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Friday, August 19, 2005

Gratin de Framboises: or why you should shop at the ferry plaza tomorrow, part I

Raspberries_3

Eatlocallogo Last Saturday at the Ferry Plaza market Michelle of Ella Bella farm had some superlative raspberries, in the shades of bright red and blushing pink, or golden as the name claimed. I've been eating lots of raspberries this season, and they were all very good. But these, they stopped me right in my track after stealing a mouthful from the case David picked up for the restaurant. They were unbelievably fragrant and just delicious, like little flavor bombs going off in my mouth, one after another. David, the sweet David, said I could have a box from that case, but one box was certainly not enough for greedy little me, so I ran back to her stall next to Frog Hollow, knocking aside a nice old French gentleman and his wife as I made my way back to those sublimely berry goodness before others -surely less worthy than I- got to them all. Well, I did apologize. And I bought about an armload.

After I was done eating a bunch of them -a bunch of boxes, that is- outright, I started looking around for some fun things to do with them. I remembered an old cookbook I came upon a few weeks ago, with a beautiful and simple recipe for Gratin de Framboises, raspberry gratin. I thought I'd look it up and make one.

Therein lies a problem. You see, I have lots of cookbook. A lot. But David's collection put mine -or whosever for that matter- to shame. Stacks and stacks of amazing books, many of which rare and out of print from long dead French and Catalan dudes. Which one was it that I was thinking of?

I spent the whole afternoon walking around, muttering to myself tidbits I remember from the book, trying my darnest to remember who the author was. All I had, you see, was that it was from an old French chef, one whose name escaped me for the moment. That was indeed my predicament, a cook book by an old French chef in a house full of books from old french chefs. Needle, haystack, anyone?

So I went to David for help. Don't you remember that book I was just looking at a couple weeks ago, I asked. He gently pointed out that I look at cook books practically every day. Ugh, ok, he was right, but that was quite unhelpful none-the-less. Still I didn't give up, just kept pacing around mumbling to myself. David finally felt he had to intervene before I descended irreversibly into madness. "Alain Ducasse?" he began, going first for the obvious. No, no, less famous I insisted. Robuchon? Michel Bras? Olivier Roellinger? No, no, not them either. Alain Chapel? He was about to launch into a roster of dead french dudes when I stopped him. This one I was looking for wasn't quite dead yet. Old, but alive still as far as I know.

Then a triumphant look washed over his face. I got it, he exclaimed, running down to the office and back again with a pink and black hardback book in his hand. I knew it as soon as I saw it. That was it, La Cuisine Traditionnnelle from Jean Ducloux, the famous chef/owner of the Michelin 2 star Restaurant Greuze in Burgundy.

DuclouxYes yes yes, thank you thank you thank you, I rambled on as I flipped quickly through the book, exalted. This was it, the recipe for gratin de framboises with that mouthwatering photo.

"Isn't this beautiful?", I showed him the page with the recipe and photo on it.
Proudly I added, "I'm making this today"

"T-h-a-t's what you were looking for?", David asked, incredulous.
Shaking his head he muttered, "gratin de framboise...and you couldn't have just asked me...not like it's complicated..a bunch of raspberries in a pool of sabayon...all afternoon you're looking for this...not that I'm doing this for a living or anything....hmm..."

Oops. Oops. Really. Oops.
"Well, now that we'd gone through all this trouble we should try it anyway, no?" I reasoned, or justified, rather. David mumbled something in agreement though I thought I caught a glimpse of him rolling his eyes.

So here it is, the offending recipe. It turned out beautifully, especially served after a spicy meal of grilled meat and Thai Jaew sauce. I'm sure David's recipe would have turned out equally well, or even better, but that one is for another day.

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And a note on those berries. You could get your own superlative Ella Bella red and golden raspberries tomorrow at the Ferry Plaza farmers market. Her stall is right next to the famous Frog Hollow people. If you live in the Bay Area, like I do, these berries are just as good a reason as any to eat more local. They even have a CSA box you could subscribe to.
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GratinsdeframboisesGratin de Framboises
from La Cuisine Traditionnelle, by Jean DuCloux

18 oz or 500g raspberries
4 yolks
100g sugar
200ml crème fraîche
Liquor of your choice (I didn't use any)
a pinch of salt

(If you didn't have crème fraîche, David recommends using 150ml of cream, 50ml of whole milk yogurt, and a little bit of lemon juice instead. Whisk well together and use this mixture in place of the crème fraîche in the recipe.)

Preheat the broiler in your oven.

Lay the beautiful raspberries flat on a gratin dish, or a 9" ceramic fluted tart pan, or any shallow pan for that matter.

RibboningWhip the yolks and sugar by hand with a balloon whisk until the mixture is light in color and a ribbon drips from the tip of the whisk when lifted.

Add the crème fraîche or the cream/yogurt/lemon juice mixture and a pinch of salt, mix well, this time with a plastic spatula. Take care not to create too many air bubbles.

Add whatever liquor you wish. I didn't use any, because I wasn't inspired by anything in particular.

Pour the mixture into the pan, don't submerge the berries completely, about 2/3 of the way is enough.

Just before serving, put the pan in the lower third of the oven (set of broil), wait until the cream turns a beautiful golden caramelized color, take the pan out and serve immediately.

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