Friday, February 26, 2010

Carrot flan

I got Vegetable Heaven by Mollie Katzen as a wedding shower present, and it seems to be full of really inventive recipes. This is the first one I tried, and while it didn't come out exactly the way I expected, it tasted really good. The thyme and sage flavors are present and harmonize beautifully with the carrot flavor. This was also my first flan attempt, and I'm pretty pleased with how well they set. And I didn't spill boiling water on myself or an innocent bystander. Victory!
The description of the dish in the book is as follows: As these fragrant custards bake, they turn a creamy shade of yellow on the outside and a beautiful deep rust color on the inside. It's like magic. As you can see, that didn't happen to me at all. I don't know if the carrot juice I used was too pulpy or something, but instead of that color explosion, the solids in the carrot juice, along with most of the color, aggregated, and the rest of the flan was beige. The taste was fine, and the texture of the carrot solids was not objectionable in the least, but I was kind of looking forward to the rich orange inside I was promised. I did, however, get a bonus color explosion during baking: the blue dish towel I used under the ramekins leached dye into the water. I found that disconcerting until I realized that towels aren't meant to be color-fast at 350 F.

The carrots I am growing in my garden have been a great success, despite my wimpy thinning. It's hard to tell how big they are from above, but I picked a few nice ones for the garnish for this dish. They're a nice special treat. I eat them with the greens still attached, although at this point the greens are getting a little fibrous.
Carrot flan

Nonstick spray for the ramekins
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups minced onion
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried rubbed sage
4 cups fresh carrot juice
6 large eggs
1 cup milk, any fat content, non-dairy OK
Homegrown baby carrots, greens still attached, for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place a folded kitchen towel neatly in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Spray 4 12-oz, 5 10-oz, or 6 8-oz ramekins with nonstick cooking spray and place them on top of the towel. (The towel will help distribute moist heat during baking.)

Melt the butter in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and saute for 8-10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and herbs and saute for about 2 more minutes. Add the carrot juice, bring to a boil, then turn the heat way down. Simmer uncovered until the carrot juice is reduced by about half, 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine the eggs and milk in a medium-large bowl, and beat slowly with a fork. Place a strainer over the bowl and strain the carrot juice mixture into the eggs and milk, pressing out as much liquid as you can. Discard the solids. Gently stir until thoroughly blended. Immediately ladle into prepared ramekins. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the custards are just set.

Serve straight from ramekins or invert onto plates. To invert, let cool for five minutes, loosed sides with a knife, put a plate on top of the ramekin, say a little prayer, and turn over. Garnish with baby carrots if desired.

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