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When I was ill as a child with frequent tonsillitis, bad cold, flu or other malady and before antibiotics were available, bed rest and the best nutrition were the only remedies.  To this end my mother made endless custards, since I could easily swallow and digest it and it was high in nutrition.  I didn't like it much but ate it anyway.  Years later I found out what custard REALLY is supposed to taste like, and never looked back.

Although similar, there's two main differences between rich custards, Crème Brûlée and Hispanic Flan.  The French version is made with whole cream and the top is caramelized.  Flan is made with condensed an/or evaporated milk, and the caramelized sugar is on the bottom.  But the really creamy texture of either one can be difficult and time-consuming to duplicate at home.  One of my favorite recipes for flan has been Flan de Tres Leches, which makes a LOT of flan and is difficult to get just right in the oven.  But here's an insanely easy, great tasting and healthier shortcut.

Quick Stovetop Flan

3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
3/4 cup evaporated milk (1/2 12-oz can)
1 1/2 cup skim or low-fat milk
4 eggs (we use lowered cholesterol high omega-3 eggs)
1/4 cup sugar or equivalent non-nutrient sweetener
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
nutmeg or cinnamon if desired

Use four ramekins or five custard cups; find a pan, such as a large chicken fryer or electric skillet in which all of them will fit, and which has a tight cover.

In a small heavy aluminum or stainless steel skillet, mix the water and 3 Tbsp sugar.  Boil over medium high heat, tipping pan from time to time, until sugar melts and turns a light honey color.  Immediately pour a little into each ramekin or custard cup.

Mix milks, eggs, sugar and vanilla with a beater or whisk until well blended.  Divide equally into the ramekins or custard cups.  If desired, sprinkle lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon and sugar.

Place a clean dishcloth or double layer of paper towels in the bottom of the pan.  Arrange the ramekins in the pan.  Fill with cold water up to half of the height of the ramekins or custard cups.  Bring to a full rolling boil.  If ramekins are too crowded, you may need to boil for a few minutes, until the edges of the custard, when jiggled, is as thick as gelatin dessert, while the center is still liquid.   Cover, and let set for 15 to 20 minutes, until entire custard is consistency of chilled gelatin.  

Remove from water and place on a towel to cool; refrigerate immediately.


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