Weir Cooking in the City: Parmesan Flan

Serves: 6

The first time I made this recipe was with my students in the Piedmont area of Italy. I remember the day well -- we were eating al fresco overlooking the vines of the Piedmont on one of the most beautiful days. The sky was the brightest blue and there wasn't a cloud in it. As we toasted to a really fun and productive cooking class, I thought, I may have the best job in the world. Then I tasted the flan and was convinced! These flans are really easy to make and are perfect served as a first course or a light main course for lunch.

• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons flour
• 1 cup milk
• 3 eggs
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 8 ounces)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Boiling water for the baking dish
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
• 20 basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter six 5-ounce ramekins.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, and cook, stirring until it thickens, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the eggs, Whisk well. Add the cheese, season with salt and pepper, and stir until well mixed.

Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Place in a baking dish. Pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the flans are puffed and firm to the touch, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and heat until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

When the flans are done, remove them from the water bath. Run a knife around the edge and remove the flans from the ramekins.

To serve, place one flan in the center of each plate. Spoon the tomato sauce onto the top and around the sides of the flans. Cut the basil into thin strips and garnish the flans.

Wine suggestion: Barbera or Dolcetto

Recipe ©2004 Joanne Weir from Weir Cooking in the City, reprinted by permission.