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In honor of Steve H.'s larcenous family maid, here's a flan recipe I got from a Cuban guy I used to work with. It may not be as fancy as Steve's recipes, but my coworker got it from his mother, so it's authentically Cuban. (Anything that uses the two essential Cuban ingredients, canned sweetened condensed milk and canned evaporated milk, is authentically Cuban. All that Cuban haute cuisine that became fashionable in Miami before I left? Feh.)

Anyway, here it is:

You get four or five eggs (I liked five -- more cholesterol that way), a can of evaporated milk, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix in a bowl. Make the caramel sugar stuff: take a cup of white sugar, put in a pan with a little bit of water, enough to liquify it. Let it boil until all the water boils away and it forms a crusty layer on your pan. Keep it on the heat: the magic will start in a minute. The sugar crust will start to melt again, this time into the amber caramel liquid. You can take it off the heat once it's all syrupy or wait a bit until it's just a little bit darker. (It all depends on how much burnt flavor you like. The way I like it is when it tastes just a bit like Cuban coffee.)

Okay here's the rest: take a deepish round cooking thing, like a casserole dish. I like clear glass ones myself for this, so I can see every delicious inch. Pour the sugar syrup in so it coats the entire bottom. Then take your bowl of flan stuff and pour it on top. Now get a larger, shallower pan, put the flan pan in it, and pour water into the bigger pan to come up the sides an inch or so. This is the hardest part of the recipe -- I have weak spaghetti arms and always manage to spill the water. Get this thing into the oven. Cook at some temperature -- I want to say 350 degrees but it could be 400, I'll have to find the ancient page from a legal pad that the recipe is scribbled on -- for about 35 or 45 minutes. Or until a toothpick stuck into it comes out more or less clean (any stuff on it should not drip). Remove and let cool. Invert over a plate big enough to catch the caramel drippings. Slice. Eat. Have a heart attack. So what? It will be worth it.

PS: you can fool around with individual ramekins and things but the whole point of this exercise is to not have to fool around with too many things. Also, Nicaraguans put canned fruit cocktail at the bottom of their flan instead of sugar syrup, which freaked me out the first time I tried it: instead of faintly burned-tasting sweet creamy goodness I got a whole grape embedded like an eyeball in custardy stuff. Nicaraguan flan would be a great Halloween party desert.

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Don't worry, he's just chopping broccoli.


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