majestically in its oven dish, golden brown and enormous, studded thickly with gorgeous fruit, sailing along in a sea of its own awesomeness and saying: "Behold my glory, underlings!!"
At which point you attack it with a spoon.

Clementine clafoutis (serves 6)

Butter as needed
1/2 cup flour, more for dusting pan
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I'll use caster)
Pinch salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
5 to 15 clementines, peeled and sectioned, about 3 cups
Powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a gratin dish, about 9 by 5 by 2 inches, or a 10-inch round deep pie plate or porcelain dish, by smearing it with butter, just a teaspoon or so.
(My note: Whatever, but use a shallow dish rather than deep, so that the mixture cooks through before browning).
Dust it with flour, rotating pan so flour sticks to all the butter; invert dish to get rid of excess.
2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add granulated sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Add cream and milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir just to combine.
3. Layer clementine sections in dish; they should come just about to the top. Pour batter over fruit to as close to top of dish as you dare; you may have a little leftover batter, depending on size of your dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until clafoutis is nicely browned on top and a knife inserted into it comes out clean. Sift some powdered sugar over it and serve warm or at room temperature. Clafoutis does not keep; serve within a couple of hours of making it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have heard that bakeing whole clemintine segments causes thier skins to become rubery and the fruit sour is this true?