Dazzle Them With Dessert

Early summer meals may feature main courses of seafood or game, but let’s not overlook the importance of dessert. Flan is a typically Spanish or Cuban egg custard, and this coconut-infused modification of a Key West recipe is particularly tasty. While many flan recipes call for a more complex list of ingredients, this one takes advantage of sweetened condensed milk, made popular by “conch” chefs when fresh milk was unavailable. It can be prepared individually in small ramekins or, for a more home-style presentation, in larger soufflé dishes. In either case, expect your guests to ask for seconds!

Flan de Coco

6 large eggs
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 14 oz. can, sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz. can, evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1-cup sugar (for caramel)

Simple ingredients, available at grocery stores from Pensacola to Havana.

Mix the coconut milk, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the vanilla together in a large bowl.

Mix milk and vanilla before adding eggs.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together…

Whisk eggs in separate bowl.

…and then strain them into the milk and vanilla mix. Straining the eggs makes the final product smooth and silky.

Strain eggs to remove solids, ensuring smooth texture.

Stir thoroughly.

Melt the sugar in a heavy black iron frying pan, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon, until caramelized.

Stir sugar constantly so it melts but doesn’t burn.

Take care not to let the sugar burn and don’t even attempt this in a non-stick pan! Then, pour the hot caramel into the bottom of your ramekins or soufflé dish.

Coat bottom of dish with melted sugar; let cool for a few minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes, and add the custard mix. This recipe makes enough for one 8-inch dish or six 1-cup servings. If using smaller dishes, fill them about 2/3 full.

Pour milk and egg mixture into pans, about 2/3 full.

The “trick” to cooking flan is to cook it very slowly, slightly submerging your cooking dish in a water bath, or bain Marie. A roasting pan with an inch or two of water works fine, in a 350-degree oven. Starting with hot tap water will give you a head start, but expect an 8-inch flan to take about 90 minutes to cook.

More than one size flan can be cook simultaneously. Just checking doneness.

Check the doneness of your flan with a sharp knife, inserted in the middle. If it comes out clean and the flan doesn’t wiggle, it’s done.

If you anticipate taking the flan out of the pan and serving it whole, refrigerate it for at least 6 hours. To transfer a large flan to a serving dish, run a sharp knife around the edge, put the serving dish over the top of the soufflé dish, and flip the entire package.

Be careful when turning cooled flan onto serving plate. Cut around the edges to release flan from dish.

Voilá–the flan will come loose. And be sure to spoon any excess caramel over the top. Flan can also be served warm, scooped right out of the bowl or as individual servings. FS