Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flan, Flan, Baby...

Yes, that's right... Vanilla Flan! With sour cherry porter compote and grated chocolate. I've been on a custard kick lately, having made Emeril Lagasse's goat cheese flan a couple weeks back and with a couple more savory flan ideas bouncing around in my head (it's getting pretty noisy in there). This here's my attempt at a sweeter version, and I must say it turned out pretty well. Incidentally, fellas, this would make an excellent dessert choice for that "why don't you come over to my place and I'll cook for you" third date (if this doesn't work, nothing will, if you catch my meaning, sir)...

Four eggs
One cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided
One vanilla bean
1 1/2 lbs sour cherries
1/2 cup cherry cider (or apple juice)
1/2 cup porter or stout
Two Tbsp fresh lemon juice
One small chunk of dark chocolate

Begin by splitting the vanilla bean in half down the middle. Scrape the pulp out of the bean, and reserve the two halves (put these into an airtight container of sugar, and in a few days you'll have vanilla sugar).

Add the vanilla pulp and 1/4 cup of the sugar to the cream and milk, and bring to a bare simmer in a saucepan. While this is happening, crack two of the eggs into a bowl. The other two eggs will need to be separated. This is most easily done by cracking the egg, dumping the contents into your hand, and letting the white drain through your fingers. Add the yolks to the first two eggs, and reserve the whites for another day (freezing them in an ice cube tray is a good way to do this). If you're using particularly fresh eggs, remove as much of the chalazae as you can. These are the bands of coagulated egg white that hold the yolk in the center of the egg. As eggs age, these break down. However, the yolks also become runnier, so use the freshest eggs you can find. Now beat the eggs until they're just getting a bit frothy.

Once your cream and milk have just started to bubble around the edge, you'll need to temper the eggs, which is to say slowly raise their temperature before dumping them into the hot dairy. Add the dairy into the eggs in a slow, thin stream while whisking vigorously until you've added between a quarter and a half. At this point the eggs will be at a high enough temperature that they can be added back to the rest of the milk and cream and not curdle from the heat.

Pour the custard into ramekins or a muffin pan (it's a good idea to give whatever container you're using a quick spritz with cooking spray; lining the bottom with an appropriately sized circle of parchment paper won't hurt either), to about 1/4 inch from the top. Put the ramekins or pan into a hot water bath, which should come to about halfway up the sides, and place into a 350F oven. After about 20 minutes, you'll want to start checking on them. They're done when the custard just barely wobbles when lightly shaken, and a paring knife stuck into the middle comes out clean. Take them out of the water bath and let them cool to room temperature, then put them into the fridge for at least an hour or two.

While the flans are baking, you can start on the compote. I didn't have time to hunt down "sour" cherries, so I used half canned pie cherries for tartness, and half fresh Rainier cherries, which are a little sweeter. Pit the fresh cherries, place them in a suacepan with the cherry cider (I used the reserved liquid from the canned cherries), beer, lemon juice and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring this to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let the cherries steep for 20 minutes. Add the canned cherries and simmer over medium low to medium heat, until the liquid has reduced by about two thirds. And there you have your compote.

One nice thing about this is that pretty much all of it can be done in advance, and you can warm up and combine the flan and compote just before serving. Grate or shave the chocolate (look for the highest percentage of cocoa you can find) over the flan and compote, and enjoy.


The Pastry Pirate said...

Your repeated and positive mentions of the E-devil disturb me. I fear I have lost you to the cult of Bam! If you ever start a post with "So I said to myself, 'Self!'", you are dead to me.

tommy said...

BAM, that was fast! I literally finished tweaking that post like fifteen minutes ago. Okay, just for the record, Emeril is a freak. But we must admit, the man knows how to cook. As I've said before, if Bourdain is comfortable admitting that, then so am I. By the way, I've thrown down a gauntlet for you in the comments section of the mayo post, go read...

Nina said...

Sounds good... but I'm still holding my breath for the juniper flan dish involving antelope demi-glace... :)

tommy said...

Oh, it's on its way...