As a child growing up in Mexico, my Sunday afternoons were spent with my maternal grandparents. They were members of the Casino Monterrey, an exclusive club where they had lavish buffets every Sunday at lunch. Knowing the grandchildren were visiting after lunch, they always brought us a doggie bag with dessert, and my favourite was a type of Flan called Queso Napolitano.
I never procured that recipe for the flan, but I remember it being fairly firm, with some crunch and it had a bit of alcohol. Years later, as an adult, I started to play around with flan recipes in the hopes of recreating that dish. After many tries, I came up with my version of the Queso Napolitano.
Flan, or Queso Napolitano, refers to a flan that has cream cheese as an ingredient. My version uses Monterey Jack or Brick cheese instead, making it perhaps a tiny bit less sweet than it would be if we were to use cream cheese. The rest of the ingredients are common enough - sugar for the caramel, milk, condensed milk and eggs. In addition to that, I add pecans and brandy. Once everything goes into the blender and is poured onto the mold, the pecans rise to the surface and create a sort of crust that once unmolded will be at the bottom. The brandy gives it sophistication and pairs perfectly well with the creaminess of the flan and the almost burnt sugar taste of the caramel.
Pecans and brandy are my Mexican version, but when I worked at the restaurant, I used to make the Italian equivalent using hazelnuts instead of pecans, and Frangelico instead of brandy. If you prefer to use almonds, then go ahead and use Amaretto. All those versions are delicious. Serve it at your next party and you’ll have your guests complimenting you on your drool-worthy dessert. Little do they know it is a snap to make!
Cheese Flan with Pecans and Brandy
1 cup sugar
150g Brick or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 ¼ cups milk
1/2 cup pecans
2 Tbsp Brandy
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In medium frying pan, heat sugar over medium heat. Do not stir! Let sugar melt and start to caramelize. You can shake or swirl the pan, but do not stir with a spoon. When sugar is a nice light brown colour, carefully pour caramel onto a rectangular pyrex (loaf pan size), tilting to make sure it coats the bottom and up the sides a little bit. Set aside.
In blender jar, combine grated cheese, condensed milk, milk, eggs, pecans and brandy. Process until very smooth. Pour over prepared caramel in pan.
Place in the oven inside a larger pan, like a roasting pan. Prepare a water bath by filling the large pan with boiling water that comes 2/3 up the sides of the pyrex. Bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Run a knife around the edges and then invert onto a serving platter, making sure you catch all the nice syrup. Serve chilled.
Makes 1 loaf sized flan.
This recipe was first published at www.thelatinkitchen.com