Leche Flan | The Close-Eye-Factor

that's a blud-clot rudebwoy leche flan, ya dig?

People tell me my Leche Flan is the shit.  People that don’t really eat Leche Flan when it’s put out, eat mine.  The reason for this is because I give a shit.  Leche Flan is dumb easy to make, but like any food preparation, it’s the giving a shit part that is key.

Leche Flan is a version of custard from The Philippines.  The Portuguese kinda have the same thing, but it’s not quite as good.  Mostly because the Filipino version is rich as fuck and super bad for you.  I guess you can go and make a Leche Flan *Lite*, but that’s not giving a shit.  Well, it’s giving a shit in the wrong places.  It’s fine to care about your health.  But  good food, truly good food, should be a little like love in the way that it kills you a little when you let it.

So why Leche Flan though?  When I decided one day to make Leche Flan it was because my Mother makes it.  Then I figured I was good at it.  So I got better.  But the other reason is what my homey, Polangco would call the “Close-eye-factor.”

I kinda live for the Close-eye-factor.

A good spoonful of Leche Flan is sexual.  The way I like to do it is to take a spoonful and turn the spoon upside-down as I put it in my mouth.  Once I feel the cold of the flan, I tauten my tongue so it’s tip cuts through the velvet texture and grazes the surface of the spoon.  If you’re really good you can peel back the layers, leaving smooth round mounds of flan on the spoon- then hit it again.

When I pull the spoon away slowly and the flan is sitting on the surface of my tongue, I tighten my lips and suck the last bits of air out.  This spreads the flan through the roof of the mouth, the cheeks, and the back of the tongue.  Though it’s cold, you’ll feel a warmth down to your belly, thus creating the proper conditions for the Close-eye-factor.

As much as there’s an art to cooking, there’s an art to eating.  And I’m an aight cook, but I’m mostly primo eater.

Again, Leche Flan is dumb easy to make.

INGREDIENTS:

Some kind of MOLDs.  Those flat round Brazillian corned beef cans, might work well.  But you can grab perfect aluminum molds from TAP PHONG on Spadina ($2.35).  They got everything.  For this recipe, 3 of those molds is good.  All mixed, this recipe will come up to around 6 cups.

A baking pan.  Like the kind you’d make Lasagna in.

Aluminum Foil

  • 1 can of Evaporated Milk
  • 1 can of Condensed Milk
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

for the caramel:

  • 1 cup of Demerara or Muscavado or whatever dark, moist sugar 
  • 1 Starbuck’s VIA packet (or whatever instant coffee or actual coffee)
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat your oven to 375.  Segregate your yolks from the whites.  (Keep your whites in a yogurt container and use them for something later.  Tolerance.)

Bring your sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the VIA packet and let it simmer out until the sugar caramelizes and the solution thickens.  You don’t have to add the coffee, but the coffee and dark sugar are what make mine different.  Dark is sexy.  Pour the caramel into the bottom of the molds.  It’s a good idea to do this right away to allow the caramel to cool into the mold.  It’ll make all the difference with the presentation (close-eye-factor).

Pour your yolks, the vanilla, the evaporated milk, and the condensed milk into a mixing bowl and beat the shit out of it BY HAND.  I like to beat the yolks out a bit before adding the rest.  Some recipes might say you can use a blender, but I think that makes the Leche Flan runny.  I hold suspect anyone that doesn’t derive pleasure from beating things.  So beat it by hand and think about the Close-eye-factor the whole time.

If you feel fancy, this is a good time to experiment and add flavor.  Traditional Leche Flan doesn’t call for it, there’s already enough flavor there with the vanilla.  But it’s fun to try things.  One time using three molds, I put a shot of Canadian Club Rye Whiskey in one; a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream in another; and a couple leaves of basil in another.  Sometimes I put dark chocolate chips or shave dark chocolate into it.

When the mixture is proper beat, carefully pour it into the molds and add it to the caramel.  You are pouring too fast when you see too much caramel rising to the top as you pour.  It’ll happen anyway, but it will happen less if you let the caramel cool first.

Boil water and pour it into the baking pan.

Cover the molds with aluminum foil and place them in the water in the baking pan.

Put it all into the oven and let it bake for 45 minutes.  If you’re not sure it’s done take one mold and stab it with a knife and slip it back out.  If the knife is not runny, the Leche Flan is done.

Let the molds cool and when they’re near room temperature place them in the fridge for at least an hour.  This is also optional, but I think it’s better cold.

If you are taking them somewhere it’s best to leave them in the molds.  It’s easier to travel that way.

When you’re ready to serve, use plates with a deep indent and high walls for the flan to sit in the caramel.  Run a knife around the edges of the mold to loosen the flan.  Stick the open end of the mold flush to your plate and turn it over.  Tap it or shake it if it doesn’t slip right out.  Try to not to totally destroy your mold.  You took the extra give a shit to achieve that gleaming dark top surface.

(After Edit: On Thanksgiving my Mom served still in the mold and not turned over.  I fucking lost it.  DON’T DO THAT!)

Now do what you wish with that.

-mlv

All City Pizza.

Pizza dough 1/2 red pepper 1/2 spanish onion 1 portobello mushroom Goat cheese (go nuts) Sausage (2 if you're slicing, 1 if you're uncasing) Extra-virgin olive oil Some herbs, guy

Ok. It’s not really an ALL-CITY PIZZA, but I wanna call it that cause it almost is.

I got the (HOT) Lamb Merguez sausage from Sausage King at St. Lawrence Market while I was job hunting in the area.  Apparently, the guys who own it now are pretty serious about their meat.  So I had to try.  They got a variety of sausage made from several animals, plus delicious pepperoni sticks (Slim Jims/Hot Rod’s without the preservatives), and a few sandwiches (namely a Porchetta joint).

The pizza dough I copped at Market Bakery in Kensington Market.  Which is more my neighborhood.  I sometimes buy my bread there because it’s cheaper than Cobs’.  You can buy a bag of dough, either white or whole wheat, and it’s about enough to feed 4 people (no seconds).  It’s only a buck fifty.  The beautiful thing about this is that it’s actually good.

The rest of the shit we copped around Kensington.  Pretty standard toppings here.  The goat-cheese we got at Global Cheese.  You gotta be careful when you go in there and know what you want, otherwise you’re walking out with half a wheel of brie you don’t need and will never finish.  Those khats are old school cheese pushers.

I guess the first thing you want to do is pre-heat your oven, so it’s proper hot.  Get it up to 475.  It’s dope if you got a pizza stone, but if you don’t, it’s not over.  If your dough is right, then you’ll be ok.  Speaking of dough, you should let that shit sit in a bowl and get to room temperature.  Line the bowl with olive oil so it doesn’t stick.

I took some fresh basil leaves (from my neighbor’s garden) and some dried oregano and let it steep in a small bowl filled with extra-virgin olive oil.  Not too sure if that does anything, but it sounded like a good idea.  Maybe if I did it overnight or started a separate bottle with the leaves in permanent.

Chop all your vegetables while all that’s happening.  Think about textures and the intensity of different flavours.  The pepper will bring some freshness to the savory of the goat cheese and sausage.  It’s great to bite into a chunk of mushroom and let it’s  juices flow out.  And an onion is there for aroma, huge chunks will takeover everything, slice that.

Use flour or corn meal on the baking sheet to keep it from sticking.  I used parchment paper this time.  Again- not sure if that makes a difference, but it seemed like a good idea.

unbaked

Expanding  a mound of pizza dough is a fucking art-form.  So don’t get too discouraged if you try to do it like the movies and it doesn’t work.  I just plop it on the sheet and kneed it carefully until it spreads.  Try to make it even and try not to make holes, cause they’re a pain in the ass to fix.  I go for a thin-crust.  As should you.

Take your basil steeped olive oil and paint the surface of the dough.  Put the toppings on however you want.  I prefer EVEN.  I took the sausage out the casing and placed clumps around the pie.  But in retrospect, I would have liked to have sliced the sausage to you get the satisfaction of biting into actual sausage.  Not just a taste of it.  You’ll probably need more sausage.

Another good idea- a bit dainty- would be to make mini two-bite pizzas.  You can control the toppings on each.  Thus insuring that each bite is uniform.

I went ahead and drizzled more olive oil over everything.  But I think that was over board.

Let a pie bake for about 15 minutes.  If you over did it with toppings, you’ll probably need to give that dough more time.  I like a dry crust and the cheese brown.

baked.

Blammo.  Pizza is stupid-easy.

My first non-asian post.

-mlv

INGREDIENTS

Pizza dough

1/2 red pepper

1/2 spanish onion

1 portobello mushroom

Goat cheese (go nuts)

Sausage (2 if you’re slicing, 1 if you’re uncasing)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Some herbs, guy

Good Pizza Advice:  http://squidniki.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/pizza-toppings/

(About the photos:  I just got this neat little camera and I’m still figuring out the best setting for food.  Another thing, weird timing with the PIZZA.  The whole city’s going pizza crazy: http://www.thegridto.com/life/food-drink/nonna-palumbo%E2%80%99s-frozen-pizza-smackdown/)

vodka infusion: vanilla, apple, star anise.

yes, yes. my photos are still shit.

Vodka
Vanilla Bean
Apple
Star Anise

A few years ago a bar and restaurant called NOTA BENE opened up on the Queen West strip by University.  I liked how the bar faced out at the street and the people inside looked liked they were in an aquarium.  I actually don’t remember what happened to make me go in there.  I was still young and dumb and, for some reason, able to afford 18 dollar martinis.

Up on the top shelf of the back bar there were these gallon size mason jars filled with vodka.  In each mason jar, sitting with the vodka, were orange peels and cinnamon sticks or figs and vanilla beans or cucumbers and mint.  Actually, I’m not sure if those ingredients are completely accurate.  But you get the idea.

The martini menu contained variations on each fusion.  Me and whoever I was with would grab a couple and pass them around to each other.  The eye-opening notes on the nose, the subtle hints of one flavour, and the knocks on the jaw of another.  It was a revelation.  Up until then my experience with bartending was mainly practical on the job shit and little variations of shit from the books.  But infusing your own vodka?  That took time, knowledge of ingredients, creativity, experimentation, risk- that’s art.  And with vodka, the ideal blank canvas.

On a Monday, my handsome co-worker puts 4 mini-bottles of Absolut in front of me at the beginning of the shift.  He’s like “do something with these,” probably intending for me to drink them, because Mondays at the bar are only bearable when on the tipple.  He just wanted the little bottles back, he was gonna use them for something.  They were glass.

Downstairs we had a bunch of unopened vanilla beans, some apples for the cheese-plate, and after sniffing out a bag full of spices on the dry goods shelf, I decided on star anise.  When I think of making a drink, I think of making it taste like the Autumn.  Autumn, to me, is more conducive with drinking.  There’s already so many summer drinks.  Besides, summer’s easy.  Cold beer and you’re good.  Anyway, fruity drinks are for girls.

So despite all that romanticizing I did earlier, the process is dead simple.  Slice the apple, cut a slit through the vanilla bean, toss the ingredients in a jar and pour the vodka over it.  I should add that vodka culture is totally fucked up and stooshy.  Most people that claim to tell the difference are total bullshit.  It might make a slight difference what vodka you use, but not a huge one.  So if you’re gonna try this, don’t go spending 40 bucks on a bottle of Grey Goose.  That’s a douche-move.  But don’t be lazy and grab a bottle of Smirnoff- I’m not even sure that’s vodka, it’s not even Russian (<—– fucked up and stooshy).

Leave it for a day or so, depending on how much vodka you use.  I only used 4 mini-bottles, so I only went a day.  If you’re not sure, taste it.

Don’t put too much star anise.  You’ll fuck it all up.

-mlv

arroz caldo.

Chicken bones
Chicken pieces
Onion
Ginger
Garlic
Salt and pepper
Green onion
Fish sauce (patis)
Lime juice

I still have a shitload of those chicken bones I used for Chinese chicken corn soup.  So when I got up this afternoon I tossed a bunch of them a little over 3/4 up a large sauce pan.  I covered that up with cold water, sliced some ginger (though I think it would be better just to drop a chunk in), chopped a shallot (i also think this would be better as thirds), threw that into the water and milled in about 4 turns of pepper and some salt.

I had a couple of de-boned chicken legs in the freezer.  I took those out, covered them in water, and let them thaw.

Then I facebooked my face off for a few hours.  Watched basketball highlights on The Score with my buddy downstairs.  Watched about 6 gags on that Just for Laughs Gags show.  Then I went back upstairs.

It must have been around 5 hours.  The broth had reduced about an inch and a half below the rim of the saucepan. I tasted it.  Closed my eyes and tasted it.  I can’t stress this closing the eyes part enough.  When we close our eyes our other senses prick up and though food can look very good, it says nothing about the taste.  It’s like kissing.  If you want your food to taste delicious you must love the food.  (Closing your eyes is also the best way to decide what exactly you feel like eating.)

It didn’t need anything, so I separated the bones from the broth.  I was again tempted to salvage those chicken shreds, but it looked impossible.  Besides, I had those chicken legs thawing.

To save yourself all the washing, cut the chicken last.  But first toss an onion in the freezer, then start heating up some oil in the saucepan.  Dice a couple of cloves of garlic by smashing them first and cutting them up.  Take an inch of ginger and slice it.  Grab the onion from the freezer.  Dice it quick.  The juice in the onion should be slightly frozen and if you’re quick you’ll save yourself the tears.  Create a mise-en-place and chop up your chicken.

First toast the garlic in the hot oil.  Let them sizzle until they’re brown or crispy or both.  Take a fork and remove them from the oil.  Place them on a piece of paper towel and put that aside.

Now brown your chicken in that garlicky oil.  When it’s close to brown (i like the edges a bit crispy) toss in the onion and ginger.  Don’t put all three in at once.  The water from the onion and ginger will interrupt the browning process.  When it looks good, add a little more than a cup of uncooked rice.  Coat the rice, mix it around.  Now add the broth and bring it all to a boil.

When it’s come to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cover.  Let the rice cook, it should be around 15 minutes.  When it’s done you can start fucking with the flavour by adding cracked pepper and fish sauce (You can find this in asian groceries.  It fucking stinks so don’t spill it all over the place.  Also, it helps to get the kinda more expensive stuff, it’s still only like $4) in small amounts.  Don’t over do it, you’ll fuck it up completely.  Remember, these things can be added after plating as well.

Ladle the arroz caldo into bowls and garnish with chopped green onion and the toasted garlic.  Serve with lime juice on the side and eat with those big ass chinese soup spoons.

-mlv

Arroz caldo literally means hot rice.  This recipe and method was referenced from here:  http://www.nibbledish.com/people/indiemonic/recipes/easy-chicken-arroz-caldo

longanisa for lunch.

Ok.  First a little context about the name of the blog.

Saw-saw (prounounced saow-saow) or saw-sawan is a sauce or dip that’s prepared to compliment the main part of a Filipino plate.  A Filipino plate is normally composed of a good helping of rice and some form of meat, fish, and/or vegetable (called the ulam).  When the main is prepared without some sort of sauce or gravy, like a stew or a soup (called the sabaw) to coat the rice, you will almost always find a saw-sawan.  So anything that required minimal preparation, like a simple marinade, then fried, barbecued, or roasted will come with a saw-sawan.

The saw-sawan itself will differ from ulam to ulam.  But mostly it’s a seasoned vinegar.  Filipinos love food that stinks and for some reason food that stinks is a perfect vehicle for vinegar.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a craving is for the actual dish or for the saw-sawan.

Just now I ran out of toothpaste.  I have no toothpaste, but I have 5 different kinds of vinegar.

ON THE PLATE

Salted Egg Salad

2 Salted Duck Eggs
1 Tomato
1 Shallot
Salt and pepper
Cane Vinegar

Chop the Tomato and remove the seeds to prevent the salad from getting soggy and throw it in a bowl.  Cut the shallot in half through the butt-ends, then slice each half thinly down the grain.  Throw that in the bowl.  With the shell still on, cut the duck eggs (you can find these in chinese grocery) lengthwise.  Then spoon the egg into the bowl.  If you don’t have a pepper mill or aren’t buying whole black peppercorns that come in a mill, for fuck’s sake, do something about that.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add about 2 teaspoons of cane vinegar to give it some moisture and bite.  Mix that mofo up.

Fried Egg

Really?

Longanisa

Longanisa is a Filipino sausage normally consumed for breakfast.  My mom says they are just like Filipino men,  short but sweet.  SMH.

We don’t get out of bed until after noon.  So we’re having it for lunch.

You can find these in most asian supermarkets in the frozen section.

Longanisa is a regional thing, so different people like different preparations.

In our house we like the sugars caramelized until it’s burnt a bit on the outside.

Fried Rice (Sinangag)

Filipinos will always have left over rice.  Being a culture that never wastes, we fry the rice for breakfast.  You know how white people will talk about memories of waking up to the smell of peameal bacon sizzling in a pan?  It’s like that for me and fried rice.

None of that other shit in Filipino fried rice.  Garlic, salt, pepper.  In our house we also like the rice slightly burnt (the scrapings on the bottom of the pan).

Saw-sawan

Vinegar
Garlic
Salt and Pepper
A Vietnamese Chili

Back home, in The Philippines, there are several types of vinegar (cane, coconut, rice, etc. etc.).  All are very delicious.  But since we’re in Canada.  Toronto specifically.  We went first-world gourmet and used balsamic vinegar.  Chop the garlic and toss it in.  Place the Vietnamese Chili in the vinegar and smush it with a spoon.  Don’t chop it up, you’ll die.  Salt and pepper if you want, but it doesn’t really need it.

-mlv

chinese cream corn chicken soup.

still on my shitty camera-phone.

6 cups of chicken broth
less than a pound of minced chicken
a can of cream-style corn
ginger
green onions
salt and pepper
sesame oil
rice (if you’re hungry)

Today I was broke.  I’ll probably be broke for the rest of the month.  But I still have to eat.

The guy that lived downstairs from me for a bit was a chef.  He left behind a large covered food tray of chicken bones to be used for stock or gravy or whatever.  It was so much that it didn’t fit in any of our freezers so he left them outside.

Today the temperature rose from almost -20 degrees celsius to +3.  So at least some of those bones had to get used.  I got a bottle of sesame oil that will probably never run out and a container of egg whites from when I made custard on new year’s.  I didn’t know if they were still good, but I didn’t give a shit.  I’m supposed to be broke.

All I needed was less than a pound of chicken and a can of cream of corn.  That’s less than 5 bucks.

The smart thing to do would have been to fill a large sauce pan 3/4 of the way with chicken bones, cover with cold water, salt, pepper, and let that simmer while I hit up china-town for the chicken and corn.  But I really didn’t think of the chicken bones until I got back home.

When you’re making broth, you really want to do it overnight.  But since these bones were already cooked, I figured I could get away with it.  I brought the bones to a boil on high, thinking that would do something to release the flavour quicker (tell me if I’m dumb).  When it came to a boil I added about an inch of unpeeled sliced ginger and a couple chopped butt-ends of some green onion (that’s the white part where I’m from).  Then I brought the broth down to a simmer.

I left it alone for just over an hour.  Remember, real broth is an over-night thing, so you want to give it at least an hour.  During which time you can make some rice and facebook that you’re cooking some chinese shit.

Traditionally, this is supposed to be a thin soup to accompany a meal.  But since we’re broke we’re dumping it on top a bowl of white rice and making that shit a meal.

You can also take the time to mince your chicken during this time.  I didn’t.

(For fuck’s sake, season the chicken once it’s minced.  Unless you want it to taste like crushed up packaging foam.)

Taste the broth.  Close your eyes and decide whether that’s chicken broth or not.  If it’s not; give it some more time or add some water or add some store-bought broth.  It’s just chinese cream corn chicken soup.  You already faux pas’d when you bought that can of corn.

If it’s ready, strain the bones from the broth.  There might be a shitload of shredded-like chicken you may be tempted to separate from the bones, but look at it.  That shit’s gonna take forever.  You won’t be saving any children in third-world countries by busting your ass saving that chicken.  During that time you could have been reading a book.  Face the guilt and toss that shit.

In a separate container- I used a pitcher- add about a cup of the hot broth to the mince chicken and can of corn.  Mix it around.  Add the mixture back to the rest of the broth and bring the whole thing back to a boil on about medium.

When it’s come to a boil or when you see the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat.  Add the egg whites and mix it around immediately so they break up.  Add the other part of the green onion (the green part) that you remembered to chop while the broth was going.  Add a cap full or less of sesame oil.

Taste it.  If it tastes like chinese cream corn chicken soup, you’re done.

-mlv

I learned this from the only other asian-guy in my building when I was living in British Columbia and I used http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chinesesouprecipes/r/cannedcornsoup.htm as a reference.

Hob Nob Pinot Noir 2008.

I can’t get through a Friday or Saturday night at home without a bottle of wine.  A few years of working busy weekends at bars and restaurants have taught me to appreciate a night in.  Unless it’s for an occasion,  going out and joining the weekend crowd has never been a desirable alternative.

Why spend a couple hundred bucks, when you can make three?  Besides, as most people in the industry might tell you, nothing good ever happens on the weekends anyway.

The weekends are when normal people go out.  And- maybe built on an insecurity about our lack of stature in society- bar and restaurant workers don’t consider themselves normal people.  Have you ever been on the other side of a bar on a Friday or Saturday night?  All that pent up i-hate-my-job aggression, it’s scary.

Anyway, back to the wine.

Wine reviews are a bit cheesy.  I can narrow it down to this:  cheap Pinot Noir.  And it’s good.  You should buy it.

It’s smooth at the beginning then gains some character as you let it breathe.  There’s cherry there.  I read someone say “vanilla”, but I say dark-chocolate.  It’s round enough to get all parts of your tongue.  Strong dry finish that would compliment a cigarette perfect.  That’s a great thing.

Probably won’t give you the mind explosion that some people say they get after drinking Pinot Noirs, but for 12 bucks what the fuck did you expect?

It’s the first good wine I’ve bought by accident in a while.  For it’s price point it’s fucking incredible.

Good sipping wine that can stand on it’s own without a meal.  Perfect for Friday nights avoiding normal people.

Peace,

-mlv