This recipe has an interesting (to me) backstory. Years back, I had come into possession of some random issues of Home & Garden magazine, which I mostly looked at for the photos of unattainably beautiful and enormous gardens. One of them, though – I believe the November 1992 issue – had a story about going out to pick fresh cranberries in Maine and bringing them home to make clafoutis for breakfast. The recipe seemed simple (minus the fresh-picked cranberries – not so common out here), so I tried it, and it became a solid staple in our breakfast repertoire. I barely noticed the author of the article.
Much later, my father was reading Jim Harrison’s remarkable book The Raw and the Cooked, and noticed that he was constantly singing the praises of someone named John Thorne, calling him the finest food writer in America. That’s interesting, we thought, we’ve never heard of him. So when I happened across one of his books (Pot on the Fire) I snapped it up, and I found his website and went through it. He is indeed an amazing food writer – I have since subscribed to his newsletter and bought my father every single one of his books. And I discovered that in one of his earlier books, there’s a recipe for a cranberry clafoutis. The very same one that we’ve been making all these years! So I am very happy to attribute this recipe, correctly, to John Thorne and his wife, Matt Lewis Thorne. I don’t remember if the Grand Marnier is my own idea or not. Probably not.
The charm of this recipe is how adaptable it is. The batter is a lot like a Yorkshire pudding or Dutch Baby batter, with the only sugar added directly to the fruit, so you can make it as sweet (or not) as you want. For two of us I make a single recipe cooked in a 10 inch cast iron skillet; for four people I usually one-and-a-half times the recipe and cook it in a 12 inch pan, and serve sausage on the side. Use any fruit you want and adjust the sugar accordingly – I like cranberries best but we’ve used blueberries and blackberries to good effect. You can also use plums, cherries or peaches.
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup white flour
- salt (a couple good shakes)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- cranberries or blueberries – enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan
- sugar to taste (maybe 1/4 cup?)
- Grand Marnier or lemon zest
Whisk together the milk and eggs until combined. Add the flour and salt and whisk it all as smooth as possible. If using cranberries, add a splash of Grand Marnier liqueur. If using blueberries, add a tablespoon of grated lemon zest mixed with a bit of sugar. Let it sit while the oven preheats to 425°.
When the oven is hot, place a cast iron pan over medium high heat and melt the butter in it. When the butter is foaming, dump in the berries (they can be fresh or frozen). Stir until the berries are thawed and coated with butter, then add the sugar. When the berry juice and sugar have combined into a hot bubbling sauce, give the batter another good stir and pour it over the top, trying to maintain the position of the berries so they stay distributed through the pan. Get the pan into the oven quickly, and let it bake for about 20 minutes. I take it out when the edges of the clafoutis are poofed up and caramelized, and the surface is lightly golden. The edges should be crispy and the center soft and custardy. Serve immediately with powdered sugar or sour cream.