My Summer Red: Valpolicella

Tommasi Rafael Valpolicella. This was really good chilled.

Remember Valpolicella? Don’t turn your nose up so fast! Find a good one, and you’ll have a terrific summer wine that tastes great chilled.       

If you were of drinking age in the 80s, chances are, you drank Valpolicella at some point. It was the quintessential fruity, light, easy-drinking red that many of us enjoyed with pizza and pasta before we graduated to drier reds, like Chianti.

Sadly, most Valpolicellas were not very good at all. Famed wine writer Robert Parker once deemed them “industrial, insipid garbage.”

In this century, that has changed. In 2009, New York Times wine-writer Eric Asimov wrote, “The winemaking renaissance that has occurred throughout Italy…has also come to Valpolicella. With new seriousness of purpose, many producers have rededicated themselves to [the wine].”

Because Valpolicella tastes great chilled, summer is a great time to rediscover this red. I recently tried the Tommasi Rafael Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2014 ($20), and immediately got back on the Valpolicella bandwagon. The hints of spice amidst luscious cherry flavors bring a touch of refreshment, and its medium body helps it stand up to the hearty barbecue foods. And forget what everyone says about serving this “lightly” chilled. Chill this baby completely—once you take the bottle outside, it will warm a bit to perfect drinking temperature.

Sadly, I tried another Valpolicella recently, and it tasted like a mediocre Beaujolais Nouveau (you know, that grape bubble-gummy flavor that inferior versions sometime have?). So the moral of this aside: Not all Valpolicellas are as good as the Rafael. I suggest either finding the Rafael, or heading to a wine-seller that will had-pick a good one for you.

And if you want to help your Valpolicella-seeking wine-loving friends out this summer, please tell us about your faves! Thanks!

Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample for review. Rest assured, I would never recommend anything I wouldn’t buy myself!

 

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Best Cherry Clafouti Recipe. Make It Now

If you only make one recipe from my cookbook or website this year, please have it be this easy Cherry Clafouti recipe. It will turn you on to what everyday French cooking is all about: great ingredients, simplicity and lingering pleasures. Which is to say: the effort-to-enjoyment ratio on this is sky-high. And sweet cherry season is right now. So make this today!

A slice of cherry clafouti. Spiked whipped cream is a must!

A slice of my cherry clafouti. Spiked whipped cream is a must!

What Is Clafouti?:

Clafouti is a wonderfully home-style recipe that surrounds beautiful summer fruit with luscious golden custard. As one of my recipe tester for The Bonne Femme Cookbook said, “it brings those sweet, rich qualities you love in egg specialties like crèpes, and crème brûlée—but with the bonus of fresh summer fruits.”

Cherry Clafoutis à la Bonne Femme. Straight from the oven!

Cherry Clafoutis à la Bonne Femme. Straight from the oven!

How to Make Cherry Clafouti:

See my Cherry Clafouti recipe, below—and follow these tips:

• Get the right ratio: Follow my recipe, and you’ll have just the right amount of sweet fruit to rich custard.
• Do. Not. Overbake.: Seriously–get that clafouti out of the oven the minute it’s done. Check it at 35 minutes. The sides should be set, but if the middle still jiggles, that’s okay.
• Serve with some spiked whipped cream. The light and airy whipped cream beautifully contrasts the rich, dense custard. And that tipple of cherry brandy in the whipped cream echoes the flavors of the clafouti. There’s also that delightful warm /cool (clafouti/whipped cream) effect happening, too.
• Serve clafouti ever-so-slightly warm: The Clafouti will be at its best about an hour after it comes out of the oven. Time accordingly. Refrigerate leftovers. Cold clafouti is amazing, but really, just-baked, slightly warm clafouti has the edge.

All that said, here’s my easy recipe for Clafouti. Enjoy!

PS: Looking for the right baking dish for Cherry Clafouti? A deep-dish pie plate will do. I recommend this one.

 

5.0 from 2 reviews
Best Cherry Clafouti Recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
I know--it's quite bold of me to say that my French cherry clafouti recipe is the best recipe for clafouti—there are plenty of great ones out there. But I've hit upon some secrets to making your clafouti better than ever. So if you've ever been underwhelmed by clafouti, try my recipe.
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces pitted fresh sweet cherries or frozen pitted sweet cherries, thawed and drained well
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy) or other cherry-flavored liqueur (optional)
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Spiked and Sweetened Whipped Cream (see recipe, below)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter and sugar a 9-inch round nonmetal baking dish with 2-inch sides (a deep-dish pie plate will do).
  2. Spread the cherries in the baking dish. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, kirsch, and salt on medium speed until well combined. Slowly beat in the flour, milk, and cream until combined. Pour the batter over the cherries.
  3. Bake until a thin knife inserted near the center of the clafouti comes out nearly clean (a few crumbs are fine) and the top is a deep golden color, about 35 to 40 minutes. If the top is brown before the custard is done, loosely cover with a sheet of foil. Place on a wire rack to cool, but serve warm. Just before serving, dust the top of the clafouti with confectioners’ sugar. Slice into wedges and serve with Spiked and Sweetened Whipped Cream.
  4. Note: Never worry about a clafouti that sinks in the middle...It probably will, and it's a badge of honor that you've made a beautiful true-to-France homemade dessert.
  5. Sweetened Spiked Whipped Cream: Place ¾ cup cold heavy cream into a chilled mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and 2 teaspoons kirsch (cherry brandy) or other cherry-flavored liqueur. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Links You Might Enjoy

Apricot Cherry Clafouti: A great variation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peach Clafouti: Another easy French dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want more easy French recipes? Check out my cookbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What to Drink for Bastille Day

Any drink you serve at a Bastille Day party must cover two bases: It has to be French and it has to be refreshing—after all, unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, for must of us, Bastille Day falls during that stretch of summer when temperatures start to really climb.

Here are my five top drink choices for toasting the day.

1. A Kir Royal….with St. Germaine

You know how much I love my nightly kir (white wine + crème de cassis) and my celebratory kir royale (sparkling wine + crème de cassis). Either will do on any other day of the year, but I think Bastille Day calls for something even more special. Make a Kir Royal with St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur…

The French spirit is made from macerated elderflowers; thankfully it’s more about a citrusy, pear-like freshness than it is about the floral notes, which are present, but not overly so. To make, simply place a tablespoon of St. Germain in a Champagne glass and fill it with about 5 ounces of sparkling wine.

2. A French Sparkling Wine

You can’t go wrong with sparkling wine when celebrating.

Wait a minute—strike that. Yes you can. Frankly, on these super-hot days of summer a toasty-dry Champagne just won’t do. I suggest toasting with something more fruity and light—such as a sparkling wine from the Loire Valley (crémant de Loire). Wines from this region are often off-dry (that is, a touch sweet). While winemakers can choose from about a dozen grape varieties to craft their blends, the most renown whites are anchored by Chenin Blanc, resulting in sparkling wines with a great balance of fruit and citrus notes.

Blanquette de Limoux: An easy-drinking wine that’s hard to find.

If you live near an incredibly well stocked supermarket, look for Blanquette de Limoux, a very easy-drinking sparkling wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon. To me, it’s like a cross between a Prosecco and a Moscato d’Asti: fruity, fun, and easy to like (unless your a close-minded dry-wine-only freak).

3. A French 75

For too many people “sweet” or “fruity” (mistakenly) means “unsophisticated.” For my [somewhat annoying] guests who are in that camp—those who might turn their noses up at my bright and fruity summer sparkling wines—I’ll morph the above Crémant de Loire (or Blanquette de Limoux) into a citrusy-tart French 75. They’ll get a drink that’s racy and refreshing. And because it’s spiked with gin, maybe their attitude will mellow a bit. Find my recipe here.

4. Pernod, Ricard, or Pastis

This is a classic South-of-France drink when the temperatures climb. For Bastille Day, I suggest doing something a bit different with it, however, and serving it in a cocktail: Either in un perroquet (with mint syrup) or in une tomate (with grenadine). See my recipes.

5. Une Piscine de Rosé (i.e., a goblet of rosé served over ice)

Yes–I know I’ve written about this trend lately, but it bears repeating. Because honestly, it’s what I’ll be serving this Friday, on the balcony and into the night. In case you’ve missed it, read about La Piscine here.

By the way—a winery has launched a new wine in France called Rosé Piscine—it’s a rosé specifically designed to drink on ice. Please don’t think for a minute that you have to buy this particular rosé. Really, just about any good, crisp rosé will do. But since it’s Bastille Day, please make it French.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

This Year’s Bastille Day Party Menu (It’s Easier Than Ever)
Host/Hostess Gifts for Bastille Day
Five Great French Apéritifs + Your Complete Guide to the Apéritif

Alors, what will you be drinking this Bastille Day? Tell me below—or on my Chez Bonne Femme Facebook Page.

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