Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CSA Week 6 - Canistel Flan

The more I did my homework on the canistels that came with the Week 6 CSA drop-off,[*] the more convinced I became that a flan was the direction to go. The fruit is also known as the egg fruit because when ripe it has a vivid yellow-orange color, and the flesh is supposed to have a texture similar to hard-boiled egg yolk. It is of the same family as the mamey sapote and bears similarities both in shape and in flavor. When I tasted a bit, I picked up some of the "egg-y" flavor (reminiscent of a Chinese custard bun), plus sweet potato or pumpkin and almond notes similar to those in mamey.

Like the black sapotes we've gotten in other weeks, canistels must go very soft to be fully ripe, and the fruit bowl of late has been looking like something out of a Peter Greenaway movie (I should have taken a picture). Of course, they rarely cooperate by ripening simultaneously, so I harvested the flesh of these as they ripened and froze it until they were all ready. Fortunately, Little Miss F liked the flavor of the canistel much moreso than the black sapotes (she's a big fan of mamey) so I had a willing assistant in preparing this.

I looked mostly at pumpkin flan (a/k/a flan de calabaza) recipes for inspiration, and after considering several variations went with the following (look, an actual recipe!):
  • Flesh of 3 canistels (~1 cup)
  • 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
Preheat your oven to 350F. Defrost the canistel flesh if it's been frozen. Add the four eggs and one yolk to the canistel in a large bowl and mix. Add the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix until well-incorporated. I used an immersion blender to break up the lumpy bits of canistel. The condensed milk is already plenty sweet, plus we're making a caramel, so it won't need any more sugar. You should end up with something like this:

Note that the color is almost entirely from the canistels, not the eggs. Then, make Thomas Keller proud - pour it through a strainer:

Next, the caramel. Put the 3/4 cup sugar into a saucepan over medium heat. Some recipes I read said stir constantly. Others said leave it alone until it starts to melt, then stir only occasionally. I eventually learned the latter instructions were the right ones. Just leave it be until the sugar starts to melt, then stir occasionally with a fork to incorporate the rest of the unmelted sugar. I stirred too early and ended up with big lumps that took longer to dissolve. After about ten minutes, you should have liquid (molten! be careful) golden-brown caramel.

Set up eight 4-oz. ramekins in a baking dish large enough to hold them, with sides at least as tall as the ramekins (OK, I only had seven ramekins. Someone broke one.). Working quickly, spoon a couple spoonfuls of the caramel into each of the ramekins. It will solidify quickly.

Then pour the flan mixture into each of the ramekins. I had almost exactly 4 cups = 32 oz., which would have been perfect for eight ramekins - if I still had eight.

When they're all filled, place the baking dish in the oven and pour about 4 cups hot water into the baking dish (enough to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins). Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until fully set (you can stick a skewer into one to get a sense of whether they're cooked through). Remove and let cool on a rack:

To serve, run a knife around the edge next to the ramekin, to loosen the flan. Then put a plate over the top of the ramekin, and flip the plate and ramekin over. The flan should release onto the plate, topped with the caramel (ideally with some oozing over):

These can be refrigerated for service later; I just re-warm them in a pan filled with hot water half-way up the sides of the ramekin on medium heat for about 5 minutes to melt the caramel.

The flavor of these is spot-on: it has the combination of rich flavor and light texture of a good flan, and the flavors of the canistel come through. Next time I might up the nutmeg and cinnamon a touch. I'd also like to work on the caramel a bit, as it stays pretty thick and sticky, and some of it doesn't free from the ramekin even after warming. But Little Miss F and Frod Jr. tell me this one's a keeper.

[*]Week 6? I know, it seems like we're going back in time here. But those canistels took a while to ripen.


  1. This looks good. I never quite knew what to do with canistel when I was getting CSA. This is making me want to go buy some.

  2. We got more last week, but, sorry, Little Miss F doesn't want to share.

  3. Nice post, Frod. I've never been a real fan of flan but it's 10am, I'm a little hungry, and I want to taste that picture I see on the blog haha.

    And you're right, that melted sugar is like molten lava. I learned that lesson the hard way once before.

  4. Hi F!

    Bill (Tinkering with Dinner) and I are still trying to prepare the canistel in a savory dish but I thought it too sweet to put into a ravioli (last season) Bill insists that roasting will cut the sweetness.

    I make a mean coconut muffin with the canistel, very moist and delicious.


    I will try the flan with the next batch, I love flan! Thanks for that!