Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cooking in Normandy with Susan Herrmann Loomis

photo by Michael Loomis
For most people a vacation means an escape from the kitchen. Not me. I can think of no better way to spend my vacation than in a cooking class. Cooking classes are one of the very best ways to learn about any region you are visiting. You learn about and use local ingredients in recipes taught by people who usually know the region well. Extended classes often offer the chance to meet local food and wine makers and learn about what goes into their craft. Many are committed to preserving traditional methods of production.

Susan Herrmann Loomis
I’ve never met Susan Herrmann Loomis but like so many who began following her career after reading On Rue Tatin, I feel I know her. We share a love of writing and a love of cooking with local ingredients. We both respect and work to preserve the best of our collective past and embrace all good things that support and enhance what and whom we love. Having an opportunity to cook side-by-side with Susan would make me very, very happy.

Lucky for you and me, Susan holds cooking classes in France. Most are at held in her own home, whose restoration is the core of her book On Rue Tatin. A chance to cook in an exquisitely restored 15th Century home! I read the 5-day course description on her Web site and immediately imagined myself in Normandy, where she lives in the town of Louviers. I make great use of spirits in my cooking and love using calvados, the apple brandy produced in the Lower Normandy region. What a treat it would be to take Susan's 5-day course and tour the Normandy region.

The 5-day course includes cooking classes, meetings with local men and women who create some of the best food and drink in the region, a trip to a farmers market as well as a day in the town of Rouen. Rouen is your place if you like to shop for antiques or the pottery for which this town is quite famous.

People in America, have a few chances to cook with Susan as she travels the country on a tour for her latest book Nuts in the Kitchen in 2010. Frankly, anyone who has ever been under pressure in the kitchen should get a laugh from the possible double meaning of the book's title! The book really is about cooking with all types of nuts, with recipes Susan collected from all over the world. You can check out her American class schedule on her Web site, as well. Susan also offers classes in Paris throughout the year.

Here is a sample class menu from her Web site:

Beet Soup with Cream Clouds
Wood-fire Grilled Marinated Pork Chops
Braised Coco Blanc with Garlic
Salad with an Almond Oil Vinaigrette
Locally and Artisanally made Goat Cheeses
Caramelized Oranges with Candied Zest Biscotti

Susn Herrmann Loomis' recipe for Pear and Honey Clafoutis

Serves 6 -8

This clafoutis is unique — with the honey and the egg whites, it makes a richly flavored, elegant dessert. Comice pears are ideal, though any perfectly ripe, fragrant pear makes a delicious clafoutis.

3 large pears (1- ½ pounds;750g total) pears, peeled, cored, and cut in sixths
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons;75ml) mild but perfumed liquid honey, such as lavender
4 large eggs
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (115g) flour
¼ cup (50g) sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
1 cup (250ml) milk
4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the caramel
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons water
Preheat the oven 400°F (200°C). Butter and flour an 11-inch (27-½ cm) round baking dish.
Arrange the pears in an attractive pattern in the baking dish. Drizzle them evenly with the honey.

Separate three of the eggs. In a large bowl mix the flour, all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the salt. Make a well in the center and add the three egg yolks and the one whole egg. Reserve the egg whites. Whisk together the egg yolks and the whole egg, add the milk, then gradually whisk in the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter. Quickly but thoroughly whisk in the melted butter.

Whisk the egg whites with a small pinch of salt until they are foamy. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter, then pour the batter over the pears. Bake in the center of the oven until the clafoutis is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
To make the caramel, heat the tablespoon of sugar with the water in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly distribute the sugar, until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, which will take 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t stir the sugar, which might encourage it to crystallize, just rotate the pan so the sugar and water caramelize evenly. When the sugar has caramelized, drizzle it over the top of the clafoutis. Wait about 5 minutes so the caramel hardens, then serve.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Denise,

    You’re quite right, your piece is lovely, and thank you so much!

    I look forward to welcoming you some day to On Rue Tatin.

    Thank you again.