Show up with this flan to a dinner party or as the dessert course for an intimate din you prepared for your amor, and you will be worshiped and gloried. In this first webisode of the High Heeled Kitchen, I share the basic recipe for my delicioso flan:
My Basic Cheater’s Delicioso Flan Recipe:
1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
½ cup milk of your choice
1 8 oz. cream cheese
For Caramelado Sauce:
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Pre-heat oven to 325°
I start with the Caramelado Sauce. Combine sugar and water in pan. Heat on high until mixture boils, slightly lower, and stir quickly until the sauce begins to caramelize. This can take a few minutes.
¡Ojo Alert! Once the sauce turns, it will caramelize and can burn rápido. Immediately coat the bottom of a medium-sized baking recipient (I use an 8 inch square Pyrex) with caramelado sauce, as the sauce hardens quickly.
Add contents of the 1 can of evaporated and 1 can of condensed milk, the cream cheese, 3 eggs, and milk to the blender. Blend. Pour mixture into baking recipient.
Place in a larger baking recipient (lasagna size) that is filled with a ½ inch of water. This is called a Baño María or a Bain-Marie and allows you to bake the flan without burning it.
Bake for 1 hour (up to 1 ½ hours, depending on your oven)
Remove from oven and cool stovetop for about 1 hour.
Chill at least 8 hours. Taste. Savor. Exclaim: ¡Delicioso!
Make it yours. Experiment: add chocolate, pure vanilla extract, sweet potato, eggnog, strawberries, coconut, mango, or papaya.
Of course, every recipe has a story. Now it’s time to dish about a dessert born of deceit but transformed into delicioso:
Cheater’s Delicioso Flan: The Story:
I met him at Yale. I had a boyfriend. He had broken up with his girlfriend, a former Miss Puerto Rico whose nail polish never revealed a chip (“This,” she declared as she fanned out her long, graceful fingers, “is what these bespectacled nerds who think tweed is a fabric that drapes will jamás take away from me.”
What didn’t we have in common? He was from Colombia, as are my parents. He danced, not on “one” or “two” which salseros ask in New York before a couple hits the dance floor, but the way Papi does: smooth and confident. We shared amigos and were both too tropicál for the bite of New England winters.
He stayed in New Haven that summer to finish his prospectus. I went home to San Francisco to study for my comps: I had stumbled my second year of my doctoral program. In academia, as on “Project Runway”, one day you’re in, the next day you’re out. The only time I wasn’t furiously reading the whole canon in Spanish, from El Cantar de Mio Cid to the most contemporary Latin American novel, was when I took a shower.
Each day, Latin Lover.1 and I wrote LETTERS that comforted, inspired, and soon awakened desire. My First Love could feel I was slipping away, something he predicted years before would happen. Our relationship had survived a significant age difference. We lived on opposite coasts but filled the gaps forming in our daily lives with marathon phone conversations. That summer, what had been minor inconveniences became definitive deal breakers. “No,” I quietly whispered as I looked up, cruelly, from El amor en tiempos de colera and saw the next 50 years of my life. I wanted my freedom: to not come back to San Francisco after I graduated. To not be a literature professor. To not marry my first and only boyfriend.
I returned to New Haven, crushed by the weight of guilt after breaking a good man’s heart. Latin Lover.1 was waiting. “You have nothing else to do but study,” he proposed. While he cooked dinner, I outlined the Colonial canon on 3×5 flash cards. While he picked up missing ingredients for a flan at Romeo’s Market, my faithful classmates drilled me on post modern literary theory and medieval oral tradition.
I looked at the crossed out squares on my cocker spaniel calendar: the date of my comps, actually 2 days written and one of orals, was approaching. The sheer terror of my scholarly Flash Dance moment–walking into a wood paneled room with a long mahogany table around which sat the preeminent scholars in Spanish and Latin American literature–was receding. I. Was. Ready.
But as I became more confident, Latin Lover.1 changed. Where once he caressed my soul with warmth and security, he withheld his affection and attention. Before he spoke to me in baroque phrases that curled and glittered. Now his answers were short and snappish.
I couldn’t deal. My comps were days away.
I smoked on my exams, passing with honors and distinction. Even my dusty professors smiled. My classmates who were pacing outside the department library let out a collective ¡Viva! My first call was to my parents, “¡Mami,” I croaked as my voice betrayed the cool I had flaunted for the last 72 hours, “¡pasé, y con honores!”
Latin Lover.1 was no where to be found.
The next day he invited me over for the staple dinner of every poor graduate student. First course salad, second course pasta, and for dessert: a flan with an apology. He explained he wanted to give me “my space” so I could celebrate. It was my day.
“Este flan está delicioso,” I exclaimed with resentment that was melting with all the flan sweetness.
“Gracias. It’s her recipe.”
¿Cómo? My eyes darted around his kitchen. There! A worn collection of Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems. Maybe this book had been wedged between tomes of economic and development theory and I just didn’t notice?
Then I saw the conclusive piece of evidence: a large, ripe, juicy papaya on the counter, the type you can’t buy at Whole Foods or Stop and Shop, but at a Latino market like the dozens crammed into three blocks on Blatchley Avenue (and where “white” Yalies never ventured). In my total focus to pass my comps, I missed the signs. She planted the papaya knowing that only a woman would recognize it as a mark of betrayal: as sensual, intimate, and incriminating as an undergarment wedged between the mattress and the headboard, or stray strands of her light brown hair clinging to his pillow.
The relationship lunged toward the abyss. Accusations covered in bile and wrenched from the bottom of my twisted gut. A reconciliation born in my shredded heart on a cool Fall night. A phone was yanked from the wall socket.
I never spoke to him again. I heard he left Yale, never turning in his prospectus, and returned to Colombia to take over a government ministry. No PHD required–he was born into one of the few families that run my parents’ country. She got married and moved to Italy, no PHD needed to raise kids. I finished my dissertation, lived all over the country and world, switched careers, became Tía Loca to my three precious nieces, and stayed single. One of my biggest accomplishments? Baking the cheater out of a flan and making it my signature dish. ¡Delicioso!