Ally

It's a bit hard to tell in the photo but the flan is actually more of a muted light green then yellow.

A few years ago, Mr.S and I took a little getaway to Seattle. We found a wonderful little rustic restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called Cascina Spinasse. We indulged in the chef's tasting menu and had a fabulous evening there. One dish that really stood out taste wise, was the roasted leek flan. I've enjoyed traditional flan on numerous occasions but a savory flan was something new to me. The leek flan at Spinasse was amazing and I fell in love with it. This winter, I ran across an asparagus flan recipe in an old issue of Gourmet (the recipe was adapted from a dish served at the Andrea Hotel Ristorante in Turin, Italy) and I bookmarked it. Now that we're in the midst of springtime and the locally-grown, vibrant green asparagus spears are readily available (and cheap) at the farmers' market, I thought I'd try my hand at making asparagus flan. I pretty much followed the recipe in Gourmet but I did opt to leave off the rich Italian Fontina sauce in an effort to be healthier. I also took note of a helpful tip on Orangette to push the pureed asparagus through a sieve to get rid of any woody bits. The asparagus flan came out great- it had the silky-custard like texture you'd normally find with flan but instead of sweetness you're greeted with an intense, fresh asparagus taste. Next time, I think I might tweak the recipe a bit by perhaps mixing in some lovely roasted leeks, cooking the flan in individual ramekins and adding a dab of sauce. I think it would be a perfect first course for a dinner party.
 
Asparagus Flan (slightly adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

Ingredients
 
2 lb fresh asparagus, woody ends removed
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Butter an 8-inch by 2-inch round cake pan and line bottom with a round of wax paper, then butter paper.

3. Steam asparagus in a steamer set over boiling water, covered, until very tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (I used the steamer basket in my rice cooker instead.)

4. Purée steamed asparagus in a food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. (You will have about 2 cups purée.)

5. Using a rubber spatula or spoon push the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove woody bits. This is a bit of a PIA but really makes a difference in the texture of the flan.

6. Whisk together eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl, then add in asparagus purée.       
                           
8. Pour asparagus mixture into pan.                 

7. For the water bath- you will need a large rectangular baking dish. Place a folded dishtowel in the baking dish. Place your round cake pan on top of the dishtowel. Add enough boiling-hot water to reach halfway up the side of the smaller pan. Bake in a hot water bath until flan is set and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. 
 
 
9.Transfer pan to a rack to cool slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.          
                               
10. Run a thin knife around edge of flan to loosen, then invert a serving plate over pan and invert flan onto plate. Remove pan and discard paper. Cut flan into wedges. (I served some grated Parmesan on the side for sprinkling.) Serve immediately.
 
 
Optional Fontina Sauce:
 
Ingredients
 

1/4 lb Italian Fontina, rind discarded and cheese coarsely grated (or cut into 1/4-inch dice if too soft to grate)
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs yolks
1 tablespoon butter
 
Instructions
 
1. Put all sauce ingredients in a metal bowl, then set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
 
2. Heat sauce, whisking until cheese and butter are melted, and then stirring with a wooden spoon, until sauce is slightly thickened and registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes.
 
3. Remove bowl from pan. Serve sauce with flan.

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