Now that I live so far away from the United States, I look back and wish that I'd hopped over to Mexico more often. I've been there twice, the first time for about 25 minutes. On a road trip from Yuma, Arizona (had the best taco of my life there) to California, my boyfriend convinced me to drive our rental car across the boarder into dusty San Luis. I was pretty sure the rental contract didn't include insurance for tooling around Mexico, and after a bag of cornmeal cookies and few minutes of driving a brand new white convertible around the gritty and tail pipe exhaust ridden streets, my anxiety got the best of me and I turned around and headed back. I still regret that I cut it short like that. The second time was for my friend Paco's wedding on the coast south of Cancun. This time around it was a week of lush accommodations, heavenly beaches, and terrific food (I'm a total queso fresco addict).
When you're living in America you tend to take for granted the availability of Mexican dishes and ingredients. Mexican cuisine is still brand new and trendy in Australia, and here in Singapore there's hardly a trace of Mexico to be found. Simple ingredients like jalapenos and corn tortillas are like rare earth metals here. (So far I've come across just one tiny closet sized store in Holland Village that sells Mexican ingredients).
Flan, however, I can do. With just a few straightforward, non-exotic ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, eggs), I can whip up a delicious slab of this sliceable creamy custard. Instead of the classic vanilla version though, I did my thing and melted chocolate into the hot custard before baking. And because cinnamon is a common flavor added to Mexican chocolate, I infused cinnamon sticks into the hot milk. I can't get it here, but if you can get your hands on some Mexican chocolate, by all means use it! (And send a care package to me please). The finished chilled flan is a silky smooth slice of chocolaty custard that's bathed in a complementing caramel sauce which has been created from caramelized sugar set in the bottom of the pan. Though I may have been a wimp on my first excursion to Mexico, I'm certainly not with my caramel. I like to cook it to a rich brown stage (almost burnt) to create the deepest caramel flavor possible. Mexico, until we meet again.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.