The Unplanned Blog

As I sit here on the cusp of a new decade, I’m staring at a blank screen reflecting on the past 10 years.  This blog was in its infancy 10 years ago, a mere experiment.  I considered it more of a journal where it could record my adventures in food and tinker with an alternate form of writing.

Early on, my goal was to post 4 blogs a month… and for the most part I’ve stayed true to that.  There have been times when I could not see the point and had nothing to say, but somehow I found something to write.  It regularly amazes me that we are still at it, 10 years later!

Isn’t that the whole point, though? Oftentimes we don’t have a real plan, we just begin. Then, something drives us; we keep going, and life unfolds in beautiful ways. Culinary Distractions, the unplanned blog, has allowed me the joy of casting my discoveries and words out into the world and releasing them.

I’ve been happy not monetizing and for the most part, remaining add-free. However, in the coming year I suspect there will be positive happenings and changes worth including here.

To all who visit this silly space, thank you for stopping. Thank you for your support and kind words.  They are never expected and pure frosting on the cake!

Here’s a sweet thank you and big New Year wishes.

Grape Clafoutis

Clafoutis is a favorite on this blog and the goofy grape idea has been rattling in my head for some time—it’s fun and really does work!

What a perfect time to share…  Happy New Year!

Grape Clafoutis  

butter for baking dish
3 cups seedless grapes, such as Scarlotta grapes
⅔ cup milk, warm
1 Tbsp butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp lemon zest
¼ cup almonds, slivers
1 Tbsp granulated sugar


  1. Butter an oven proof shallow 9″ casserole dish, quiche dish, or pie plate.
  2. Warm the milk and the butter together. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until frothy, sprinkle in flour, nutmeg, extract, zest, and whisk until smooth. Gradually add warm milk mixture, whisking until well combined. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350-375°F. Distribute the fruit evenly in the baking dish.  Pour the batter over the fruit. Scatter almonds on top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed and brown. Rotate dish as needed to brown evenly.
  4. Serve warm or room temperature. If desired dust with confectioners’ sugar; or add a spoonful of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.  Cover and chill for storage.  Serves 6

Clafoutis Calling…


If you are new to this site, then you wouldn’t know about me and clafoutis and that I can’t say no. I have zero resistance.


As far as I am concerned it is good morning, noon, and night. And that is likely what will happen today… since dessert is still on the horizon.  What’s not to like about a silky crepe-like batter poured over fruit and baked in the oven until puffed and golden?  I’m still confounded by the magic that occurs when these two components meld into one blissful package and blossom into a creamy light filling afloat with fruit—snugly surrounded by its own self-imposed crispy light crust.

Today’s version was not planned.  It merely seemed like a good idea to use up the few pieces of lingering fruit: a couple of peaches and a pear and then fill in the gaps with a handful of dried fruit, which happened to be prunes softened in orange juice.  A slight touch of almond in the batter and a handful of almonds sprinkled on top manage to make this taste like I started with a plan.  Oh, my.clafoutis slice(640x457

Well, I’ve got to go now, the clafoutis is calling me…

Mixed Fruit Clafoutis with Almonds

1 pound ripe juicy fruit, peel, pit, slice or quarter; or a combination using partial dried fruit
1-2 tablespoons juice or brandy, depending on quality of fruit
3 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
pinch nutmeg, or complementary spice
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk, warm
1 tablespoon butter plus more for dish baking
1/4 cup almonds, sliver or slice, or other complementary nuts
To finish:  1 tablespoon sugar for dusting on top


  1. Butter an oven proof shallow 9″ casserole dish, quiche dish, or pie plate.
  2. Toss the dried fruit with juice or brandy, microwave briefly until hot and let stand until needed.
  3. Prepare batter. Warm the milk and the butter together. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until frothy, sprinkle in flour, spice, extract, and whisk until smooth. Gradually add warm milk mixture, whisking until well combined. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Distribute the fruit evenly in the baking dish.  Pour the batter over the fruit and scatter almonds on top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed and brown. Sprinkle with granulated or powdered sugar.
  5. Serve warm or room temperature with a spoonful of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.  Cover and chill for storage.  Serves 6

Note: if using apples or other firm fruit, begin with a quick sauté in 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon of sugar and toss until slightly softened.

Savoring Shades of Clafoutis

Here’s a simple solution for an easy stylish entree when you may have little more than a fresh vegetable and a few basic staples like eggs, flour, and milk.

No, it’s not a quiche.  If you have had a Toad in the Hole, the famed Brit treatment for sausage baked in a popover-like shell; or a Dutch Baby, where fruit is cooked in a heavy skillet then covered with a light batter and baked in a hot oven until puffy; then you get the idea.

It is shades of clafoutis, that wonderful French dessert featuring cherries, plums or other seasonal fruit, nestled in a crepe-like batter and baked until light.  Although it deflates as it cools, it still retains enough puffiness around the edges to form a shell to hold the dense egg-bound interior.

In this case, I collected a savory assortment of vegetables including a few mushrooms, a leek, and a lovely small head of lacinato kale.  Also known as black kale, it is not as tough as many varieties, slightly sweet and has a pronounced earthy flavor. Savory Clafoutis

But it doesn’t matter; the idea is to round up enough produce to yield about 4 cups when lightly cooked.  If you happen to have a lovely bunch of kale worthy of showcasing, that’s great, too.   Ham, prosciutto, or other cured meat also makes a nice addition.

The trick is to begin by roasting onion slices in a hot oven until they take on color.   The hot dish is removed from the oven and the prepared vegetables are immediately layered on top, the batter is poured evenly over the top and it is returned to the hot oven.   This technique causes the batter to quickly rise in the hot oven and continue to expand until golden brown and puffed.  I like finishing the top with a grating of Parmesan cheese.

For those who have tried only fruit clafoutis, a vegetable variation may be difficult to imagine.  There is an unexpected intensity that occurs from suspending and enveloping the savory additions in their creamy crepe interior, and definitely worth trying. Savory clafoutis slice It’s one my Breakfast All Day favorites―just as worthy of a leisurely brunch as a mid-week meal.  Enjoy hot or room temperature and refrigerate the rest; it reheats beautifully for a light lunch or snack.

Savory Clafoutis with Kale and Mushrooms

Crepe bound veggies laced with prosciutto and baked until puffed and golden brown

Vegetable-Prosciutto Medley
1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small leek, cleaned well; white and tender green sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup prosciutto, sliced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
¼ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
1 tsp each fresh rosemary and thyme or ½ tsp dried
½ tsp dried fennel
3 cups lacinato kale, approximate; stemmed, cut into large chop
Onion Base
1 white onion, peeled, halved and sliced vertically
¾ cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs lightly beaten
¾ cup milk

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. For the Vegetable-Prosciutto Medley: Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in sauté pan over medium, add the leek and stir occasionally until it begins to soften, 5 to 8 minutes; add the garlic and the prosciutto and toss occasionally stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes.   Stir in the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, herbs and fennel and cook until most of the liquid has been release, 5 to10 minutes.  Add the kale, stirring until it begins to wilt and remove pan from heat.
  3. Meanwhile rub a pie plate or other similar ovenproof dish with a little of the olive oil. Add the sliced onions, drizzle with olive oil and distribute them evenly in bottom of dish.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until they begin to take on color.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the batter:  combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl and make a well in the center.  Combine the beaten eggs and milk and pour into the flour mixture, beat until well blended.
  5. Remove the onion from the oven and cover with the vegetable mixture. While still hot, quickly pour in the egg batter and return to oven.  In about 15 minutes rotate the pie plate to brown evenly and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top.  Bake a total of 20- 25 minutes, until golden and puffy.
  6. Serve immediately, while fully raised. It will deflate somewhat but still remain puffy.  It is also good served at room temperature.  Serves 6

Chicken Puff Pie: the new pot pie

Pot pies.  They really bring back memories.  Even when times were tough, those little Swanson’s pot pies were always reliable:  they were an easy, hot, affordable meal.  We especially loved their crisp, salty crust and the creamy sauce; even the few token vegetables were a hopeful nod toward a nutritional meal.

Over the years I have stayed loyal to pot pies and perfected big pans of chicken pot pies, packed with moist chunks of chicken, plenty of vegetables, topped with a signature herb crust.  They were a popular commodity during my catering days.

For some time now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of a chicken pot pie without the pie crust.  Bordering on sacrilege, I couldn’t make the leap to abandon the crust without a darn good reason.  Besides, how could it be a pie without a crust?

Well, I have figured it out.  Thanks to recent tinkerings with crepes and an infatuation with fruit clafoutis, I’ve taken the best of both and created Chicken Puff Pie.  Essentially a savory clafoutis, it is so intriguing the pie crust isn’t even missed!  (For more on clafoutis check out the blackberry as well as the peach clafoutis posted previously here.  You will note they both have substantial puffed edges that brown and crisp nicely.)

The basis of a clafoutis is a crepe batter; the primary difference between a crepe batter and clafoutis is the amount of milk, cream, or other liquid incorporated; crepes have less.  Keeping that in mind, the amount of flour as well as liquid has been reduced here, in ratio to the eggs—which lends greater exterior structure and support for the chicken and vegetables, while the interior remains firm yet creamy, reminiscent of clafoutis.  It also moves away from the ultra-custard qualities of a quiche, which I wanted to avoid.  To encourage maximum rising and browning, we also start out with a hot oven then slightly reduce the temperature.

Chix and Veg Puff Pie

Anything this unique calls for a sauce that will enhance as well contrast with it.  I have included an old standby, equally at home with eggs, chicken, salmon—and more. Noble Sauce can be whisked together and simmered while the Chicken Puff Pie is in the oven.  Although I tend to use pancetta in the sauce, bacon is also fine.  The dab of tomato paste rounds out the flavors and adds a lovely tinge of color to the finished product.

With leftover turkey looming large on the horizon, consider this a viable alternative to the annual turkey soupfest.  I suspect you will be impressed with the outcome, too.

Chicken Puff Pie aka Chicken and Vegetable Clafoutis

All the bells and whistles of a pot pie but easier—the stylish Noble Sauce makes this irresistible.   

1 Tbsp butter, plus butter for baking dish
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled, small chop
2 cloves garlic, divided, crushed
1 cup crimini mushrooms, small chop
1 tsp dried herbs:  thyme, rosemary, sage
1 medium carrot, peeled, small chop
½ red pepper, seeded, small chop
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, diced
1 cup or more cooked chicken cut into small chunks
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup warm milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
For top:  2 Tbsp Gruyere cheese, grated
Noble Sauce (see)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, butter a quiche dish, pie plate or other baking dish.
  2. In large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, cooking to soften; add the garlic stirring occasionally until onions are transparent.
  3. Add the mushrooms and herbs; when mushroom liquid begins to be released add the carrots and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the peppers and toss to combine.  Add the chicken, continue to cook another 5 minutes and stir in the peas.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  4. To make the batter: In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt and make a well in the center.  Add the beaten eggs; with a spoon begin incorporate the flour; stir in the milk, the garlic, and a few grinds of pepper; add the Parmesan cheese mixing until the batter is nearly smooth.
  5. Spread enough batter into the baking dish to coat the bottom, about ½ cup. Place in hot oven and bake until the bottom is set, about 4 minutes.
  6. Distribute the chicken and vegetables mixture over the partially cooked batter in the baking dish. Stir down the remaining batter and pour it evenly over the filling. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese over the top and return the dish to oven.  Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer.  It is done when the edges are puffed and browned and the center is firm when pressed.  Note:  check after 20 – 30 minutes, if edges are browning too rapidly, reduce heat to 350 degrees.  Serves 4 or more

Noble Sauce
Equally good with eggs, chicken or salmon
2 cups chicken stock or more
1 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup pancetta, diced
½ small onion, fine chop
1 clove garlic crushed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
½ tsp thyme
1 Tbsp tomato paste


  1. Heat the stock and brandy.
  2. In large saucepan melt butter, add pancetta and brown lightly. Remove the pancetta to toweling to drain.  Add the onions and garlic, cook until soft.
  3. Stir in the flour; cook 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour in half of the hot liquid, whisking until smooth. Return to heat, add the remaining stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the pancetta and seasoning; simmer uncovered about 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Thin as necessary with more stock; adjust seasoning to taste.  Serves 4 or more