courtesy of Ira Braus
Along with his skills as a writer and composer, Ned Rorem also has a talent for cooking.
Along with his skills as a writer and composer, Ned Rorem also has a talent for cooking. courtesy of Ira Braus
Ned Rorem, now 87, is almost as well known for his books as he is for his music. Once you start reading one of his poetic, sometimes racy, diaries, it's tough to put it down.
There are countless entries about dining (and drinking), including a dinner in Paris in 1980 where he fondly recalls a "flawless four-course meal by Mohamet. Cheese soufflé, sauté d'agneau with carrots, turnips, three cheeses, green salad, a non-sweet apple tart."
Rorem has always been an international traveler, but he was born in America's heartland — Richmond, Ind. And in his book Final Diary, he talks about his devotion to American cuisine: "How I love American cooking! Cranberries, corn on the cob, baked sweet potatoes, angel food cake. Thus are the evening meals here, classily bland."
Rorem definitely knows his way around a kitchen. When his friend Elliott Stein comes to dine, the menu includes: baked fillets of sole with a dessert of fresh raspberries, blueberries, white grapes, yellow plums, melon balls and two quarts of heavy chantilly. For his parent's 52nd wedding anniversary, he writes himself a reminder list: "Buy champagne, make a salmon mousse and a nectarine cucumber salad. Chocolate chiffon pie."
Clafouti aux cerises, fresh from the oven.
Clafouti aux cerises, fresh from the oven. iStock
Below is Rorem's recipe for the classic French baked cherry custard dish clafouti aux cerises. It doesn't look too difficult, but there is one thing missing — a musical accompaniment. In the comments section, tell us which music — by Rorem or others — might sound lovely with this heavenly-looking dessert. I'm thinking perhaps his song "Early in the Morning." What about you?
Ned Rorem's Clafouti Aux Cerises
1 cup flour
¼ cup butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup boiled milk
Pinch of salt
3 cups pitted black cherries
Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix flour, salt, granulated sugar and butter. Add cool milk and eggs, and mix to produce a smooth dough. Line a buttered flan case with half the batter, sprinkle cherries with powdered sugar, cover them with the other half of the batter. Bake for 30 minutes. Pears may be used instead of, or along with, cherries. Brown sugar may be used instead of, or along with, granulated sugar.
(We're grateful to author Ira Braus and his book "Classical Cooks." Braus is associate professor of music history at the University of Hartford.)