If I were performing brain surgery on the President (okay, I know that sounds far-fetched) and somebody said, “There’s flan in the recovery room,” I would drop my scalpels and suction at once and head for the door.
If my own doctor (always played by George Clooney) sat me down in his office, ashen-faced and somber, and said, “I’m so sorry. The test results are back and it doesn’t look good. But we do have flan in the lounge,” I would stand right up, wipe away tears and ask if I could borrow his spoon. “Hold that thought about the insidious virus,” I would tell George Clooney, “I’ll be right back.”
If my plane crashed in the Andes with a soccer team on board, and somebody began, “Well there’s always Jorge’s leg to consider eating, since HE won’t be needing it anymore . . .” NEVER MIND, you can see where I’m going with this. I’LL ALWAYS CHOOSE THE FLAN.
And so it was that when I snuck off to my favorite Mexican panederia bakery last week for something light and delicious, I was instantly rendered speechless and stupid (not unusual, since my Spanish isn’t so Bueno) when I saw a whole new kind of flan that I’d never seen before. And I thought I’ve seen and eaten every kind of flan that there ever has been. I’ve certainly dreamt about eating them all.
Flan de Elote. Say it soft and it’s almost like praying. Otherwise known as Corn Flan, but flan de elote sounds much more elegant. Denser and firmer than a jiggly, custard flan, this one almost looked like a cheesecake with its white, creamy good self enrobed by a thin crust of caramelized sugar. I went straight home and looked it up and found out that flan de elote is a baked custard into which has been added a puree of corn, preferably white, that starches and firms it up a little while still maintaining flan’s smooth, rich, creamy, sensational, delicious, mouth-hypnotizing . . . sorry, what we were talking about?
Oh yes, flan. Here’s the recipe. Note that there’s no sugar added to the batter, but then also note that condensed milk is loaded with sweetener, and you’re creating a top crust that is pure sugar. It’s not difficult to make, which means you could have 24/7 flan at your house, which means I’ll be over in about an hour. If I were making this in my kitchen, and somebody else walked in and said, “there’s already a flan made in the garden shed, but you’d have to fight off Wonder Woman and that Amazon general who looks like Robin Wright to get it,” I would turn down the stove and grab my shield and get ready to have my ass kicked.
I’d do that for flan. In fact, I’d do just about anything for flan.
FLAN DE ELOTE (CORN FLAN)
STEP 1: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 7 oz. (about 1/2C) sugar and 3T water. Swirl it and then heat to a boil. To avoid crystals from forming in your pan, brush the inside surface of the pan, just above the level of the hot, molten sugar, with water all the way around the pan. Be careful! This superhot sugar leaves a nasty burn if it splashes on you. Let it boil briskly until it starts to turn dark, about 8-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it when it starts to turn color, because it will suddenly darken quickly. Pull it off the heat when you reach a dark amber color, swirl again to unify the color in all of the sugar, and then pour the hot, liquid caramel into an 8″ cake pan or several small ramekins, creating a thin layer of hot caramel on the bottom. Set aside to cool.
STEP 2: Measure out a cup of evaporated milk and pour half of it into your food processor or blender. Add about 1C of corn kernels — freshly shucked white corn is the best, but I used what I had on hand, which were frozen yellow kernels. Whizz on high until the corn breaks down into a puree. If it clumps up and is too sticky, add a little bit more of the evaporated milk.
STEP 3: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the remaining evaporated milk from your original, 1C measure to the puree in the blender or food processor, and then add 1 Can (397 grams) condensed milk, 1C whole milk, 5 eggs, 1t vanilla extract and 1/4t salt. Blend or process on high until it’s smooth and creamy.
STEP 4: Pour into the cake pan, over the cooled caramel (you could pour it through a strainer if you want to avoid any remaining corn kernel bits, but I didn’t bother). Place the cake pan into a larger baking pan and make a bain marie by adding water to the larger pan until it’s halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Place in oven and bake for 1 hr., 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
STEP 5: Remove the cake pan from the bain marie and let it cool on a rack completely. Cover with plastic and let it cool and set overnight in the refrigerator. To unmold, run a sharp knife blade around the perimeter and then invert onto a serving plate. Eat at once and before the kids come home with their grubby friends.