Dec 9, 2014

Tropical MEXICAN Food in Hawaii

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The cuisine of Mexico is very different than Hawaii's cuisine however Hawaii and Mexico have a lot in common. Hawaii's eight main islands lie in the tropics and share the same latitude as Mexico City. Mexico's weather is quite similar to Hawaii with sunshine and warmth all year, except for hurricane season when Mexico airmails her storms to us. We both have our traditions, great and varied foods, music, dancing from many cultures, art work and celebrations depict past to present. Both cultures are family-oriented, elderly are respected, and you are definitely judged and accepted by the quality of your heart and soul rather than your net worth. Hawaii's Hispanic community is small, but growing. Hawaii now has about 38,700 Mexican-origin residents, up 165 percent from 14,600 in 1990. Two-thirds of Hawaii's Mexican-origin residents live on the island of Oahu. 

If you live or visit the island of Oahu and are craving some good Mexican food, I would recommend "Los Chaparros" 2140 S Beretania St, Honolulu, (808) 951-6399. Los Chaparros is a casual restaurant that has an extensive menu of Mexican entrees as well as other popular appetizers, salads, soups, and tortas. Breakfast favorites such as Huevos con Chorizo are also available all day long. Desserts include flan, bread pudding, churros and banana flautas. Housemade horchata and the fire roasted salsa with chips are always in high demand. The bar offering includes Mexican beer, wine, sangria, tequila and margaritas. Daily drink specials and weekday lunch specials are also available, menu price range: $11-30. 

Unfortunately the island I live on, Moloka'i, which is right next to Oahu, has very few Hispanic residents, which explains why there are no Mexican restaurants here. The closest thing to Mexican food on Moloka'i is the $16.99 Nacho Grande, during Wednesday's Mexican night at Pizza Cafe.
Made in Hawaii

If you're like me, that will just not do. If you love Mexican cuisine as I do, you have to plan ahead, order the ingredients online, if you have to, then make your own Mexican food. Fortunately Sinaloa tortillas are available here in Hawaii, made on Oahu, and are available on most islands, including Moloka'i. That means you can throw together a taco or burrito without too much trouble. It's the Mexican spices and cheeses that are the problem. I usually order most of my spices from www.penzeys.com, or from www.thespicehouse.com. There are other sources online for spices if you take the time to look, this one, MexGrocer.com, will ship via Priority Mail to Hawaii with no minimum order.

Here are a few of my favorite Mexican recipes, or click here for Paniolo recipes, or for even more delicious Mexican and Tex Mex recipes, check out this site.

Mahi-mahi Ceviche
Mexican ceviche is sort of like poke here in Hawaii. Raw fish marinated in a sauce with onions or whatever else you like. The difference is that Mexican ceviche relies on fresh lime juice to chemically cook the fish, giving it a wonderful lime flavor. Naturally small Mexican limes are the best for this recipe, but our Tahitian limes here in Hawaii work mighty fine.
Tahitian limes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds very fresh mahi-mahi, cut into 3/4" cubes
1 red onion
1 1/2 cups lime juice (that's about 12 Tahitian limes)
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
3 avocados, diced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
salt to taste
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced (optional)

Procedure:
Juice the limes in a bowl and then add the mahi-mahi. Chop the onion into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the bowl along with the oregano and cilantro. Toss the ingredients until fish is well coated. Place the bowl with the fish in the refrigerator, covered for at least 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator, add the avocado, tomatoes, salt to taste, and chiles if using. Toss and serve with tortilla chips or in a soft tortilla. Makes 6-8 servings depending on how hungry you are.

Note: To make limes or lemons easier to juice, put them in the microwave before slicing for about 20 to 30 seconds before squeezing, then when they have cooled for 30 seconds, roll them on the counter top with your hand, then cut them open for more juice.

Salsa Roja
This kind of salsa is called salsa roja or red sauce. It's very much like the tex-mex salsa you get at your favorite Mexican restaurant, served with corn chips. If you've never had homemade salsa then you must give this a try.

Ingredients:
1 can (28 ounces.) Muir Glen organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 can (4 ounces) green chilies. I like Ortega brand.
2 jalapeno, seeded and diced.
1 bulb of garlic, roasted.
a pinch of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste.
cayenne to taste depending on how hot you like it.
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup hand diced sweet yellow onion
1/3 cup cilantro or to taste, chopped, no stems

Procedure:
Heat oven to 375˚F. Cut top off bulb of garlic. Place foil under bulb and drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Squeeze garlic into food processor. After you get all that garlic in the food processor, add the fire roasted tomatoes, the canned green chilies, the jalapeno peppers, the pinch of cumin, the salt, and the sugar. Pulse just one or two times to get things mixed. When you feel you have the consistency the way you like it, stop. Pour the salsa into your bowl and stir in the diced onion and cilantro. Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour or more so those flavors can mingle. Note: You can cook the salsa for 15 minutes on the stove if you like. This results in a more saucy type of salsa like you might find in restaurants. Makes about 1 quart.

Paniolo Pico De Gallo  (fresh salsa)
Ingredients:
3 large tomatoes, chopped (I prefer to peel them and seed them first)
1/2 cup sweet Maui onion, chopped
1 -2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Procedure:
Stir together all ingredients; serve with tortilla chips. Makes 4 cups.

Grilled Spicy Garlic Shrimp
This is a wonderful recipe from my first cookbook. The brining brings out so much flavor in the shrimp and leaving the shells on the shrimp keeps them moist... the spicy sauce is to die for!

Brining solution ingredients:
1/3 cup Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 quart cold water to just cover the shrimp

Ingredients for paste:
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
2 pounds large or jumbo shrimp, with shells left on

Procedure:
Clean shrimp with kitchen sheers. It's important to leave the shells on to retain moisture. Run the tip of the sheers up the back of the shrimp and remove the vein. Snip off small legs under shrimp. Prepare brining solution in a medium size bowl, mix well. Add the shrimp and let soak for 30 minutes and up to 3 hours in the refrigerator. Remove shrimp from the brining solution and pat very dry, set aside. While the shrimp are brining, make the paste. Using mortar and pestle, smash garlic and salt into a smooth paste. Add cayenne and paprika and mix well. Add olive oil, ginger, and lemon to form a thin paste, making sure the paste isn’t too loose or it will not cling to the shrimp. Toss shrimp with paste until evenly coated. Refrigerate until ready to grill. Grill until shells are bright pink, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve hot over Mexican cabbage slaw (recipe below). Makes 8 appetizer servings.

Note: I like to put the shrimp on skewers unless the shrimp are very large because it makes turning them so quick and easy. Grill on a lightly oiled rack. It's better to grill the shrimp using charcoal rather than gas, the flavor is better. Grill over medium-high heat.

Huevos Rancheros... Baked
I like this simple breakfast dish using tortilla chips instead of whole tortillas.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
3 cups tortilla chips
8 large eggs
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Procedure:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and water and simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Spoon the sauce into 4 individual, shallow baking dishes and arrange the tortilla chips around the sides. Crack 2 eggs into each dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Set the dishes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve right away. Makes 4 servings.

Quick Mexican Cabbage Slaw  (Curtido)
"Curtido" an easy, and delicious Mexican cabbage slaw used as a side dish for one of the Mexican recipes found here on Tasting Hawaii.

Ingredients:
1/2 small (2-pound) green cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1/2 medium white onion, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1 small jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Procedure:
In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, onion, carrot, and jalapeño, if using. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, salt, and sugar a cook over medium heat, stirring, until salt and sugar are just dissolved. Pour hot brine over vegetables and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving. Makes about 5 cups.

Roasted Chicken Tacos with Black Beans
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper
3 cups roasted chicken meat (simply roast seasoned chicken thighs for 45 minutes at 400˚F)
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chilies
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
8 corn tortillas, (see note below)
Paniolo pico de gallo fresh salsa, for serving (see recipe above)

Procedure:
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken and chilies and cook until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the beans and scallion whites and cook until warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Divide the chicken mixture among the heated taco shells and serve with beans, and top with salsa. Sprinkle with the scallion greens. Makes 4 servings of 2 tacos each.

Note: Use fresh corn tortillas. Either fry them in a skillet with a little oil until just slightly browned, or put foil over them and heat in a 300˚F oven for about 10 minutes, or until just heated through. You can also add a dollop of sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese on each taco if you wish.

Easy Chili Beef Burrito
This recipe is so easy, and I highly recommend this brand of Nalley's chili. It gives the burrito just the right amount of heat and beans (you can buy it at Friendly Market here on Moloka'i). I also like to use napa cabbage instead of lettuce, because it stays crisp.

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 14-ounce can Nalley's Jalapeño Hot Chili Con Carne with Beans
8 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
1/4 stick butter, melted
2 cups shredded napa cabbage
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

4 oranges, peeled and sectioned, served cold as a refreshing side dish

Procedure:
In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is well done; drain. Stir in chili and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Take each tortilla and heat it on the burner of your stove, turning and flipping until it is hot. Put the hot tortilla on a plate and brush one side with melted butter. Place about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture in a line on top of the buttered tortilla. Put a little shredded cabbage on top of the meat followed by a little cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Roll the closest edge of the tortilla over the filling. Fold in the left and right sides, then continue to roll the entire burrito over so that the sides are tucked in the rolled up burrito. Place the chili beef burrito, seam side down on a plate and serve with cold orange sections displayed on a nappa cabbage leaf. Makes 8 servings.

Note: You can add other things to the burrito if you like, like rice, avocado, black olives, salsa, etc.

Easy Tamales with Chicken
Maseca brand Masa Flour
from MexGrocer.com
You can't find corn husks or masa harina where I live on Moloka'i, but you can order them online (click on the link below the photo on the right). Masa flour is NOT regular corn meal. Other than getting those two things, this is an easy recipe. If you have leftover slow braised pork, you can use that instead of chicken.

Ingredients:
2 cups masa harina (masa flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cups cool water
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (3 ounces), softened
1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 1/2 cups shredded roast chicken.
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup red sauce (recipe below, or use packaged or canned enchilada sauce)

Special equipment: Plastic wrap and a Food processor

Procedure:
In a food processor, pulse the masa harina with the baking powder and salt. Add the water and pulse to moisten the masa harina. Add the vegetable shortening in clumps and drizzle with the chicken stock. Process until smooth and evenly blended, scraping the side of the bowl occasionally. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and stir in the shredded chicken, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and scallions.

Tear twelve 12-inch-square sheets of plastic wrap (normally water soaked dried corn husks shells are used for tamales). Working with 6 at a time, spoon a scant 1/2 cup of the tamale mixture onto the center of each sheet. With lightly moistened hands, press the tamales into 4-by-2-inch rectangles, about 1/2 inch thick. Place one teaspoon of red sauce over the top of each tamale. Fold up the squares of plastic around the tamales, twist the ends securely and then fold them under to make packets. Repeat to form the remaining tamales.

Arrange the tamales seam side down in the bottom of a large bamboo (or other) steamer. Steam over 2 inches of boiling water for 25 minutes. Let the tamales cool slightly, then carefully transfer them to a large platter: Cut the ends of the plastic-wrapped packets and slide the tamales out onto the platter. Serve the tamales with Mexican cabbage slaw (recipe above). Makes 6 servings.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, pulled into small pieces
salt and pepper
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
8-10 flour tortillas
3 cups Mexican-blend shredded cheese or a mixture of cheddar and Monterey jack
red enchilada sauce (recipe below)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Procedure:
Prepare your red enchilada sauce, (recipe below).

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced chicken and green chiles, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble the enchiladas, set up an assembly line including: tortillas, enchilada sauce, beans, chicken mixture, and cheese. Lay out a tortilla, and spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla. Add beans in a line down the middle of the tortilla, then add in a spoonful of the chicken mixture, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Roll up tortilla and place in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Then spread the remaining enchilada sauce on top of the tortillas, and sprinkle on the remaining shredded cheese.

Bake uncovered in a 350˚F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro. Makes 4-6 servings.

Red Enchilada Sauce
I'm a big fan of chicken enchiladas, and this homemade red enchilada sauce is way better than anything you can buy in the can, and easy to make as well! Red enchilada sauce can be made with or without tomato sauce added. Personally I prefer adding tomato sauce. It seems to mellow out the otherwise spicy chile. I make a big batch and freeze some for later. I usually buy whole dried New Mexico Chiles in a 1 pound bag from www.olivenation.com  for $9.95, which makes about 8 cups of sauce. I freeze it in 2 cup batches so I always have this sauce on hand.

Dried New Mexico Chile
from www.olivenation.com
Ingredients:
15 dried New Mexico, Guajillo, or Ancho chiles
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2-15 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
1-15 ounce can of tomato sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
4 teaspoons salt

Procedure:
With a paring knife, cut each chile down one side and remove the stems, seeds, and veins. Using a skillet on medium heat, open up the split chiles and press them down in the skillet. Leave for a few seconds, the flip them and roast for a few seconds more, being careful not to burn the chiles, just heat them enough to draw out more of the flavor.

Place in a large saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and cover. Let stand covered for 1 hour or until chiles have softened and plumped up. Drain chiles.

Place the chiles in a blender along with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend until pureed, about 30-60 seconds (Do not fill your blender more than half way full or it will splatter everywhere, do this blending process in several batches).

Pour into a sieve over a bowl, and rub through the sieve to eliminate any pulp or seeds you may have missed. Repeat the process until all of the peppers are used.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the Mexican oregano, cumin, and garlic. Stir in the oil a few minutes until fragrant.

Add pureed chile and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer a few minutes.

Here is where you may add the depth of flavor by adding the tomatoes, brown sugar, molasses, cocoa and salt. Makes about 6 cups.

Note: For baked enchiladas I would make it a little thinner, by adding a little chicken broth. This sauce also works well in posole, or on top of Huevos Rancheros. I usually buy a 1 pound bag of chiles and make a large batch of this sauce which makes 6 cups of sauce, then pour it into 2 cup plastic containers, then I freeze the sauce so I always have some on hand. It freezes well for up to 6 months: just reheat on the stove top when you're ready to use it.

Grilled Sweet Corn with Chile Butter
Ingredients:
8 sweet corn cobs, husts on
10 dried Guajillo chile peppers
1 pound salted softened butter
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Procedure:
Soak the corn cobs in salted water for at least 1 hour, so the husks don't burn when you grill them.

Preheat the oven to 250˚F.

To make the butter, put the chile peppers on a baking sheet and bake them until very brittle, about 15 minutes. When they are done, remove and cool them. Remove the seeds and crumble the chiles into a food processor. Add the butter and spices and process until combined.

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap on top of a sheet of foil. Turn the butter out onto the wrap and roll it into a cylinder. First wrap the plastic wrap around the cylinder and then secure the foil around it. Twist the ends, gradually applying more pressure as you twist, in order to make the cylinder taught. Alternatively, pile the butter into ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate it until firm.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Remove the corn from the water and shake or pat them dry. Grill the corn on the cob for 30 to 40 minutes, turning frequently. The corn is done when it feels soft when you press on it. Take the corn off the grill and carefully peel back the husks (it will be hot). Remove the corn silk and tie the husks in a knot so you can hold on to it like a handle.

Lay slices of the chilled chile butter on and let it melt. The corn will have beautiful flecks of chile. Or serve the ramekins on the dinner table for everyone to help themselves. Makes 8 servings.

Grilled Asian Chicken
Grilling is all about flavor. Add an apricot spicy glaze and you've got a winner.

Ingredients:
4 each, bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks and thighs
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (optional depending on your heat tolerance)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
5 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare your grill for both indirect and direct grilling. Remove chicken from fridge about 1/2 hour before you’re ready to cook and trim excess skin and fat. Set aside on counter. If you’re using charcoal, you can do this when you start the coals.

Combine preserves, Sriracha, rice vinegar and fish sauce in a medium bowl, mashing out any lumps in the preserves with the tines of a fork. Stir in the chives. Taste and if it isn't to hot for your taste, add the chili sauce to the mix.

When the grill is ready, pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with black pepper, and lightly with salt. Brush the grill rack lightly with oil and place chicken skin side up on the side of the grill away from the heat source. Cover the grill and cook chicken for about 5 minutes; this will render some of the fat. Move chicken directly over the coals skin side down, cover grill and cook until skin begins to crisp and brown, about 5 minutes (or longer, if needed).

Move chicken away from heat and turn skin side up. Brush with basting sauce, cover grill and cook, turning every few minutes and basting, until chicken is cooked through, another 10 to 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should register 165ºF when inserted in the thickest part. Transfer chicken to platter and let it rest for 5 minutes or so, then serve. Makes 4 servings.

Paniolo Spanish Rice
The trick to good Spanish rice is to brown the raw rice first with onions and garlic, and then cook the rice in chicken stock with added tomatoes. Browning the rice gives it a nutty flavor.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of medium or long-grain white rice
3 cups* chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian) homemade stock is best if you have it
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste or 1 cup of diced fresh or cooked tomatoes, strained
Pinch of oregano
1 teaspoon salt

*Check the instructions on the rice package for the proportions of liquid to rice. If your rice calls for 2 cups of water for every cup of rice, then for this recipe, use 4 cups of stock for 2 cups of rice.

Procedure:
Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium/high heat. Add the rice and stir it so that the rice is lightly coated with the oil. Cook on medium high heat, stirring often, until much of the rice has browned. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently another 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are translucent and softened, about a minute more.

To save time you can bring the stock to a simmer in a separate saucepan, with the tomato sauce, oregano, and salt. Add the browned rice to the simmering broth (or broth to the rice, depending on which pan has a cover). Or you can skip the simmering step and just add the broth (and tomatoes etc) to the rice. Bring everything to a simmer, cover the pot and lower the heat to barely maintain a low simmer. Cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork or spoon and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.

Paniolo Refried Beans
I like these refried beans because they are quick and easy, and they taste good. I use a potato masher to smash the beans in the bottom of the pot. You can garnish this side dish with cheese and/or chopped green onion. Personally, I like them without garnish like they serve in Mexican restaurants.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 or 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
salt to taste
1/2 lime, juiced

Procedure:
Heat butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Stir drained pinto beans, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, oyster sauce. Cook until beans are thoroughly heated, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Smash bean mixture with a potato masher to desired texture. Taste the beans and add salt if needed. Squeeze lime juice over smashed beans and stir until combined. Makes 4 servings. 

Note: If the beans appear too dry, add a little more butter (after all, the real thing is made with lard, not butter).

Kimberly's Creme Caramel  (a.k.a Flan)
Flan is an oven-baked caramel custard dessert that is very popular in Spain and in Mexico. Flan is commonly used as a term to describe the Spanish or Mexican version of Crème caramel. However, traditional flan is both more rich and more dense than Crème caramel, as it contains more eggs and yolks as well as some milk, heavy cream, half and half, and/or sweetened condensed milk. It is made with a top layer of custard paired with the sweetness of a light caramel sauce, that is put in the bottom of the pan underneath it. Both are baked together. When chilled and then inverted to unmold, the sauce pours over the custard and is served as is. The typical favoring is simply vanilla but there are numerous variations that include almonds, pistachio, orange, pumpkin, coffee, lemon, and various other fruits. My wife, Kimberly, has been making creme caramel (flan) for years, probably because I love it. We've tried many other recipes, but this one is a keeper. It's smooth and creamy with a wonderful caramelized sugar sauce. We hope you try it, and share this recipe with others.

Ingredients for flan custard:
5 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups whole milk

Ingredients for caramel sauce:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 ungreased 6-ounce sized ovenproof ramekins (she uses pyrex ramekins)

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, beat eggs with sugar, salt and vanilla to mix well. Gradually add milk, beating until smooth, not frothy, and set it aside while you make the caramel sauce.

Pour 1/2 cup of white sugar into a small pan. Cook slowly over very low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until sugar melts to a golden syrup. If the sugar is cooked too long and at too high a temperature, it will be too dark and taste burned. Immediately pour syrup equally into the bottom of each ramekin. Allow ramekins to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Fill a high sided roasting pan with 1 inch of boiling water. Place the 6 ramekins in the pan. Carefully pour the custard mixture on top of the caramelized sugar in each ramekin. Place the baking pan on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a paring knife inserted halfway between center and edge of custard comes out clean. Do not over bake; custard continues to bake after removal from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the hot water to a rack to cool completely. Custards can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days. The custards will settle slightly while cooling.

To unmold, slide a paring knife around perimeter of each ramekin, pressing the knife against the side of the dish. Hold a serving plate over top of ramekin and invert; set the plate on the work surface and shake the ramekin gently to release custard; the caramel sauce will run down the sides of the flan. Serve immediately. Makes 6 individual flan servings.

Roasted Mango with Brown Sugar
and Macadamia Nuts

Ingredients:
2 mangoes, peeled and pureed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
slices of fresh mango for garnish

Procedure:
Combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a baking dish, mix well and bake in a pre-heated oven at 300˚F for 15-20 minutes. Pour in the mango pulp and again bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm over pound cake, ice-cream or by itself. Garnish with fresh mango slices. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Pineapple Slices with Brown Sugar
Ingredients:
8 fresh pineapple slices
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon brandy or rum (optional)
vanilla ice-cream

Procedure:
Combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and cream the mixture until it is soft and creamy. Using a knife, spread an even layer of the creamed butter mixture on both sides of each pineapple slice. Grill the pineapple slices on both sides until they are lightly browned. Pour the brandy in a ladel and warm it lightly. Pour over the pineapples and set it on fire, allowing them to get flambéed. Serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Makes 4 servings.
Note: You can also use bananas with the same marinade.

Frozen Avocado-Lime Pie
People on Moloka'i grew up eating local avocados, but when I ask around, most like to eat it with sugar on it, or as a dessert. This frozen dessert recipe is kind of like a key lime pie but with avocado added. Very easy to make, and a good dessert served after eating a spicy Mexican meal, or whenever you feel like it.

Ingredients:
1 graham cracker pie crust, store bought, or make your own... (I like to use 1 1/2 cups crushed macaroons mixed with 5 tablespoons melted butter for my crust. Then I press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 8 or 9 inch pie plate and bake it for 15 minutes at 350˚F)
1 very ripe (soft) avocado
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
1, 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle brand)
1 can of Reddi-whip whipped cream
3 lime slices, thinly sliced and cut into quarters
1/4 cup toasted shredded coconut, toasted

Procedure:
Puree the avocado in a food processor or blender. Add the lime juice, lime zest, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk and mix until well blended. Pour into pie crust and freeze at least 2 hours, 4 is better. Thaw for 10 minutes before serving with whipped cream around the outside edge of the pie, with thinly sliced lime quarters evenly placed in the whipped cream, then sprinkled with toasted, shredded coconut. Makes 8 servings.
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