Flan with Pine Nuts, and Other Southwestern Sadness


It's always fascinating to see what authors do with "local" cookbooks that supposedly highlight the cuisine of a particular region. So when Albuquerque resident and chile pepper expert Dave DeWitt's new tome The Southwest Table: Traditional Cuisine from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona arrived in Cooking Virgin's mailbox, I couldn't wait to see what kinds of Phoenix-area recipes he'd have in store.

Chimichangas? Check. Hot sauce? Yup. Mole? Well, he credited that one to Tucson, but at least it's in the book. Flan with Pinon Nuts?

Whoa! Back the food truck up. It's rare that we see this tree nut show up anywhere other than in Italian pesto or with hummus at a Middle Eastern joint -- much less in a dessert. Intrigued, I tackled the recipe at home.

One minor burn, two sticky countertops and one nasty milk-water bath later, I had a strangely crunchy flan with the pine nuts on the wrong side of the track.

Get flimflanned after the jump...


What You'll Need: (serves 6)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
  • 1 tbsp dark rum (optional)
  • 1 cup pine nuts

[Note: DeWitt's recipe was halved for this experiment]

The Virgin's DeStructions:

1. Grab a stainless pot you're not that fond of (in my case, the burned sushi rice pot), dump in half the sugar and all of the water and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.

2. Bring to a boil and wait until it turns brownish. And wait. And wait... Dust the counter, watch paint dry or make a soufflé in the meantime.

Keep waiting.

3. Eventually, I assure you the bubbling clear liquid will turn brownish, after which you should turn the heat down and wait for it to turn a pretty golden amber color. After that, it's a frantic race to get the pot off of the heat and cooling down before the sugar becomes too dark. It should look like a nice amber bock. Mine looked more like Guinness, which, if it happens to you, might make this a good time to crack open a cold one.

Tip: It's a HORRIBLE IDEA to stick your finger in the melted sugar to taste it and make sure it's not burnt.

4. After you put on some aloe vera burn cream, pour the slightly cooled caramel evenly into ceramic or glass custard cups and swirl around until the dish is coated.

5. Scald the milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Or, if you're a cheap-ass like The Virgin, toss in a dash of vanilla extract instead. (At least make sure it's the real deal, and not imitation vanilla.) Remove vanilla bean if you actually paid the $10 for it, and die a little on the inside when you realize that was tomorrow's latte money.

6. Combine eggs, spices and rum, if applicable (I subbed in amaretto for a nice almond flavor), and whisk until frothy. Add sugar, pine nuts and milk and whisk until dry ingredients are dissolved.

7. Pour mixture evenly into the caramel-coated custard cups and place in a baking dish with about an inch and a half of hot water in it. Try (and fail miserably) to keep the dish perfectly still as you place it in a 350-degree oven, so that the flan mix does not dribble over into the water. Ignore the gross-looking milky liquid that's now surrounding your cups.

8. Bake for 60-70 minutes until done. Turn each cup over onto a saucer and gently shake to release the flan.


The Results: The flan turned out pretty decent, although the pinon nuts weren't "at the top" as the recipe said, and the cinnamon gathered in a little areola-esque blob in the center of the flan. The taste was a bit eggy, with a nice sweetness from the oozing caramel and an unusual earthy smokiness from the nuts.     

For DeWitt's (better/less hazardous) directions and more Arizona-inspired recipes, check out The Southwest Table

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden