An Elegant (But Light and Easy) French Dessert That’s Perfect for Entertaining
Grape flaugnarde is a pie-shaped French dessert that’s nothing more than grapes covered with a flavorful custard, and baked until it achieves a flan-like consistency. (Some people might call this dessert a clafoutis, though that’s technically incorrect, as we discuss below.)
Outside of fancy restaurants, most people in the US would probably just call this a flan because it looks and tastes like, well, flan. With grapes baked into it.
Whatever you call it, this is a great dessert to serve with an elaborate meal — the type of festive fare you might make for company. After a rich dinner, the last thing I want is a heavy dessert. Which is why this dish fits in so perfectly: It’s fairly light, and not overly sweet.
Although not a heavy dish, it packs tremendous flavor into each slice. And it’s so good that your guests might forget about that big meal they’ve just had, and request a second slice of flaugnarde.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Recipe: Grape Flaugnarde (Flan)
Grapes are usually abundant and inexpensive in the fall, so this is a great dessert to make right now (at least if you’re in the northern hemisphere). It’s best when baked in an attractive 10- or 11-inch shallow tart dish, especially the porcelain or earthenware types that look so pretty on the dinner table. But it will work in an ordinary pie pan, too.
I first saw this recipe years ago in Paula Wolfert’s World of Food (see Notes). I showed it to Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, and she’s been baking it ever since (she does most of the dessert baking in the household). This recipe is her (slight) adaption of Wolfert’s dish.
This recipe takes about 15 minutes active preparation time, and about 45 minutes baking time. Depending on how generously you slice the flan, you’ll get 6 to 10 servings from this; we usually figure on 8. Well-wrapped leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
- ~1 tablespoon butter (for buttering baking dish)
- 4 - 5 cups red and/or green seedless grapes (about 2 pounds; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy (optional but awfully tasty; do try to include this)
- 1¼ cups milk
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons table (granulated) sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract (or to taste)
- powdered confectioner’s sugar to garnish (optional but attractive and tasty)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and place oven rack in the middle position. Butter 10- or 11-inch baking dish.
- Stem, wash, and dry the grapes.
- Heat the cognac in a small saucepan over low heat, allowing it to reduce to one-half its volume. Watch while you do this — it doesn’t take long, and if left unattended the cognac can reduce to almost nothing in a flash.
- Add the milk to the cognac. Heat on low briefly until the mixture is lukewarm, and set aside.
- Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add eggs, stirring them into the flour mixture with a wooden or plastic spoon until evenly mixed and creamy.
- Drizzle the milk and cognac mixture into the flour mixture, stirring all the while. Add the lemon extract and stir until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps.
- Pour the grapes into the buttered baking dish and spread them in an even layer (if they don’t all quite fit into one layer, no worries; they’ll bake down). Pour the batter over the grapes.
- Bake on the middle rack of oven until done — the flan will puff up and turn golden brown around the edges. This usually takes about 45 minutes, but start checking at about 40 minutes in case your oven bakes fast.
- You can serve the flaugnarde hot out of the oven, or allow it to cool to room temperature (our preference). Right before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
- Technically, a clafoutis is made with black cherries. When made with other fruits, this dessert is called a flaugnarde. In addition to grapes, popular fruit choices include apples, berries, peaches, pears, and plums.
- We like to use a combination of red and green grapes, simply because we like the colors. But you can use any type of grapes (or other fruit) that you want.
- We usually stuff as many grapes as we can into the baking dish when we make this recipe. For our shallow 11-inch dish, that means about 5 cups. But if your baking dish has room for only 4 or 4½ cups, the dessert will still turn out fine.
- You can skip the cognac, but it really adds a great deal of flavor. And the alcohol vaporizes as you reduce it. Cognac (French brandy) can be quite pricy. For this recipe, you certainly don’t need the top-shelf stuff. A good VSOP (very superior old pale) that's around $12 should work. We like (and use) both St. Remy and Raynal for cocktails, so that’s what gets used in this dish. Salignac is also a great brand, but a little more expensive. You could also try one of the brands of American brandy.
- Paula Wolfert is one of my favorite cookbook authors, and I have every book she has written. She’s best known for doing a deep dive into the traditional cuisine of a country or region (usually centered around the Mediterranean). I greatly enjoy — and cook from — all Wolfert’s books, but World of Food is my favorite because it seems to be the most “personal” of her cookbooks — that is, it seems to best reflect the type of cooking that she does every day at home.
Everything You Need for Entertaining
Many of us like to develop a list of favorite recipes that can serve as trusted standbys when company comes calling. Here at Kitchen Riffs, we’ve shared several dishes the past several weeks (and months!) that we think work particularly well for entertaining.
For a first course, I suggest Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing. It has big flavor and takes advantage of the terrific taste that kale delivers after it’s been kissed by frost. Also appropriate would be Spinach Salad with Parmesan. Or if you want a classic first-course soup, it’s hard to beat Leek and Potato Soup. To accompany any of these you might want to bake some Easy No-Knead Bread into a nice round boule.
For the main course, you might like either Boeuf Bourguignon or Roast Chicken. We roast chickens using the high-heat method, which produces a perfectly cooked bird in less time. If you prefer a seafood main course, I would suggest Scallops on Artichoke Scoops. It’s a sensational dish that’s quite easy to prepare.
If you’re entertaining vegetarian friends, I’d recommend two vegan main-course dishes: Vegan Mapo Tofu or Red-Braised Beans and Sweet Potatoes. You won’t miss meat when you serve either of these dishes. And both are meals in themselves — no sides needed.
Most meat courses do require something else to fill out the plate, however, so let me suggest some side dishes. Last week we discussed Roast Potatoes. These are a classic, and go particularly well with Roast Chicken or Roast Pork. But any roast vegetable works well at this time of the year, including Roast Sweet Potatoes, Roast Cauliflower, Roast Asparagus, Roast Eggplant, or even Roast Belgian Endive. The possibilities are endless.
For dessert, I highly recommend the terrific Grape Flaugnarde (Flan) we discuss in this post. But if you want something with a bit more “wow” factor, it’s hard to beat Homemade Meringues with Strawberry Sauce or Zabaglione.
Oh, and we mustn’t forget your pre-dinner drink. Great choices would be the Classic Champagne Cocktail or (especially in chilly weather) the Sidecar.
Or how about a topical tipple? In the US, we have a big election coming up next week. So the perfect drink would feature a political connection. That’s why the subject of our next post will be the Ward 8 cocktail. You can drink it to celebrate if your candidate wins — or to console yourself if he loses.
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