HOME. I am baffled by the concept of home. Sometimes when I think of home my mind wanders to Florida, to the home I grew up in. It is still the same…the hot, dry land overgrown with sharp, wild things, steamy days and sultry nights or the deep darkness of a stormy afternoon, the rain bringing a cooling breeze while thunder growls in the distance. I step tentatively across the scorching cement in my bare feet, sand prickly between my toes, or glide across the cool tiles into the kitchen where I grab an ice cold drink or a handful of candy. The cool terrazzo floors of my childhood have been replaced with creamy tile and dark chocolate wood, but the feeling is the same from the large kitchen table, inviting us all to hunker down in family-style conviviality, to the tv room, dog under a coffee table strewn with phone books, paperbacks, notepads and pens, to my girlhood bedroom whose shelves still groan under the weight of my old doll collection, books and knick knacks and the closet is filled with secrets nestled inside boxes of Barbies, a bedroom where I can still find a comforting haven from the noise and bustle of the world.
Yet when I am there, I think of home, la maison, chez nous. Husband, sons, dog, our daily rhythm and quiet habits call, beckoning me back to France. I have always felt to be foreign here, the American in France, l’étrangère – a stranger in a strange land – yet there is something so familiar in the life I lead now, as familiar and comforting as a worn-in pair of jeans or a cuddly old sweater. I know how life feels and step into it every morning understanding how it works, where it will lead. My best friends are a heartbeat away, friends who have become sisters, all strangers in a strange land just like me, friends who I turn to, can rely on, a necessary part of my everyday life now. All of these tender, fragile things make up this home and I can’t imagine it any other way.
Home is where the heart is but my heart is torn in two, divided between my family and my memories and the friends of my youth whose laughter still echoes in my ears and my family – husband and sons, newer friends and a calmer way of life. Both homes, both families, tug at my heart and I sit and wonder: what makes home, well, home?
Summer is nearing its end and the air is cooler, a hint of Autumn stirs faintly on the breeze. We were all there in Florida: mom and brother and sister and old school friends and memories, so many memories. Plus JP and Clem and Simon. JP kept his feet up, reading, relaxing. Clem worked on an architecture project for the first couple of weeks but found the time to run to the beach with JP every afternoon to swim, fish and explore. And they actually caught fish! Simon sprawled on the floor next to Buster or on the sofa next to his grandmother, catching up on his down time, his tv and nap time. He left us rather too quickly to rejoin his group, his new life, his new home in New Orleans, loving every second of it. We ate like little piggies, enjoying that good old American cuisine and snacks up until the last day. We went to the zoo, the shopping mall and the movies together, and we felt like the family we used to be when the boys were younger and we spent our vacations together. The boys grew up somewhere along the way and before we knew it we had all gone our separate ways, rarely sitting and talking, no longer enjoying family vacations or sharing a weekend. This one trip brought us together as a family once again and I feel like we’ve started over.
Simon and Buster
Ah, yes! The happy couple!
At the zoo
Find the monkey...
Ah! Here he is!
I made this luscious Lemon Flan with Raspberries before our Florida vacation. This is the first sweet dessert I have made from Les Clafoutis de Christophe by Christophe Felder, longtime pastry chef at the renowned Hôtel Crillon in Paris. A clafoutis is a milk/cream and egg base flan type dish, thickened with a bit of flour or cornstarch, most familiar to us in its sweet form prepared with cherries. It is similar to a quiche, but without the crust, and is just as versatile. Mr. Felder’s book is filled with enticing recipes for all kinds of original clafoutis, both sweet and savory. Following his recipe for a savory clafoutis base, I created a wonderful Clafoutis of Ratte Potatoes, Asparagus and Bleu d’Auvergne, a dish smooth and delightfully creamy, the blue cheese offering the perfect touch of tang. And now I wanted to try his mouthwatering Lemon and Raspberry Clafoutis.
Why do I call it a flan? The dessert was delicious yet I found it to be thicker than a traditional clafoutis, more like a flan, so there you have it. I love most anything lemony and this flan did not disappoint. Plump, sweet, yet slightly tart raspberries were a wonderful contrast to the delicate, lemony base and the color was amazing! I am also anxious to try this again replacing the raspberries with either blackberries or blueberries. I may also try stirring in a bit less flour next time. Show a little love. Serve this to your family and bring it all home.
Thank you Clément for all of the pictures taken on your iPhone during our vacation.
Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, Lenôtre, Dalloyau, Gérard Mulot... whisper just one of these magical names to any sweet tooth in the know and you will see eyes light up, lips twitch into a smile and the word macaron will roll gently off of the tongue, escape on a sigh..… Macaron Madness, my latest article on Huffington Post Food, thinks through the mystique of the tiny French Treat.
LEMON RASPBERRY FLAN
From Les Clafoutis de Christophe by Christophe Felder (I left the measurements as is)
9 ½ - 10-inch (25-cm) round or 10 x 7 x 2-inch (26 x 18 x 5-cm) baking dish
30 g butter
50 g sugar
For the clafoutis/flan:
2 large eggs
40 g sugar
55 g flour
200 ml heavy cream
70 ml milk
50 ml strained lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp rum or Amaretto
350 g raspberries
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter the baking dish then sprinkle the bottom and sides liberally with the granulated sugar.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and flour. Add the milk, the lemon juice and zest and the rum or Amaretto. Finally, add the cream and whisk until blended.
Evenly distribute the fruit over the bottom of the baking dish then pour the clafoutis/flan mixture over the fruit. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes just until set in the center.