I had all sorts of epiphanic moments this week. I realized that this blog has created a new life for me. One I never imagined or pursued. But one I’m in love with. I figured out that doing the same thing will always yield the same result. And I came to accept that I relish in simple moments of pure joy and happiness. For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with my soul filled with joy. On a daily, I’m happy, yes. But there’s a difference. And understanding that difference changes the modality in which I function. My sister recently told me that I can not change those things which I am willing to tolerate. Something like that. It makes sense. It applies to so many areas of my life, especially my personal which I seldom indulge you with.
These epiphany’s were mostly revealed by unplanned moments with special people from my past. One in particular reminded me of the very things that make me “B” — an unapologetic spirit for those things in which I firmly believe; always courageous to speak my mind and not fret the consequences. That passing conversation surfaced my relationship with food. I have a fantastic appetite and love great food. I like the art of cooking a beautiful meal that leaves you and me feeling like life is alright. I appreciate foods that have history and have become part of the culinary fabric of certain demographics.
And while I’ve known since I’ve been cooking professionally that using seasonal ingredients is always best, I’ve deviated from time to time. Every chef and home cook does. But, I’m changing that. I appreciate the work farmers put into cultivating foods that harvest when nature would have them.
Pomegranates is one of those foods I have respect for. It wasn’t always like that. It took a very educational trip to POM Wonderful‘s orchards in Fresno, California to really understand their history and culinary significance. You can read more about that extraordinary trip and the actual fruit in these two posts I wrote back in 2009. Since the fresh fruit is now in season, I’m relishing in sprinkling their concentrated goodness in different foods. I’ve only made 3 or 4 dishes with POM fruit or juice here on the blog, but have played around significantly in my kitchen and otherwise.
Flan is the simple thing I make with either product. I made one 3 years ago to much attention. In fact, POM’s official website featured it as the “Recipe of the Day” on Thanksgiving Day that year. I remember getting the email. My family was visiting Paquito D’Rivera in NY at the time. I knew it was coming but was still thrilled to see it go live. That flan, blended with Grand Marnier has been a repeat hit at home, for friends and clients.
But I’ve not tried another combination. Since my friends POM Wonderful offered to send me a box of fresh fruit and juice this season, I was quickly inspired to make the a new flan..an updated, new twist. and sexy one.
Using other seasonal ingredients.
With Christmas just 11 days away, my family has been entertaining ourselves with every bit of jovial activity. Apple picking, decking trees in three siblings’ homes, hosting a weekly fam and friend dinner, going to the annual and uberly festive Middleburg Christmas Parade and standing in long lines to buy the most amazing cookies; not to mention the insane amount of baking at at the house.
When I got the box of huge and just lovely poms, Mami got excited and got to thinking. This flan was giving me a headache. I mulled over what to mix it with. I toyed with doing something savory, inspired by the most non-flan flan I’ve ever had in NY last week (more on that later). But, that savory test didn’t work so well.
I recently jacked some lavender from a neighbor’s sidewalk and planted it in our backyard. I’ve been wanting to use it. So, as the poms stared at me at the kitchen sink, and my clear shot view of the herbs and perennials in the backyard swayed with the wind, the color combo instantly seemed pretty.
I went to picking and stuck to that. I added Brandy because a flan lover colleague suggested it while inviting ideas on Facebook. So, kind of a collaborative effort. And it worked much to my joyful merriment!
The process was a bit more involved than most of my flans, but the extra work was worth it. The beautiful aroma of lavender juxtaposed with the tartness of the arils and the smooth burn of the Brandy had an effective finish. It completed a basic egg custard. Lavender in the custard and the smell of it with each bite.
Making beautiful but simple food is art. And art brings me joy.
POMEGRANATE & LAVENDER BRANDY INFUSION
- 4 eggs, whisked
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate juice from arils (you can use the bottled juice if you don’t want to get so labor intensive), parted.
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup Brandy
- 1/2 cup 2% milk
- 1/4 cup fresh arils for garnish
- 1/4 cup fresh lavender, divided; 1 lavender sprig
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
- splash of Brandy (more like 2 Tbsp.)
For pom juice:
Cut pomegranate and remove all arils. Use the more red ones. Don’t rinse. Place 1-1/2 cups of arils in blender and liquify for 2 minutes. Strain to remove seeds and extra skin. Add Brandy, ginger and lavender. Chill for 1 hour.
In a bowl, combine eggs, sweetened condensed & 2% milk & extract and whisk for about 2 minutes. Pour 3/4 cup pom juice mixture into custard mixture. Whisk well. Allow any foam from egg to settle.
Add sugar and strain 1/4 cup of pom juice to the flan mold and bring to medium-high heat. Allow all of sugar to melt down until golden caramel, stirring constantly. Do not allow the color of the sugar to become too dark or burn. When sugar is fully liquified, carefully coat the bottom and entire sides of the flan mold using hand towels to hold the pan (I suggest using a brush if you are not experienced in handling extremely hot caramel). Let sit for 2 minutes until sugar sets.Pour mixture into pan using using a medium mesh hand strainer. Close pan tightly.
Make sure not to burn sugar. When sugar is fully melted down, carefully coat entire flan mold, covering all sides, using circular motion (I suggest using a brush if you are not experienced in handling extremely hot caramel). Move fast if using a brush. Close flan mold.
Add 3 cups of water to a 4 or 6 qt. pressure cooker. Gently place flan mold in cooker and close lid. Place jiggler on lid. If your pressure cooker jiggler has different PSI settings, set it to 10. Cook on high for 10 minutes, or until pressure cooker starts hissing. Turn off heat and allow all of the pressure to release itself, or for another 5 minutes.
Remove from pressure cooker after all pressure is released. Refrigerate for 8-9 hours or overnight for best taste. Remove from refrigeration 30-45 minutes before serving to loosen some. To serve, using a butter knife, loosen the sides of the flan all the way around. Take a large plate, place upside down on top of flan and flip. Garnish whole flan with arils and lavender sprig. Garnish each individual slice with additional lavender buds.
* Chef's notes: you can add a splash of Brandy the rum to the finished flan to intensify the liquor flavor. It will thin out your caramel, so you may make your caramel thicker by adding 1 additional tablespoon. Simply pour two tablespoons over the custard and let blend into caramel. Continue to cut individual slices.