Mr. Rabasa was asked, "Which author dead or alive would you invite to your holiday dinner? AND share with us one of your favorite holiday recipes." He wrote a special holiday-themed guest post remembering his friend and mentor, Leonard Wallace Robinson; and he offered a delicious recipe for flan! I hope you enjoy!!
From Chiles to Flan with Leonard
A Holiday Dinner with Leonard Wallace Robinson (1912-1999)
I met Leonard Robinson in San Miguel de Allende. I was 37 and in the throes of my first mid-life crisis: Quit ad agency job, leave Mexico City, join Robinson’s novel workshop! On the first meeting, a plump, impish figure in a ragged green cardigan, rumpled chinos and sandals, happily greeted the participants as if we were to be his entertainment for the quarter.
I had never worked with such a respected author before. Leonard had been an editor and fiction contributor to the New Yorker, as well as the author of several novels (most notably “The Man who Loved Beauty”) and poetry collections (“In the Whale”).
He took me on as a friend as well as a disciple. We shared meals. We exchanged deep thoughts on art and life. On one particular occasion, over a feast of chiles rellenos, cactus salad, black bean soup and a spectacular flan (see recipe below), I learned almost everything I know about the novel. If Leonard could join me for Christmas Dinner this year, I would want to relive that moment.
“A fine novel,” he began, “is like a cathedral.” Leonard took a breath. I waited, knowing from previous experience that it did not serve to hurry the oracle. “You have the main nave, thusting the narrative to its culmination at the altar, the site of its sacramental goal. Along the way, the story opens out to the side chapels for ancillary plots and secondary characters. Stained glass windows give the action its sheen and sparkle. And throughout your visit to the cathedral, as the light changes, you find that the whole building moves and floats on a bed of passing time.”
I let the sweet flan disolve in my mouth and waited. Finally he added, “You are not an architect yet. But in time you may build a cathedral or two.”
Miss Entropia’s Classic Flan1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups whole milk – Don’t mess with condensed and evaporated milk, thinking they provide shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to perfection.
4 large eggs –No shells, okay? Not a even a little crunch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract – Real vanilla from Papantla, Mexico, not the artificial crap. Read the fine print on the bottle.
Pinch of salt
Optional but desirable: A pinch of nutmeg, a splash of mellow dark rum, or a sprinkling of cannabis.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Divide caramel among six 3/4-cup custard cups. Working quickly, tilt cups, coating bottoms and part of sides.Stir milk and 1/2 cup sugar in medium saucepan over low heat just until sugar dissolves (milk will be lukewarm). Whisk eggs in medium bowl until blended. Slowly whisk in milk mixture. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Strain custard into prepared cups. Arrange cups in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake flans until just set in center, about 50 minutes. Remove cups from water and let stand 30 minutes. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. Cut around sides of each cup to loosen flan; turn out onto plate.
George Rabasa is the author of THE WONDER SINGER. His new novel, MISS ENTROPIA AND THE ADAM BOMB, will be published by Unbridled Books this Spring.
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