Cool, creamy flan a fine finish for Spanish feast

The Whole Dish podcast: Medford chef imparts a few tips for foolproof flan

Before my husband’s recent trip to Spain, an evening at Ashland’s Irvine & Roberts Vineyards treated us to some Spanish cuisine.

Bringing recipes from the menu at Elements, Medford’s tapas bar, chef Mike Hite demonstrated a start-to-finish meal of Spanish classics. Salad with Serrano ham and Marcona almonds, potato- and pepper-packed tortilla and grilled lamb “lollipops” paired with the winery’s estate chardonnay and pinot noir. The icing on the proverbial cake, of course, was flan, deftly prepared before the other courses and left to set for the next hour.

While he worked, Hite shared plenty of professional-kitchen tips. He likes to simmer caramel, for example, in a wide skillet, instead of a saucepan, because it darkens more quickly and he can monitor it more closely. He also chills his caramel-coated mold, or ramekins in this case, in the freezer for about 15 minutes while making the custard to spoon on top.

Although it does take a watchful eye to keep the caramel from burning and a bit of finesse to temper the eggs with hot milk, the recipe has just a few ingredients and is sure to please anyone’s palate. Here is a version that accompanied a recent story on Spanish cuisine in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Read more about events at Irvine & Roberts and Hite’s Spanish feast in the upcoming issue of Southern Oregon Wine Scene.

Tribune News Service photo


1 cup granulated sugar, divided

2 1/2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a stainless-steel saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup water. When syrup starts to bubble and color, swirl pan to spread caramel evenly, and then cook until it turns a deep amber, swirling quickly (watch it, as it can turn too dark very quickly, which will result in a bitter taste). Immediately pour caramel into a heatproof mold (such as a bowl) that holds at least 4 1/2 cups, turning and tilting mold to coat bottom and sides. Do this quickly because caramel hardens quickly.

In a separate saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup sugar; slowly bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork or whisk. Gradually beat in milk mixture, a ladleful at a time, until well-blended. Pour into caramel-lined mold.

Place mold in a large baking pan and pour enough boiling water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of mold. Bake in preheated for 1 hour, or until custard has set. Take mold out of pan of water and let it cool; then chill in refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Just before you are ready to serve, turn flan out of mold: Run a small, pointed knife all around edges of mold, place a serving dish on top of mold (there will be a lot of caramel sauce, so dish should be deep enough to collect it), and quickly turn upside down. Lift off mold.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from “The Food of Spain,” by Claudia Roden.

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