FLAN

Join Elbee and Andrew (and perhaps some friends) as they explore A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price

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You know,  I’m not really much for custards, but Andrew really loves the stuff. So, when I mentioned Vincent Price had a flan recipe, his eyes got all big like this:

Flan is a weird dessert to me. Not because of what it’s made of or how it tastes or anything like that, but because of its history. Flan dates back to Ancient Rome – the first society to domesticate chickens for the purpose of gathering eggs. They devised this custardy dish as a way to use the surplus of eggs they had, and most of the time it was savory, not sweet. The Romans would flavor their flans with ungodly things like eel and black pepper – no joke! Then, the French came along and saved the world by using honey to sweeten the custard, and flan as a dessert was born. The Spanish really took to flan, and when Cortés conquered Mexico, the custard landed there with him. The rest is culinary history: flan became probably the most recognizable of traditional Mexican desserts.

The Rivoli menu is so continental as to even offer a version of Steak Diane

Vincent’s recipe for flan comes from the Rivoli in Mexico City, a mid-century New Year’s Eve favorite of the Prices. The flan is flavored with pulverized blanched almonds, which is an ingredient common to a lot of flan recipes. However, what’s uncommon is that this recipe is insanely easy. A lot of “fancier” flan recipes call for making custard on the stovetop with an attentive eye and strong stirring arm; whereas this one, you just have to mix all the ingredients in a blender.

Mary and Vincent Price enjoying some fine dining at the Rivoli probably sometime around 1960

Remember how I just said I didn’t really like custards that much? Admittedly, flan is a part of that. It’s really something about the texture that turns me off; in its traditional form, it’s not quite gelatin and not quite pudding. I always feel like I’m eating some kind of alien food. But, this recipe definitely surprised me.

Maybe it’s the blending of the ingredients instead of cooking them on the stovetop. Maybe it’s that Vincent says to bake the flan for forty-five minutes, or “until set,” and after the forty-five, I did ten more because it still seemed jiggly to me. But the result was that the texture of this flan was different! Almost (almost) cake-like. Thick like a cheesecake, actually. And honestly, that made it the best flan I’ve ever tasted!

Please try this flan recipe and see for yourself! Vincent says:

The rich custard dessert called flan is one of the specialties of Spanish-American cooking, served throughout Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. This recipe, which was given to us by the amiable Mexican cook of some friends in Cuernavaca, produces one of the best custards ever, and is the one we use most often. 

FLAN (Baked Custard), serves 6 to 8

Ingredients: sugar, blanched almonds, condensed milk, cream, eggs

CUSTARD

  1. Measure: 3 tablespoons sugar into an 8-inch layer cake pan. Place over heat and stir constantly until the sugar melts and turns a dark caramel color. Let cool until caramel hardens.
  2. Preheat oven to moderate (325° F.).
  3. Into container of electric blender put: 3 ounces blanched almonds. Blend on high speed for 3 seconds. Leave nuts in container.
  4. Add: 1 1/3 cups condensed milk, 3/4 cup cream, 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks. Stir to mix, then blend on high speed for 8 to 10 seconds.
  5. Empty into caramelized pan, set pan in larger pan containing about 1/2 inch hot water, and bake for 45 minutes, or until set.
  6. Cool and place in refrigerator. Do not remove from pan until the following day.

PRESENTATION

Invert into chilled platter. There is no trick to this; it slips out easily (Elbee’s note: I had to trace the edges with a knife to loosen the flan before it slipped out easily.). If desired, garnish with whipped cream.

Come back next time to see what horror Elbee cooks up from one of Mary and Vincent Price’s favorite recipes. And be sure to catch Elbee and Andrew on Vincent Price’s Laugh right here on OME!

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Elbee Bargeron

Copy Editor and co-host of “Vincent Price’s Laugh.” Collector of kitsch. Can’t stand white walls.

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