When I think of theater, I think of its innate “whiz-bang” properties. It’s an art form that has subsisted on making the most with the least amount of money. At least in the not-for-profit world, but we won’t dwell on certain productions of certain superheroes that may or may not be the laughing-stock of Broadway. So when I found out that the clafouti that appears on the Goodman stage in God of Carnage wasn’t gelatin and some food coloring but the actual French dish, I had to investigate.
First of all, Goodman Theatre not only houses two amazing performance spaces, but also has a working kitchen. According to Stephen Kolack, the properties head at the Goodman, real food made in the Goodman kitchen is prepared all the time. In the 2010/2011 Season alone, both The Trinity River Plays and God of Carnage had real food onstage, including pie dough, pie filling, a decorated birthday cake, and of course, clafouti.
It should be known that the Goodman kitchen is not elaborate. It’s tucked into a corner of the props room, like a corner of a classroom that accidentally has an oven in it. Upon entering the props room, there are containers full of fresh tulips (if you’ve seen the show, you know their fate). Stephen, the preparer of all this food, does not believe himself to be a cook. I disagree—as I watched him make the clafouti, he made it with such swift ease, it was like watching a chef on television.
Clafouti is a bit on an unusual dish. It’s made with eggs, flour, vanilla and fruit. It tastes like a custard and can be served warm from the oven or at room temperature. Michael and Veronica discuss the odd qualities of clafouti in God of Carnage:
MICHAELSo, clafouti, is it a cake or a tart? Serious question. I was just thinking in the kitchen, Linzertorte, for example, is that a tart? Come on, come on, you can’t leave that one little slice.
VERONICAClafouti is a cake. The pastry’s not rolled out, it’s mixed in with the fruit.
ALANYou really are a cook.
VERONICAI love it. The thing about cooking is you have to love it. In my opinion, it’s only the classic tart, that’s to say on a pastry base, that deserves to be called a tart.
As an avid baker, I was the only person who busted out laughing in the entire theater after this line. Stephen told me the actors in God of Carnage have been great about eating the clafouti every night, especially since the clafouti served onstage is adapted to fit their dietary needs. Here is the recipe for Goodman Theatre’s God of Carnage clafouti:
Serves 4, lasts 3 performances
One 9” – 10” ceramic tart pan
3/4 cup egg whites, from approx. 5 – 6 eggs
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
(Note: the mechanism used to do all three of these tasks at once—an early version of which is pictured below—is Stephen’s favorite part of making the dish. Also, the God of Carnage script calls for a clafouti with apples and pears and gingerbread crumbs. Just the apples and cinnamon do the visual trick. Remember the “whiz-bang?”)
1)Preheat the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit.
2)Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
3)Whisk together the egg whites, soy milk, and vanilla in a large-sized bowl. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.
4)Quickly spray the tart pan with a non-stick spray. Lay in half the apple slices in the pan, then pour half the egg mixture.
5)Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. The apples should have risen to the top of the egg mixture. Pour the remainder of the egg mixture on top of the partially baked mixture, then layer the remaining apple slices. Bake for approximately 30 – 40 minutes, until the clafouti has risen and bounces back when pushed gently.
6)Let cool slightly. Serve with coffee and be forewarned: a heated discussion may ensue.
Stephen is an incredibly nice and kind individual and I was impressed by his knowledge of clafouti prior to our meeting. Since Stephen is a little camera-shy, the above photo is a picture of clafouti that I made, with blueberries and raspberries.
Top: My clafouti; photo by me. Above: An apple peeler similar to Stephen's. Photo by David Carroll.