Sunday, August 3, 2008

Eme's Flan

Emerita Garcia Cervantes makes the best flan in San Pancho, we all say. “Eme” owns and runs Los Delfines Restaurant, a block up from the beach on the town’s main drag and open for supper. When she has a fresh batch of flan for sale, she props a Styrofoam plate against a small potted cactus that sits on a counter. “Hay flan,” the plate reads (There is flan.). Passers-by spread the word.

Eme turns out flan de coco (coconut), de queso(cheese), de café(coffee), and de vainilla(vanilla). Flan de coco seems to be the favorite, given the number of mentions it gets. All of the flans are rich and dense, the batter poured into cunning little tin pans called “flaneras” (yours for $8 in Mexican supermarkets and housewares stores), then steamed in a pressure cooker for an hour.

Eme’s pozole is also renowned. She only offers it on Saturday and Sunday nights, when it’s sometimes SRO at Los Delfines, a.k.a. Eme’s front porch, filled with plastic tables and chairs. Her chicken enchiladas are worth a wait, too; some say they’re the best they’ve ever had. My friend Helen, a New Yorker by way of London, editor at a major women’s magazine, and accomplished cook, visited San Pancho this year and declared Los Delfines her restaurant of choice after sampling meals all over town.

“It’s charming,” she said. “Plus the food is honest, flavorful, and preposterously economical.”

High praise well-earned for Eme, one of the hardest working women in town, whose day job is janitor at the local middle school. She’s a widow who raised two daughters alone, one of whom is just finishing up a university degree program.

Eme is generous, too. She’d be happy to share her flan recipe, she said, when approached by two of my house guests. She suggested we come watch her make it one Saturday morning. Afterward, we paid for her time without her asking. She could offer Mexican cooking classes, one of us enthused. She smiled but didn’t answer. Sure thing, I thought, what with all that extra time you've got.

Eme’s Coconut Flan

-½ cup white sugar

-1 can of condensed milk

-1 can of evaporated milk

-1 cup of whole milk

-5 eggs

-1 generous handful of sweetened coconut

1. Melt the sugar in the flanera, stirring as it liquefies. Coat the sides and bottom of the flanera.
2. Blend the condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, and coconut in a blender.
3. Pour the blender mix + the whole milk into the flanera simultaneously (don’t stir together).
4. Seal the flanera with foil; snap on its lid; place in a pressure cooker, and add water to reach half way up the side of the flanera.
5. Put the lid on the pressure cooker; over low flame, cook for 1 hour; remove from the cooker.
6. Cool at room temperature; refrigerate for a day before serving.

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