FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Wanda A. Adams
My husband spent 10 years in Puerto Rico when he was a boy and came away with a great Spanish accent and an even greater love of flan — the baked custard beloved of the Latin world.
The other night, taking a break from the 150th anniversary cookbook that is monopolizing my daylight hours, my husband and I joined some friends for a pupu-and-dessert party. I was lugging along dishes I'm testing for the book (Trader Vic's rumaki, if you remember what that was, and an old-fashioned banana pie).
Much to my husband's delight, my friend Fernando De Hoyos made his mother's flan. Fernando is from Puerto Rico and loves to cook the specialties of his home. He even knows what day the green plantains come in at El Mercado de la Raza (Friday). On Fridays, he said, you can buy the green ones and also pick up the ones that have ripened from the previous week — that way you can make tostones (mashed fried green plantains) and maduros, (fried ripe plantains) all in one day. A volunteer cook for the client meals offered by the Life Foundation (an O'ahu AIDS organization), he has become known for his cooking prowess and his unusual coconut-cream-cheese flan shows why.
This ultra-rich dessert with a sophisticated tanginess is definitely special enough for company night.
FERNANDO'S PUERTO RICAN FLAN
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First, make the caramel for the top of the flan: In a nonstick pan, mix together the sugar and water and place on stove over high heat, stirring constantly until it becomes golden. Remove quickly and pour into an 8-by-8-inch heat-proof baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients and blend with an electric mixer for 1 1/2 minutes. Pour mixture over caramel in baking dish. Place the baking dish in another, larger, baking dish (such as a 9-by-13-inch) and pour hot (not boiling) water to three-quarters up the sides of the flan dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until golden on top and a toothpick plunged into the center of the plan emerges clean. Cool, then chill in refrigerator. Before serving, unmold flan by running a thin, flexible knife around edge and then turning it onto a serving plate so caramel is on top. Cut and serve.
Makes 12 servings.
Reach Wanda A. Adams at email@example.com.