Super Smooth Flan

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When I saw this flan recipe in the April issue of Bon Appétit with its short ingredient list, I thought, this looks easy! Well, it's not hard. But its also not easy. This recipe is a time sucker. There's a lot of baking, and waiting, cooling and waiting involved.

If you saw my the very first blog video, you also witness me "releasing" the flan. The fun part of this ordeal. As I mentioned in the video, dessert is a must for a fancy dinner. Typically, I would buy churros from the Mexican market, or serve ice cream, but I wanted something more special, and this flan recipe came to mind. 

I started preparing my flan after 9 pm, and didn't get to bed until past 1 am. Sure, I probably would have finished quicker if my husband, the kitchen helper, hadn't burned the sugar water, but, it still wouldn't have been fast enough. Luckily, my dinner guests showed this flan a lot of love, someone might have even claimed it was the best flan they have ever had, so I felt better about missing my 10 pm bedtime. But, even their compliments didn't erase the memories of trying to keep my eyes open so as not to overcook the delicate dessert.

This Jose Andres recipe involves baking the flan at a low heat, for a long time, a total of about 50 minutes (I believe it took me an hour). Then letting it cool an additional 30 minutes while it sits in the roasting pan filled with liquid. This method is what makes the flan smooth, extra smooth. So, if you have some time to kill, and enjoy a super smooth flan, or want to impress your dinner guests, I highly recommend this recipe. Just make sure to start your flan prep no later than 7 pm, so you can get to bed at a decent hour.
The Smoothest Flan

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Six 4-ounce ramekins

1) Preheat oven to 325°. Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp. water in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is medium-dark amber, 5–6 minutes. You don’t want to go crazy stirring your sugar water, because it will turn back to… sugar!
2) Working VERY quickly, divide caramel among ramekins, coating bottoms evenly. Let cool until hard.
3) Gently whisk remaining 1/3 cup sugar and eggs in a medium bowl. Add cream, half-and-half, and vanilla; gently whisk to combine (do not aerate). Let sit until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium pitcher to eliminate air pockets.
4) Place ramekins in a roasting pan lined with a kitchen towel; place pan on a large rimmed baking sheet.  This baking the kitchen towel deal scared freaked me out at first. But then I realized it was going to be covered by water, so I was less freaked out. Divide custard among ramekins. Pour hot water into roasting pan to reach a little more than halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover pan with foil, crimping to seal. Carefully transfer to oven; cook for 25 minutes. Rotate pan. Cook until custard is set but center still jiggles when dish is nudged, 20–25 minutes longer.
5) Uncover roasting pan. Let flan cool in pan for 30 minutes. Remove ramekins and let cool completely. Cover with plastic; chill overnight.
6) Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Unmold flans onto plates.


Video Time: Hosting a Fancy Dinner Party

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Hosting a dinner party is easy when you follow three simple rules. Hope you enjoy this first silly attempt at a Housewife Fantasies video. I am not sure how I feel about it just yet, but it was fun to make with my super awesome camera man/director/editor, Patrick Rule, who had the best reaction to my "acting" by sighing and saying very hesitantly, "Um... well, let's try again." If I'm lucky enough to get more of his time, there might be other videos in the future.

I want to mention a few of the star recipes from this dinner party. Rosé Sangria. The best sangria I've had. Pureeing the fruit and adding vanilla bean, brilliant and tasty. Pork tenderloin wrapped with more pork, amazing. The dinner guests all agreed, it was the best pork tenderloin they've had. I had zero leftovers and was rather sad the next day. And there was an amazing plum chutney that accompanied the pork. Easy to make, and even easier to eat.

For dessert, we had flan. Jose Andres flan, that took me a long time to make. I usually don't do desserts. But, you kind of have to for a fancy dinner party. So, I stayed up late, and prepared flan. It was well documented, so more on that to come in a later post.

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Chutney

4 red or black plums
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup Sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
4 teaspoons herbes de Provence
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 lb.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 thin slices pancetta (Italian bacon; about 8 oz.) or prosciutto - I used prosciutto

1) Peel plums if desired, halve and pit. Cut into 1/2" wedges. I peeled mine.
2) Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallot begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, next 6 ingredients, and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in plums. Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and juices have thickened, 20–25 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Let cool slightly. Chutney can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly before serving.

And for the PORK
1) Mix rosemary, herbes de Provence, and oil in a small bowl. Rub all over pork; season with salt and pepper. Wrap pancetta slices around pork and tie at 2" intervals with kitchen twine to hold together. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
2) If using a charcoal grill, build a medium-hot fire; push coals over to 1 side of grill. If using a gas grill, heat all but 1 burner to high. Grill tenderloins over hot part of grill, turning frequently, until a crisp brown crust forms on all sides, 8—10 minutes. Move tenderloins to cooler part of grill to gently cook through; cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of each loin registers 145°, 15—20 minutes longer. We used a gas grill.
3) Transfer tenderloins to a cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with plum chutney alongside.

Stone-Fruit Sangria

Fruit Purée
1 apricot
1 nectarine
1 small peach
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 750-ml bottles chilled dry rosé (such as Côtes de Provence)
2 cups chilled elderflower liqueur (such as St-Germain)
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
3 plums or pluots
2 nectarines
2 apricots
1 peach
20 fresh cherries
sparkling water

For the Fruit Purée
1) Peel stone fruit. Halve, pit, and coarsely chop.
2) Place chopped fruit in a mini-processor or blender; add lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Transfer to a large pitcher or jar.

For the Sangria
1) Add rosé and elderflower liqueur to fruit purée in pitcher; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Halve and pit all stone fruit. Cut fruit, except cherries, into 1/2" wedges. Add all fruit to pitcher. Chill for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
2) Fill glasses with ice; pour in sangria and fruit to fill glasses 2/3 full. Top with sparkling water. Stir and serve.


Caprese Tower and Pasta Marinara

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How do you take this pretty salad and make it prettier? Build a tower! Stacking up a caprese salad is a classy affair. 

I saw Jacques Pépin do this to a tomato many years ago, and it stayed with me. I think he might have used feta though. I wanted to give it a try with mozzarella, and a giant heirloom tomato from the garden. Instead of sprawling out, this salad rose up into the sky. 

The husband cooked up a beautiful marinara sauce, giant beans with sage, and we opened a bottle of pinot. The meal was bright, light and tasty. 


Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Vegetables

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Let's start with the negative here. There were two things wrong with this curry, 1) the husband's homegrown green beans were a bit tough, and 2) it needed more chili peppers. If you don't mind tough green beans or are not looking for a super spicy curry, this would have been perfect for you.

This curry was made for two reasons (we have a theme of two's going), 1) I wanted to use the lemongrass and basil from our garden, and 2) we emptied our freezer and had to do something with the chicken. So I gathered whatever vegetables we had on-hand -- potatoes, carrots, peas and jalapenos -- and got to work. What I really liked was the addition of bamboo shoots. They take a curry to the next level.

I used a green curry paste, then added curry powder as well. Your other essential will be ginger, coconut milk, lemongrass, chili peppers and broth. I always eye-ball it, and then taste as I go along, adding more curry powder or a splash of fish sauce. I definitely could have used more chili peppers, but only had two at home. Next time, I will try not to be so lazy and drive to a nearby market. Because I enjoy some heat in my curry. I've tried following a curry recipe once, but it turned out too bland. Now I just do what I like, and hope for the best. This works for curry, and most arguments with the husband.


Wheat Berry Salad with Grilled Corn and Avocado

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After spending several days in a row eating out, quality time in the kitchen was in order. The husband and I picked up some nice-looking salmon, and I set out to make another grain salad as a side dish. After looking through my pantry, I found a little bag of wheat berries, which I had never used before, and knew the time had come.

So why are wheat berries called wheat berries? I was dissapointed that Wikipedia did not provide me with a good explanation. It just told me that wheat berry refers to the entire wheat kernel. Thanks for nothing, Wikipedia! Instead of doing additional research, I gave up instantly and moved on to find out how long I have to cook this berry. It turns out, you cook it like barley, about 40 minutes.

After boiling my wheat berries, I let them cool, and looked for ingredients in my fridge to add to my salad. I found corn, which we grilled and shaved off the cob, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, avocados and green onions. For my dressing, I added a good splash of lemon juice and olive oil. After seasoning with salt, pepper and paprika, we ended up with a hearty, but fresh summer grain salad. Here's what I liked -- the grilled corn added a smoky and sweet flavor, the avocado provided a creamy contrast to the chewy texture of the wheat berries, and the tomatoes and herbs contributed that summer lightness. Wheat berries, you won my heart at first try. I shall eat you again.

For the salmon, I kept it super simple. Placed on a bed of fresh rosemary and thyme, I topped the fish with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and wrapped it in parchment paper. A short 17-20 minutes later, a fragrant and steamy salmon emerged.


Tangy Pickled Onions

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Sometimes a condiment can make a meal. I'm going to say that these onions come close. I've now decorated two dishes with these, and I can safely say, these marinated onions take a meal to the next level.

Because this blog already features a quick and simple pickled onions recipe, I almost didn't give this version a shot. But the photo in the June issue of Bon Appétit convinced me to, and I have to say, I think I like this recipe better than Ad Hoc's. The apple cider vinegar ads a nice tangy flavor. And they are so crunchy!

Last Monday, the husband braised pork in tomatillo sauce, and we made delicious tacos topped with pickled onions. Pickled onions and pork are kind of amazing together. I think my new goal is to always have a jar of these in my fridge. Because you never know when your next dish is going to benefit from these pretty pink pickles.

And here's the recipe. Simple as can be.

Colorful Caprese Salad

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This salad is summer. Ripe tomatoes, good mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and basil from the garden. Pair with a simple pasta, chilled white wine, and pretend you don't have a care in the world.