Monday, February 9, 2015

Key Lime Flan

Key Lime Flan ingredients
Guess what?  It's snowing again in Boston!  But you probably guessed that, as it's just so passe at this point.  As a region, we've given up on school, public transit, non-creaky backs, and sunshine.  It's working out for us about as well as you'd predict (though if you were the weatherman, you'd add a foot more snow to your prediction to get it right).  Anyways, I think it's high time you think of warm places, and simultaneously fatten up, because cold plus shoveling?  It's an appetite stimulant, that's for sure.  Ergo, I present you with a recipe from my mother that I have tweaked (and therefore RUINED).  

My momster grew up in Miami and made flan for grownup parties for years, as did her Mexican mother before her.  As a kid, it hugely grossed me out.  Too sweet, too putty colored, and too much but not enough jiggling and squish.   Recently, she made it again, and I found myself surprised that I enjoyed it.  Dead old person tastebuds or something? For an even more recent potuck, I decided to see if I could hybridize it with another Miami fav: key lime pie.  I love everything about key lime pie, except the crust.  Something about the repurposed graham and butter...meh, it just ain't my jam!  But the filling and flan are almost the same recipe, so I thought it was worth a try.  My mother's helpful feedback when I requested the recipe involved sending me six different recipes and telling me it wouldn't work, before sending me the real recipe, two weeks later, but still in the nick of time!  It also included the guidance that spilling hot caramel on oneself was inadvisable. Her recipe didn't provide ounce measurements for the cans, so I've got with the most standard seeming size.    What resulted had great flavor - but my flan flipping technique leave a bit of room for improvement...

Key Lime Flan

Adapted from my mother’s recipe for regular flan (who said “That’ll never work!”)
Key Lime Flan

1 can evaporated milk (14 oz)
1 can condensed milk (12 oz)
½ cup key lime juice
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar (granulated or turbinado)
zest of 1-2 limes
hot water
Graham crackers, whole or crushed as a garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350.  
  2. In a saucepan over low, caramelize sugar.  Quickly zest in half to a whole lime, and carefully pour into your mold.  Let cool entirely.  
  3. Whisk remaining ingredients, including more zest, into a large bowl very well (3-4 minutes).  Pour into the mold over the caramel.
  4. Place the mold into a larger dish, and pour in a bath of hot water, leaving plenty of room (roughly an inch) below the lip of your mold.  
  5. Carefully place the container into the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the flan sets.
  6. Carefully remove from the water bath and let rest at least two hours on a wire rack.  Chill and serve - this means summon your courage, run a sharp knife around the edges of the flan, and flip with great confidence onto a serving platter.  You may need to get a little violent…
Flan, taking a bath in the oven

Key Lime Flan

- This made considerably more than I thought.  Make sure your dish is big enough, but it does taste good served scooped with a spoon.
-  Ditto to this in terms of making sure there is a bit of room remaining in the dish - it'll be a million times less likely to splash, get splashed into, and get out of the water bath.
- Not sure if greasing the pan would make a difference in terms of getting this out cleaning...but at least use a sharp knife instead of a regular dinner one!  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ruminations on a Le Creuset challenge completed

Remember that time at New Years 2010 that I resolved to cook 52 recipes in my brand new Le Creuset in one year?  I do, fondly.  That me was about 5 years younger, still in grad school, living in the loveliest pseudo-commune in our dumpy castle on a hill with the loveliest roommates, who were more than happy to try my recipes at the weekly potluck we hosted for our friends on Thursday nights.  That me was (not surprisingly) 10 pounds heavier, could barely carry my Le Creuset, and had curiously less “white-blonde” highlights in her short, short hair.  In the span of a few weeks, it started become clear that I may have been a little overzealous with my goal making.  As you well know by know, my pot makes Strega Nona volumes of food, and when I finished grad school, got a for real career new job, and moved to a smaller apartment in short order, I realized I had to rework the time frame.  I figured as long as I did it and finished by some point, I’d still get the benefits of learning to cook many things in one pot.  And boy howdy, did I ever, and I certainly got more than I bargained for.  I’ve made things sweet, things savory, things that turned out way better than expected, things that didn’t even a few make the cut to get on here, and some things that I hope to make and make and make again.
Only slightly off, this is from New Years eve 2009,
aka 11 months before the challenge was hatched under my Christmas tree.
Five years is a long time, and I like to think I’ve grown quite a bit, in part because of this challenge.  I’m older.  Obviously.  I have a job I love as a library director, a major career goal I’m so proud and lucky to have achieved by 30.  Except...I’m still a terrible photographer, but hey, I can admit it!  This blog is about the phood, not the photograpy, right?  I’m a lot healthier in 2015 than I was in 2010, something I like to think you can see developing in the recipes over the history of this project (ie. cheese is no longer my base ingredient…).  I’m stronger, probably because I actually work out regularly (curious how that works), but also because I’ve lifted and moved and cleaned and lifted my Le Creuset so very often over the years.  

I’m stronger in other ways too; my confidence has grown considerably since I started this project (I mean, I was crazy enough to try making a souffle in one of these iron maidens…).  Obviously, that goes hand in hand with, but I’m less reliant on the advice, recipes, and direction of others, both in life and as a chef.  I’m daring in ways and about things I was frightened by (remember that time I went to Egypt like ten minutes after a revolution?), and consequently have been influenced to cook things I never thought to try, both in and out of my giant blue pot.  I've broken bread with so many wonderful people over the course of the challenge, and I'm so grateful for the time I've spent with anyone who dared to eat my food, who shared a recipe with me, or who taught me some valuable culinary lesson! Most important though?  Even when I did not succeed, even when I failed, I learned.  There are so many recipes I still want to try but just have run out of challenge time (like wings, beer can chicken but with soda, pot pie, sausage and grapes, goulash, some kind of soup with dumpings, Thanksgiving in a pot, etc.).  I’m so very glad I did this, and so thankful Santa my Mom gave me the best gift ever back in 2009. (Thanks Mom, even though you won't read this!).

Director to Director: the key hand off in August, 2014

Well, there it is.  I knew these pots were heavy.  I just didn’t realize how heavy they’d be, in the best possible way.  Thanks for a great five years of food and friendship, Le Creuset, and for a good 50 more!  

I'll end this post with a picture (and the top ten list). In December had a once in a (my) lifetime opportunity to participate in a gallery show (at work, don't get too excited) on crafts. Yes. Let that sink in. As you know, I have zero to negative one million artistic abilities, outside of occasionally throwing some food in my giant pot and hoping for the best. But participate I did, thanks to the encouragement of a very open minded artist/superstar art teacher, and my lovely coworkers. I think the photographic evidence of my Le Creuset on display in an art gallery with some of my terrible food photographs as the background is a great way to end this challenge!

My top 10 favorite recipes in from the Le Creuset challenge:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Stracotto with Porcini: Recipe 1!

Stracotto with Porcini over
creamy polenta
With not too much further ado (after all, you’ve waited five years for this, all my zero long-time readers), here is the last recipe!  For context, I ate this at an Italian wine tasting at a slice of heaven, Dave’s Fresh Pasta.  My good friend and I liked it so much (despite already eating five plates of food…), that I wrote them to request the recipe a few days later.  They replied and told me they’d just used Giada’s recipe, and sent me the link.  

This recipe is easy, smells great while cooking, and could feed the entire army of...Vatican City?  According to the Internet, it’s a country, so I’m stickin’ with it!  Clearly this called for a crowd, so I sent out a call for meat eaters, and Hannah, Emily, Zoe and Peter turned up hungry.  I fed them this over some creamy polenta (ie. milk instead of water and some parmesan and spices stirred in) and made sure they left feeling disgustingly full and a little tipsy after serving them the Smitten Kitchen’s delicious recipe for Red Wine Chocolate Cake (I'll share that recipe later, but here is the link).

Good friends = good eating times
Despite me having a celebratory Old Fashioned that caused me to forget to add salt and pepper at the end, they all claimed to really like it (but don’t forget to season it; it does enhance the flavor, duh). And, despite five hungry grown adults (although Emily and I might only count as one standing on each others shoulders), I had at least five servings left over.  I can attest to this, like chili, deepening in flavor over time, especially when you say, add some more wine when you reheat it…All in all, it was a great dinner, with great company, and a delicious way to cap of my 52 Le Creuset Project!  I’ll have some thoughts on that for you tomorrow, along with my top 10 list from the project.  

Stracotto with Porcini

Serves 8-10
Recipe adapted from Giada/Food Network
Stracotto with Porcini and Polenta
1 5lb boneless chuck roast
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1.5 cups red wine
1.5 cups beef broth (low sodium)
½ oz dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated and rinsed)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed and chopped
6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme, destemmed
salt & pepper
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...