Slow Cookers

The slow food movement took hold in Italy, back in 1989, and it’s been chugging along ever since. The initial focus was, “food that’s good for us, good for our environment and good for the people who grow, pick and prepare it. In other words, food that is good, clean and fair,” all inarguably good stuff. The movement has branched out somewhat in the intervening twenty seven years, and as such, it was inevitable that cookware would also become a part of the deal, and indeed it has – In recent years, what we cook in and how we cook it has garnered every bit as much attention as the food itself.

In the late ’90’s, cookware began one of its greatest evolutions to date. Home cooks found themselves able to buy stuff far superior to the schlock that had ruled the roost previously. One of the very early deal makers in this regard was All Clad‘s Emerilware, a full 11 piece set of which M and It bought in 2002 for less than what a single top of the line All Clad stock pot was going for. Why so cheap? Well, made in China rather than the U.S., frankly, and some minor metallurgical tweaks. That said, they’re still multi-layer steel, aluminum and copper bottoms bonded to stainless bodies – Fourteen years later, they show obvious signs of heavy use, but they’re in perfect working order with years left on them.

Then, as the slow food movement penetrated other parts of the world, this trend toward high-end cookware took an interesting turn as well – a one hundred and eighty degree U turn, to be exact. Suddenly, cast iron was back in vogue, both raw, from venerable makers like Lodge, (who’ve been casting cookware since 1896), and in the considerably pricier enameled iteration, and the most famous version thereof, made by French manufacturer Le Creuset – They’ve been around since 1925, and are still going strong. The fact is, you can’t go wrong with cast iron – The only crime you can commit in this regard is to not have any in your kitchen. For my mind, a cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven are not optional, and that’s sage advice, if I do say so myself.

Straw Box - The original slow cooker.
Straw Box – The original slow cooker.

Then the venerable crock pot got a make over, and the electric slow cooker caught fire as well. While the name brand crock pot is a child of the 1970s, the roots of the cooking method go back way further yet, to what was, and is still called a straw box. As you can see from the picture, this is nothing more than some form of box big enough to fit a slow cooker like a Dutch oven, with room enough to allow a nice, thick layer of straw to be piled all around the cooker. Foods heated in the Dutch oven are stuffed into the straw box and left alone for the day – The latent heat of the food in the well insulated box finishes the cooking in a nice, slow manner – Its great for cassoulets and such.

The Römertopf - Almost too pretty to cook in.
The Römertopf – Almost too pretty to cook in.

And lately, the clay cooker has made a resurgence as well, with venerable makers like Römertopf from Germany offering a wide range of fired clay cookware that’s not only fun to use, but quite lovely, (When I climbed aboard the clay cooker train for the writing of this piece, M noted that “it’s too pretty to cook in,” and it darn near is!) Cooking in clay might just signify the farthest back that we can practically go in pursuit of the good old days – It’s been done for thousands of years, and by cultures from literally all around the globe.

Thus we come to the Big Question at hand – How much, if any of this stuff do you actually need?

Let me answer that with a story. A friend of mine used to own a music store. I was there one day buying an amplifier, and he mentioned that he had some really nice Fender Stratocasters that I, “needed to take a look at.”
As we admired the guitars, I noted, “Well, they’re pretty, but I already got two Strats and a Tele – I don’t really need another one.” He looked at me as if I was the dumbest human he’d ever layer eyes on, sneered slightly and retorted, “What the hell does ‘need’ have to do with another Strat?!” And there you have it, in a nutshell.

How many knives do you really need? Two or three really will do. How many pots and pans? Well, that’s more complicated, and it depends on how much cooking you do and want to do – Realistically, I think anything less than a couple of sauce pans, a couple of sauté pans, and at least one big stock pot just won’t cut the mustard. How many and what kind of slow cooker you need is also complicated. If you have a good, cast iron Dutch oven, truth be told you probably don’t need anything else, but you may want more, and rightly so.

That single Dutch oven is versatile as all get out. From stove top, to oven, to camp fire, it can and will do it all, and a good quality oven will be something that you pass on to your kids and their kids after them – There’s much to be said for those qualities, and that’s why I’ll stand by the assertion above – If you only have one, I’d choose a Lodge cast iron Dutch oven and be most content, indeed.

What then, about enameled cast iron versus plain? My answer will be blasphemous to some, but I’ll stick by it – I’ve owned more than one piece of Le Creuset, and two Lodge Dutch ovens. I don’t own any Le Creuset currently, because all of the pieces we have went through the process of enamel chipping from the bottom, and were eventually retired – With regret, I’ll add, because Le Creuset is beautiful stuff. Now, let me interject that, were you to buy Le Creuset stuff new, you’ll find that it comes with a limited lifetime warranty, and while there are caveats and requirements, I know more than a few folks who have either gotten a brand new replacement for free, or a significant discount on same – In other words, Le Creuset not only makes a kick ass pot, they’re still a most honorable company.

Enameled cast iron with a case of the chips...
Enameled cast iron with a case of the chips…

That said, the enamel is pretty, and will cut down on some preventive maintenance on your part, but you’ll pay for those premiums – Le Creuset is fabulously expensive, just like those top end All Clad stock pots – A lodge Dutch oven like ours will set you back around $40, and their enameled version will run you about $60 – That same size of Le Creuset costs $300 – Get the picture? Me, I’m OK with the maintenance – It’s why I have my knives made with high carbon blades instead of stainless – It’s about feel, and performance, and frankly, I’m OK with maintaining my stuff – That’s how I know how it’s doing in general. Oh, and for the record, I still own my Lodge Dutch oven, and the second one was gifted to my Sis, who was without and therefore in need.

And electric slow cookers, what about ’em? Well, the need factor is kinda like those Strats… Slow cookers are handy as all get out, and they’ve come a long way. Programmability, multiple cooking temps and profiles, and much higher quality cooking vessels and insulating materials have made these toys, errr – tools, a very attractive option. If you’re of a mind to make a soup or stew, cassoulet or roast, and want it to go all day low and slow, you’ll spend less energy doing so, and likely be much safer in using a slow cooker, as opposed to leaving an unattended oven or range in all day. Our Frigidaire Professional series 7 quart cooker cost about $60, and I highly recommend it.

The Frigidaire Professional Slow Cooker
The Frigidaire Professional Slow Cooker

And what about those clay cookers? While most of the world has been cooking in clay for millennia, many people in this country got their introduction back in the ’70s, when a British firm called Habitat introduced The Chicken Brick to America. On sale in Britain since 1964, the brick is a vaguely chicken shaped, unglazed terra-cotta cooker made in England by Weston Mills Pottery. The brick worked, and worked well, but it was kinda gimmicky, so a lot of folks got one as a wedding or Christmas gift, and then never actually used the silly thing. All that aside, the recent resurgence in interest regarding cooking in clay has spurred a revival – While Habitat discontinued sales of the Chicken Brick back in 2008, they’ve recently come to their senses and are again offering this iconic cooker.

The Chicken Brick is made of unglazed terra cotta
The Chicken Brick is made of unglazed terra cotta

While the brick as made of unglazed terra-cotta, the stuff offered by Römertopf and a few other German makers is glazed clay. In either iteration, there are some things you must and must not do when cooking in these vessels, and that frankly is what caused a whole bunch of folks to never even try to use that wedding gift. Clay cookers cook in large part by steam heat, and that means you need to soak the whole cooker in water for 15 to 20 minutes before you load food into it.

Clay cookers must be soaked for 15 to 20 minutes prior to cooking.
Clay cookers must be soaked for 15 to 20 minutes prior to cooking.

Next, it’s best not to load cold foods into a clay cooker, so you’ll also have to get your bird or roast or whatever out of the fridge for long enough to allow it to get fairly close to room temperature. And clay cookers don’t do well in preheated ovens – That can lead to cracks, and cracks are bad – So you need to load that bird into that cooker and into a cold oven. This means that you actually will cook at a higher temperature than you normally roast at – With our Römertopf, we cook chicken at 450° F for about an hour, whereas regular roasting gets done at 350° F or thereabouts. Next caveat – You can’t take a clay cookers out of a hot oven and set it directly on a cold countertop – Doing so risks cracks, and again, they’re bad… Finally, you can’t clean a clay cookers with soap, and for the same reasons, (its porous, yeah?), you don’t really want to cook fish in one unless you’re not going to cook anything but fish in thereafter, because it’s got a memory like an elephant.

The Römertopf cooker - Made from glazed clay
The Römertopf cooker – Made from glazed clay

Right about now, a fair chunk of you are thinking, “OK, Eben – What you’ve just done is convinced me that this clay cookers thing is a major pain in the ass, so why in hell would I put myself through all that just to cook a damn chicken?!

The answer is that the chicken you cook in that pain in the ass clay cooker will be the juiciest, tenderest, moistest chicken you’ve ever cooked. M said so, the very first time I used the Römertopf, and she was right. A clay cooker becomes a small, very efficient, very moist cooking environment, and without any other adjuncts whatsoever, it passes that moisture on to what you’re cooking. Römertopf makes cookers from quite small to large enough for a full sized turkey – we bought a medium size, which has a stated size of slightly over 3 quarts, and cost fifty bucks – Not cheap, but as you can see, this is a well made and truly beautiful thing – Almost too pretty to cook in, as M noted. What it fits is pretty much the fattest local chicken you can find, but not much else – I quickly found that our cooker truly wouldn’t hold anything else, which initially made me nervous, because I come from the mire poix in the bottom of a Dutch oven with some chicken stock school of roasting. What I found out is exactly what all the makers of clay cookers tell you – You don’t need anything in that cooker to make an incredible, notable chicken – The cooker will do the magic – And indeed, it does. I stuffed that bird with apple, fennel, onion, and some fresh herbs. Cooked it at 450° F for an hour, then popped the top off for about 10 minutes to let the bird brown. Pulled it out, put it in a towel on the counter top, gave it a 10 minute rest, and dug in.

Clay cooked chicken - 'nuff said.
Clay cooked chicken – ’nuff said.

It was, as noted, an incredible chicken, but let’s face it – I bought this cooker to write this post, and as good as that chicken was, it could have been a fluke, so I did the scientific thing – I bought another chicken a week later, did all the proper prep, but this time, I did nothing other than to throw that bird into the Römertopf with a tiny bit of olive oil rubbed on the skin, followed by our signature seasoned salt blend and fresh ground pepper – Didn’t stuff it, didn’t tie it, nothin’ – Just cooked the bugger, and…

Look at all the moisture that cooker produces!
Look at all the moisture that cooker produces!

It was the best damn chicken I ever made, hands down, bar none, no bullshit.

So, now – What do you need?

PLEASE NOTE!

Have now had quite a few of you ask if I was biased/bought for the purposes of this piece. Those who’ve asked are quite new here, so it’s a fair question. Here’s our answer –

We have never accepted any ingredient or article for free or any kind of reduced price in exchange for a favorable review, and we never will.

We have far more than enough followers and readers to warrant the ability to run ads on this blog, and to receive deals such as I just described – Again, we’ve never done any of that, and never will.

This is a completely independent blog, and everything you see here is bought by us at full retail price from the same places you can get yours. We’re about helping folks discover new things, becoming more food independent, and making from scratch everything that you can, period.

An Ode To Coleslaw

If you don’t like coleslaw, it’s probably not your fault. When what you’re offered is the same old tired side dish, what reason would you have to be excited? Yet there’s hope, folks – because good coleslaw rocks, is easy to make, and is a perfect vehicle for showcasing late season goodies from your garden.

Slaw has a venerable past, reaching all the way back to the Roman Empire. The version we know best today has its roots in Dutch immigrants who settled in New York State – they grew a lot of cabbage, to take advantage of the wealth of vitamin C that can provide during the long winter months. They made sauerkraut, as well as an unfermented, shredded cabbage salad – Koosla.

Mayo-based dressing that adorns most slaw these days is quite a bit younger than vinegar versions. Invented by the French in in the mid 1700s, it took mayonnaise a while to arrive in the colonies – it showed up in American cuisine in the 1830s.

All that historical jive aside, if you’re not that hot on slaw, it’s likely that some combination of four factors are in play – either heavy, mayo-based dressings don’t float your boat, the sauce to veggie ratios you’ve tried were way off, what you were given wasn’t fresh, or you just don’t dig cabbage all that much. Fortunately, all these are easy fixes.

Mayo-based slaw dressing is great, especially when it’s made with fresh mayonnaise. Great creamy slaw dressings can also be made with sour cream, crema Mexicana, crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, or buttermilk. Still shaking your head? Then there’s a world of zippy oil and vinegar dressings out there for you.

As for super saucy slaw, a word – don’t. Always keep in mind that this is a dish that celebrates lovely fresh veggies – the dressing is a note, not the whole damn symphony.

Coleslaw is all about fresh veggies. In fall, cabbages are at their best – and I mean cabbages plural – there’s the classic round in red, white and green, the wrinkly Savoy, delicate Napa, choy sum, and deep green Tuscan. There’re also carrots, onions, garlic, celery, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, mushrooms, and kohlrabi. That’ll make a slaw that celebrates late harvest bounty.

Mizuna

If you don’t dig cabbage, there’s arugula, cress, mustard greens, mizuna (Japanese mustard), mibuna (Chinese cabbage), and tatsoi, (non-heading Asian mustard). Never heard of them? Do some poking around in your local co-op or CSA and you’ll likely find most if not all available. Chewy flavorful, these greens will make a great base for a non-cabbage slaw.

Mibuna

Whatever you do, portion accordingly, so that what you make gets eaten right away. With the exception of ingredients you might want to quick pickle or marinate for a bit before assembly and service, slaw must be fresh – that means don’t dump dressing on slaw hours before you’re going to eat. Dressings need decent marriage times, but the marriage of veggies and dressing shouldn’t happen until quite close to service.

Long gone are the days of slaw featuring naught but cabbage and carrot. Onion, celery, garlic, sweet peppers, cilantro, fresh chiles, radish, shallot, tomato, cukes or green beans – if you love ‘em, add ‘em. Fall fruits and nuts? Absolutely. Perhaps a quick pickle of onion, garlic, shallot, carrot, or beans to contribute another layer of zing? Without a doubt. What about cheese in coleslaw? Well, yeah – a touch of Parmigiano Regiano, feta, aged cheddar, or creamy Swiss? Hell yeah.

Slaw should never be boring – it’s a celebration of color, taste, texture and scent. Fresh herbs? Definitely – basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, sage, lemon thyme, or savory can all find a place in the veggie mix and/or dressing. Add touches of flavored vinegars, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, dried chiles, sesame seeds, cardamom, anise, Thai basil, or favorite spice blends from curries to furikake, and you’ll create stunning homages to many a cuisine.

Tailor your slaws to what you’re after – Something New Englandish? How about apples, chestnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a dressing with a maple syrup note. Thai? Maybe glass noodles, bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint, and a dressing with notes of chile and fish sauce. Chinese? Maybe crunchy lotus root, Chinese long beans, choy sum, and a dressing laced with Pixian Sichuan Bean Paste – You get the idea, right?

Here to get you started are four dressing options, my go-to, a Japanese inspired Furikake, a Caribbean jerk powered one, and an Arab inspired version with besar.

For the Mayo and yogurt dressings, you can mix everything together and whisk until you’re fully incorporated. For the oil and vinegar versions, mix everything except the oil, then add that slowly in a thin stream, whisking steadily, to allow the emulsion to properly form and bind. All these should have a good 20-30 minutes of marriage time prior to dressing your slaw. These are proportioned to do just about right for a bowl of slaw that’ll feed 3-5.

Urban’s Go To Slaw Dressing

3/4 Cup Mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons Pineapple Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

5-6 Shakes Hot Sauce

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

7-8 Twists freshly ground Black Pepper

Urban’s Ginger-Furikake Slaw Dressing

1/4 Cup unseasoned Rice Vinegar

1/2 Cup Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

2 teaspoons fresh grated Ginger Root

1 teaspoon Yasai Fumi Furikake

1/2 teaspoon Roasted Sesame Oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly minced Garlic

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Urban’s Citrus Jerk Slaw Dressing

2 Fresh Limes – 1/4 Cup fresh squeezed Lime Juice

1 Fresh Orange – 1/4 Cup fresh squeezed Orange Juice

1/2 Cup Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

1 Teaspoon Jerk Spice Blend

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Urban’s Emirati Besar Slaw Dressing

3/4 Cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 Cup Avocado Oil

1 Tablespoon fresh Lemon juice

Zest from small fresh Lemon

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar

2 teaspoons Emirati Besar

Pinch of Sea Salt

5-6 twists Black Pepper

Jerk Seasoning Blend

Jerk Seasoning Blend, AKA Jamaican Jerk, came about as a dry rub for pork, albeit you see it in chicken most often these days. Fact is, it’s way more than just a dry rub, and it rocks on everything from veggies, dressings and marinades, to beef and fish.

Like most signature blends, there really isn’t a go-to version, as every chef has there own swing on it. What you can count on is that it’s a complex mix, often anywhere from 12 to 16 ingredients.

The non-negotiables are serious chile heat at the fore, onion, garlic, cumin, and the warm spices that define Caribbean cuisine – allspice, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. What else you put in there, and in what proportion, is up to you.

Some folks will argue that the chile must be Scotch Bonnets, and that’s fair, but I’ll say that any chile with decent heat and a complex fruity background does just fine – remember, it’s your blend.

Here’s my current go to – try it, tweak it, make it yours.

Urban’s Jerk Blend

1 Tablespoon granulated Onion

1 Tablespoon granulated Garlic

2-4 teaspoons Hatch Hot Red Chile

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper

2 teaspoons Lemon Thyme

2 teaspoons Mexican Cane Sugar

1 teaspoon ground Allspice

1 teaspoon dried Parsley

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground Clove

1/4 teaspoon ground Cumin

Jerk Blend

If using whole spices for the pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and cumin, process in a spice grinder to a roughly uniform powder.

Combine all ingredients and run through a single mesh strainer until you have a homogenous blend.

Bottle in clean glass and store in a cool, dry spot out of direct sun.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin seeds, AKA Pepitas, are a great treat, and as is the case with many seeds, pretty good for you, too.

My Cousin Sally writes,
OK, Eben – Halloween is upon us, which means it’s time to nom on delicious toasted pumpkin seeds! Yay! But here’s the dilemma… Recipes on the Internet vary from 250 degrees to 400 degrees and 7 minutes to 50 minutes. And some recipes boil the little suckers before toasting! What the heck. Thoughts??
P.S. I used to go with the soy sauce and seasoned salt route, but now I’m a fan of the olive oil and sea salt mix. But I’m perplexed by the temp and time…

Sugar Pumpkins - Many good things inside!
Sugar Pumpkins – Many good things inside!

Great question! Here’s the drill for making great roasted pumpkin seeds every time.

Remove seeds from sugar pumpkins, and by golly, save or use that flesh for wonderful things, like Pumpkin Flan. Roasted seeds make a great garnish for squash bisque, and make a fabulous garnish on Oaxacan style chiles rellenos.

Boiling pumpkin seeds before roasting makes for crunchy skins.
Boiling pumpkin seeds before roasting makes for crunchy skins.

Simmering the seeds in salted water is a must-do – It helps make the seed covers less chewy, more crunchy, and also gets seasoning deeper into the seeds. It also helps remove any residual stringy stuff.

Use 4 Cups of water with 2 teaspoons salt for every Cup of seeds.

Bring salted water to a boil, then add seeds, stir, and reduce temp to maintain a steady simmer.
Cook for 10 minutes, then drain through a single mesh strainer.
Pat dry with paper toweling.

Preheat oven to 400° F – High temp roasting will give the crunchiest, most consistent results.
Note that Avocado oil is especially good for this – it’s got the highest smoke point.

Savory, like sea salt and cracked pepper, works great on pumpkin seeds.
Savory, like sea salt and cracked pepper, works great on pumpkin seeds.

Season each cup of seeds with,
1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil, (Olive or vegetable oil is OK)
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Optional –
1/2 teaspoon chile flake or powder

Savory seasonings work better than sweet, as the sugars tend to make seeds prone to burning in a high temp roast. Any combo you like is worth trying – Soy-Lime-Garlic, Lemon Thyme & Sea Salt, Smoked Salt and cracked Pepper, etc. Our Go To Seasoned Salt is fantastic here.

If you really want a sweet version, roast seeds with just the oil, then add sweet seasoning after the roast – The oil will help it stick, and you won’t burn your goodies.

Roast, evenly spread on a baking sheet, for 18 to 20 minutes, until nicely toasted.

Pumpkin Seeds roasted with Sea Salt, Avocado Oil, and Chile Flake
Pumpkin Seeds roasted with Sea Salt, Avocado Oil, and Chile Flake

Remove from oven and baking sheet, allow to cool before decimating.

And as my Sis, Ann Lovejoy notes over in her wonderful blog, “Store pepitos in a tightly sealed jar out of direct light for up to 2 months or freeze them for longer storage.”

And Happy Halloween!

Five Spice is good for way more than just Chinese cooking.

Chinese five spice powder – Got it in your spice cabinet? Odds are good that you do, but they’re also good that you haven’t used it for anything other than that one Chinese recipe you tried way back when and bought the stuff for – Am I right or am I right? I’m here today to fix that, and to tell you why you should -Five Spice is good for way more than just Chinese cooking.

Classic Five Spice, although more is OK
Classic Five Spice, although more is OK

So, what exactly is five spice? That depends, frankly, on where in China you ask the question. This blend is relatively ubiquitous in Chinese cooking, and culinary regions from all points on the compass points lay claim to its origin. There is, however, some general agreement about the intention of that ancient founder – To provide the culinary equivalent of Unified Field Theory – one powder to rule them all – Five spice touches on sweet, sour, bitter, heat, and salty – A blend for all things, if you will.

Now, that said, five spice is as unique as any other legendary thing. What that means is that every home cook, restaurant chef, and spice purveyor has their tried and true personal blend, and each and every one of those is the best, no questions asked. Truth be told, they’re all correct, because when you make it yours, its exactly what you want it to be – That’s the beauty of discovery and refinement. The end result of today’s exercise should be just that for y’all.

The big question, of course, is this – What are the Five Spices? Turns out, the title is a bit misleading. Take a look at the ingredients on the commercial stuff out there and you’ll find anywhere between five and ten ingredients – Interesting, yeah? That’s because ‘Five Spice’ speaks to the five flavors the blend contains – Sweet, sour, bitter, heat, and salty – Cover those, and the number of ingredients used to achieve it is open for interpretation.

The generally recognized standard however, is star anise, clove, Chinese cinnamon (Cassia), Szechuan pepper, and fennel seed, but again, you might also find regular cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, licorice, anise, turmeric, black pepper, sea salt, and mandarin orange peel as well. There’s nothing wrong with all that, frankly, though as with all things in discovery, it’s best to go to the classic roots first, and then branch out to make it yours.

For us here in the U.S., the blend has an exotic feel to it that can be a real treat for breaking up the ol’ routine. The combination of what Chinese culinary tradition refers to as hot (cinnamon and Szechuan pepper), and cold (fennel and clove), tastes does a really cool double duty with meats, especially fatty stuff – It highlights richness as it cuts through the fat – A neat trick, that.

If you have Asian grocers in your area, check them out and see if they make their own blends – If not, they’ll likely have a favorite that they sell – Diving into those is like touring the regions and towns folks come from – You’ll get a different swing on things from each one.

So, what exactly would you use this stuff on when you whip it out? The quick answer is that five spice is tailor made for proteins – Beef, pork, and poultry will all shine, (and frankly, you can’t make great char sui pork without it), as will tofu, and beans. For dang near anything you’re going to grill, barbecue, or smoke, it makes a fantastic rub. Five spice does great in flour, starch, or bread crumb coatings for fried foods, too. And frankly, there’s nothing in there that wouldn’t go great with savory eggs and veggies. And believe it or not, it’s great for baking too – Add it to a savory scone, pancake, or waffle recipe, for instance.

A note of caution for using five spice on things other than fatty meats – The blend can overpower a recipe really quickly, so a little bit goes a long way. The blend does best when it has some time to work, so employing it in marinades and rubs works best.

The gist of all this is that while five spice is a necessity for many Chinese dishes, it’s great to think outside the box and try it with other stuff as well – It’s easy enough to add a dab to a sample of something you’re cooking – A great way to expand your horizons. This is a blend that, while fundamentally simple, belies that label with a truly fascinating and complex palette of flavors.

Here’s a basic recipe to get you started – Again, use it as a springboard to tailor your own custom blend. As with all herbs and spices, freshness and quality are critical. Harkening back to that bottle you’ve got in your cabinet, chances are good it’s old, and maybe not the best stuff you could find, right? So, go to a known, high quality purveyor like World Spice, Penzey’s, or Penderey’s and buy your stuff there – They really truly don’t cost more than the junk in most stores, and the quality is far superior. Finally, it’s always a good idea to buy whole spices when available as well – They’ll stay fresher longer.

House made Five Spice
House made Five Spice

Classic 5 Spice Blend

1 Tablespoon whole Szechuan Peppercorns
3 whole Star Anise
1 stick Cassia Bark (AKA Chinese Cinnamon)
2 teaspoons whole Cloves
2 teaspoons whole Fennel Seed

Allow a dry, cast iron skillet to heat through over medium heat.

Add Szechuan pepper, star anise, cloves, and fennel seed to the pan. Toast the spices until they’re notably fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Keep the spices moving constantly to avoid scorching.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Add the toasted spices and cassia to a spice grinder, blender, mortar and pestle, or whatever you use to grind spices. Pulse the blend to a uniform rough powder.

Store in a clean glass container with an air tight lid – Keep in mind that all spices like a cool, dark, dry environment for storage. Spices are good for about 6 months, properly stored.

 

Here’s a couple of rubs to get you started.

5 Spice Java Dry Rub

2 teaspoons 5 Spice Powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground Coffee
1 teaspoon Dark Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

5 Spice Wet Rub

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
Juice & Zest from 1 small Lemon
1 Tablespoon 5 Spice
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

 

Maque Choux – A Cajun Twist on Succotash

I came across an FB post by Diane Whatley Nix, a friend on a cooking group called Wok Wednesdays, shared an image of Maque Choux made in a wok. Instantly, I was shown a flash of brilliance for the cooking method, and reminded of a delicious dish I hadn’t made since leaving Texas six years ago. Note: If you’re into wok cooking, then you need to check out the group – It’s dedicated to cooking your way through Grace Young’s The Breath of a Wok, and it’s a serious gas!

Maque Choux (AKA mack shoe, muck shoe, muck show, and so on), is the Cajun version of that venerable side dish, succotash. The name may sound French, but it’s probably a Creole derivation of a native term. This is a great side dish at any time of the year, but especially in late summer, when all of the veggie constituents are right outside in the garden. 

Many folks know of succotash and assume it to be southern, but that would be incorrect – Succotash came from some of the original occupants of New England – The name derives from a native term, possibly the Wampanoag word msíckquatash, (boiled corn kernels), or the Narragansett sohquttahhash, (broken corn kernels).

Succotash was, and is, a base of fresh corn, some kind of shell bean, and a little protein – nowadays, most commonly bacon, but back then in New England, fish or game. Any number of additional veggies and herbs might be added, like tomatoes, sweet peppers, chiles, fresh herbs and other seasonings – all of which are New World foods and therefore likely as authentic as anything else. There are a dizzying number of ‘authentic’ succotash and maque choux recipes out there, but the truth is that damn near anything you feel like doing will be authentic enough – These are dishes designed to use what was ready at the time, and later down the line, to clean out a fridge, maybe.

Succotash was popular because it was filling and nutritious. That base mix of corn and beans is rich in protein, carbohydrates, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It’s still a popular side dish at many a New England Thanksgiving dinner, and was likely a main course at that original dinner hosted by the locals, to which a ragtag band of Puritans and Strangers were invited. Those settlers quickly learned that the key base ingredients lent themselves readily to drying, which meant a lifesaving, year round food supply for a struggling population.

As us white usurpers spread across the new land, (including my direct ancestor, who arrived in 1636), succotash came along for the ride, morphed by local crops as it travelled. In the south, dang near any corn and bean combo that’s fried up in lard or butter is called succotash, albeit the vast majority of the time, the bean in question will be a lima, and there will almost always be okra.

Those migrants included the Acadiens, French people exiled to the Canadian Maritimes by the Seven Years war between Britain and France in the middle of the eighteenth century. While many Acadiens remain in the Maritimes, a sizable group made their way south to warmer climes, specifically, Louisiana, which was a French colonial holding since about the time the Puritans hit the beach at Plymouth. And of course, Cajuns are in Louisiana to this day, and from that many good things have come, including maque choux.

Study up some on maque choux, and you’ll see one glaring difference from traditional succotash – It don’t have no beans on board. That’s not to say you couldn’t, or that beans aren’t popular in that neck of the woods, because you could and they are -But, when you see how the dish morphed, you’ll understand right away – It’s because of the only aromatic base that we here in the colonies can lay claim to – The Holy Trinity.

We have the Cajun folk to thank for our only original combo – onion, celery, and green pepper, and really, nothing else, (albeit when used in soups and stews and whatnot, some folk do like to whip a little roux right in with it as it cooks, to kind of get a leg up on things). Now, the key to aromatic bases is the ratio, and in that regard, there are a couple of camps for the Trinity – those who do equal measures of each, and those who portion like mirepoix, 50% onion, 25% each pepper and celery. For my mind, it kinda depends on when you’re making it. If we’re talking the non-growing season, I’d go for the heavy onion version, but if you’re in the sweet spot, where those things are right out there in your garden, I’d absolutely opt for equal shares.

As for the protein, again, you can do what you like with no shame. I like local, smoky pepper bacon myself, but down south, a lot of folks are partial to andouille sausage, and you’d be hard pressed to go wrong there. Honestly, anything you’ve got that needs using would be lovely, from pulled pork to shredded chicken, (or even beans.)

Finally, the wok as a cooking method/vessel is simply brilliant. As Diane noted, making maque choux in one adds a perfect crispy crunch to the dish that you’d be hard pressed to get anywhere else. It’s also fast, and fun, and very pretty, so give that a go. This recipe will make enough for four, and maybe some leftovers

Maque Choux a la Urban

3 ears fresh Sweet Corn

4 strips Pepper Bacon

1/2 small sweet Onion

1-2 stalks fresh Celery, including leaves

2 Anaheim Chiles

1 fresh Tomato

2 cloves fresh Garlic

4-5 fresh Chives

1 sprig fresh Thyme

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil

A few shakes Go To Seasoned Salt, (I prefer our smoky version)

A few twists fresh ground Pepper

Mise en place for maque choux
Mise en place for maque choux

Cut kernels off the corn in two passes – Take the first to roughly cut the kernels in half,then the second to get what’s left – This gets all the corn milk in play and adds a bit more moisture to the mix – Cut the corn into a plate or shallow bowl. If you’re shy getting to the base of the kernels, flip your knife around and use the spine to scrape out those last, sweet bits – And don’t friggin’ cut yourself.

Stack your bacon slices, cut them down the middle lengthwise, then into roughly 1/2” squares.

Dice the onion, celery, and chiles into roughly equal piles.

Slice the tomato – You can gut it if you like, (M is always offended when I leave the guts in…), or not as you please.

Mince the garlic, thyme, and chives.

Set the wok over a medium high flame and heat through –  A drop of water should vaporize pretty much instantaneously when it hits the wok, then you’re ready to go.

Stir fry bacon first - Your wok will thank you
Stir fry bacon first – Your wok will thank you

Stir fry the bacon, stirring steadily with a wooden spoon.

When the bacon is about 3/4 of the way you like it, turn the heat up to high and add the avocado oil. 

When the oil is shimmering, (not smoking – That’s too hot), add the onion, celery and chiles.

adding the Holy Trinity to maque choux
adding the Holy Trinity to maque choux

Stir fry, steadily working the mix to incorporate. When the onions start to turn translucent, add the garlic and stir fry for a minute or so until the raw garlic smell dissipates. 

Final ingredients
Final ingredients

Add the corn and stir fry steadily to heat through and incorporate – If things are getting a bit hot, turn heat down somewhat – I change heat constantly as I cook on a wok, and so can/should you.

Stir fry the mix until the corn starts to get a little crust and the smells are driving you nuts.

Add the tomato, chive and thyme, a few shakes of seasoned salt and a grew twists of pepper, and stir fry to incorporate all the seasonings.

Maque Choux a la Urban
Maque Choux a la Urban

Transfer to a bowl and serve hot.

Urban’s Go To Dry Rib Rub

Whether you grill, smoke, or bake your ribs, this is a great rub if you’re looking for something that’s not sugar based. We prefer to put the sweet note for ribs on a glaze, rather than in the rub – If that appeals to you, this is a good choice.

It works well with a 2-1 cooking regime, (2 hours in foil, 1 hour unwrapped then a quick broiled glaze), or a 2-1-1 scheme if you’re smoking them.

This blend stores well – since it doesn’t have sugar, it doesn’t clump up. Works great on chicken or beef as well.

Urban’s Go To Dry Rib Rub

Urban’s Dry Rib Rub
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon Mild Hatch Chile Powder
1 Tablespoon granulated Garlic
1 Tablespoon Powdered Mesquite Smoke
Combine all ingredients thoroughly, Rub in to the ribs thoroughly and deeply, and give them about 15 minutes to get to work before you cook.
Here’s ribs with the rub and a Blueberry-Chile glaze.

Giardiniera – The King of Pickled Veggies

This year’s garden has been hit and miss. Some things have done nicely, others not, even with staggered plantings. That struck home when we had a look at the cucumbers and realized we wouldn’t get enough to make a winters worth of pickles and relish – That’s when inspiration struck – Why not go for a big batch of Giardiniera, the King of pickled veggies, instead?

Giardiniera, (Jar-dhi-nare-uh), is a delightful pickled vegetable mix, either done up as bite sized pieces or a relish. Redolent of fresh veggies and good olive oil, wrapped around lip smacking brininess that rivals a great cornichon – This is something we all need to be making at home.

Pickling foods to preserve them hardens back thousands of years and crosses numerous boundaries – almost every society does and has employed it. Everything from veggies, to meat, fish, fruit, nuts, and even eggs can end up in the pickle jar, much to our advantage. Pickling not only helps preserve things through the dark months, it adds a vital zip to what can otherwise be a rather bland time of year.

Giardiniera hails from Italy, and means literally, ‘from the garden, (also called sottacetto, or ‘under vinegar.’) While variants come from all over the boot, the versions we’re most familiar with has southern roots, down where the mild Mediterranean climate fosters a wide variety of veggies, the best olive oil, and great sea salt. That’s where those colorful jars filled with cauliflower, carrot, olives, onions, peppers, and chiles hailed from.

image

You’ll likely find jars of the bite sized version of giardiniera in your local grocery, with the fancy olives and other pickled goodies. While some of the commercial stuff is pretty good, none of it can match what you can make at home, and to top things off, it’s remarkably easy to do, (And frankly, the relish version of giardiniera is much more versatile, and rarely found in stores).

Seasoned with fresh herbs, maybe even touched with a little hot chile flake, giardiniera is fabulous on sandwiches, (including burgers and dogs), pizza, salads, and as a table condiment with more dishes than you can shake a stick at. Now is the time to be doing up a few batches of your own – it’s fairly traditional for giardiniera to be made in the fall, as a catch all for all those late season veggies we don’t want to lose to the first frost.

The American home of giardiniera is Chicago, where that famous Italian beef sandwich hails from. Slow roasted beef, cooked over its own jus, sliced thin and slapped onto a nice, dense roll, ladled with a generous spoon of giardiniera, a little jus, and eaten in the classic sloppy sandwich hunch – a little slice of heaven.

Italian Beef Sandwich, fueled by Giardiniera
Italian Beef Sandwich, fueled by Giardiniera

Making giardiniera is a real treat. Your first and foremost issue, naturally, is what to put into the mix. The blend I outlined earlier is generally recognized as the classic base mix, but pretty much anything goes, (I should note that peppers and chiles were not in the original Italian versions of the dish, as they didn’t show up in European cultivation until the 1700s.) firm veggies, like carrots, celeriac root, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus do well. Peppers and chiles will do well too, though really soft stuff like tomatoes tend to break down quickly.

Making giardiniera couldn’t be easier. While some recipes call for cooking or fermenting, (both processes are perfectly fine), the simplest version is, for my mind, best – Just brine your veggie mix for a day or two, until you reach the degrees of zip and bite that you like, and that’s it. You’ll find recipes that call for the mix to be stored in brine, oil, vinegar, and a simple vinaigrette – My money is in the latter option – that will provide a nice stable medium, and a great taste as well.

There are typically mild and spicy (AKA Hot) versions, and extensive regional variety, like the Chicago style that includes sport peppers and an accompanying degree of heat. Down south, the version that goes with a muffuletta sandwich is mild and heavier on the olives. Those are great, and worth your time to build, but really, look upon giardiniera as a launching pad for creativity – You really can’t go wrong if it’s made with stuff you love – For instance, I didn’t have celery when I made up the relish version, but I did have fresh celeriac root, and it turned out to be a wonderful substitution.

You can use any oil and vinegar you like for the base vinaigrette. Seasoning can be as easy as good salt, olive oil, and vinegar. When you feel like adding additional spices, be conservative in both number and ratio – The rule of three is a good thing here.

Unless you process your giardiniera in a hot water bath, keep in mind that this is basically a fridge pickle. If made carefully, and packed into sterilized glass jars, it will last a month or two refrigerated. Just keep in mind that they’re not shelf stable unless you go through the canning process. Accordingly, what we offer below are small batches that will make a couple of quart jars of finished product. There are cooked and fermented versions out there, and we’ll leave those for you to explore.

Giardiniera Relish

A quart of fresh Giardiniera will last a couple months in your fridge
A quart of fresh Giardiniera will last a couple months in your fridge

For the base mix

1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Red Pepper
1 small Sweet Onion
2-4 Jalapeño Chiles
1 medium Carrot
1 Stalk Celery
1/2 Cup Cauliflower florets
1/4 Cup Pickling Salt

For the final mix

1 Cup White Vinegar
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 large Green Olives
1 Clove Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flake
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

Rinse all produce thoroughly.

Stem, seed, and devein the peppers and chiles, (leave the veins in the jalapeños if you want more heat).

Cut all veggies for the base mix into a uniform fine dice, about 1/4″ pieces. It’s not important to be exact, just get everything about the same size and you’ll be fine.

Transfer the mix to a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Cover the mix with fresh, cold water with an inch or so to spare.

Add the pickling salt and mix with a slotted spoon until the salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, take a spoon of the mix out, gently rinse it under cold water for a minute or so.

Test the degree of pickle and softness of the veggies. If you like what you’ve got, move on – If not, give it another day.
When you’re ready to prep the final mix –

Remove the base mix from the fridge and transfer to a single mesh strainer. Run cold water over and through the mix, using your hand to make sure that the salt solution is rinsed off.

fine dice the olives, peel, trim and mince the garlic.

Add all ingredients to a glass or stainless mixing bowl and stir with a slotted spoon to thoroughly incorporate.

Sanitize two quart mason jars either by boiling the jars, rings, and lids for 3-5 minutes in clean, fresh water, or running them through a cycle in your dishwasher.

Transfer the mix to the jars, and seal. Refrigerate for two days prior to use.

Giardiniera, bite size
Giardiniera, bite size

For the bite sized version, cut everything into roughly 1″ pieces, )or larger, depending on jar size and predilection), and process as per above. A bay leaf or two is a nice addition.

Clay Cooker Chicken & Veggies with Besar

Cooking in clay is one of those things you’ve got to do to truly get the gist of. Like cast iron, clay adds a certain je ne sais quois to a dish that you can’t get any other way – it’s a subtle earthiness and added depth that’s truly captivating.

Romertopf cookers are a great way to get into clay, and there’s no better dish to make in one that chicken. It’s truly difficult to end up with anything other than one of the juiciest, most delicious things you’ll ever cook – that alone is worth the entry price.

Romertopfs are great cookers, and can often be found used.

While the inside of the body of a Romertopf is glazed, the lid is not – The porous, soaked clay and higher oven heat, (425° F rather than 325°) combine to provide a steam/roast cook – the secret behind that super juicy bird.

The next joyful surprise is this – literally no oil, stock, or water need be added to end up with a succulent chicken. Same goes for veggies you to add to the dish – the steam/roast process will generate copious quantities of juice and rendered fat without help.

Fact is, you can add nothing but salt and pepper and still come out with stunning results, but for this dish, I wanted more – a nod to Middle Eastern cuisine was in order, since clay cookery is ubiquitous there – as are stunningly delicious spice blends. Besar (also Bzar and Bezar) was the perfect choice.

Besar – Savory, sweet, and heat.

There are variants of besar in several cuisines, of which I favor the Emirati style – it’s a stunningly aromatic blend with deep notes of warm spices and a touch of heat. Besar is wonderful with chicken, but might even be better with fresh roasted veggies – a win-win for this dish. Often used to spice ghee, it’s fantastic dry on everything from squash to soups, stews, and flatbreads. This is my swing at the blend.

Urban Besar


2 Tablespoons whole Black Peppercorns

2 Tablespoons whole Cumin seed

2 Tablespoons whole Coriander Seed

2 teaspoons stick Cinnamon, (about 1/2” or so)

2 teaspoons whole Green Cardamom pods

2 teaspoons ground Ginger

2 teaspoons ground Hatch Chile (hot or mild as you prefer)

1 teaspoon whole Fennel seed

1 teaspoon Turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, toast spices until golden brown and deeply fragrant, stirring steadily with a fork to avoid scorching.

Remove blend from skillet and return to a bowl to cool – allow 30 minutes or so for things to marry further.

Leave the blend whole and store in airtight glass until you need it – that’ll keep everything fresh. I prefer making smaller batches like this more often, rather than storing larger quantities long-term.

Urban’s Clay Cooker Chicken & Veggies with Besar


3-4 fresh Chicken Leg Quarters

3-4 Gold Potatoes

2 Carrots

2-3 stalks fresh Celery with Leaves

1/2 small Sweet Onion

3 Tablespoons ground Besar spice blend

3 finger pinch of Kosher Salt

Soak your clay cooker to get the most out of cooking process, and protect it from cracking.

Soak your clay cooker (including the lid) for 30 minutes prior to use. (If this is your first use of the cooker, follow makers directions for seasoning to the letter!)

You will start with a cold oven, to avoid thermal shock and cracking of your clay cooker.

Rinse and peel potatoes, then halve or quarter, depending on size.

Rinse, end trim, and cut carrots into roughly 3” chunks.

Peel, end trim, and quarter onion.

Rinse, end trim and cut celery stalks into roughly 5” chunks – remove and reserve leaves.

Arrange veggies in a solid base layer in your cooker.

Sprinkle very lightly with salt, then with a teaspoon of besar.

Arrange leg quarters evenly across the top of the veggies, skin side up.

Toss on the celery leaf, then lightly sprinkle with salt, and liberally dust with the remaining besar.

Clay cooker chicken & veggies with besar, ready to rock.

Cover the dish and slide into a middle rack position in a cold oven.

Set oven temp to 425° F and let ‘er rip for 45 minutes.

Carefully remove the hot cover from your cooker and check internal temp on the chicken – you should be around 150°-155° F.

Cook for 10-15 minutes more, uncovered, to allow things to brown and crisp up a bit.

Clay cooker steam/roast magic

Carefully remove cooker from oven and allow a 5-10 minute rest.

Clay cooker chicken and veggies with besar

Serve piping hot, with just some flatbread, or rice, or couscous, or whatever you love best.

بالعافية

Urban’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout Flan

Amongst other things, my Tribal Brother, Grant Goltz is a brewer of some renown. Every year at StringFest, the annual gathering of our music, lutherie, arts, and local tribes in Hackensack, Minnesota, (just ‘Hack’ if you’re a hip local), there are endless cold kegs of his stuff on tap.

This year, he handed me a cup of syrupy, dark stuff and said, ‘try this!’ It was a seven year old double chocolate milk stout, with chocolate nibs and lactose (milk sugar) included in the brewing process. This stuff was amazing, with dense layers of coffee and chocolate notes within.

Lissa King, ‘the Martha Stewart of Northern Minnesota’, (which is bullshit – she’s way better than Stewart), took some home and made cake and cupcakes with it – those showed up the next night for dessert, and were stunning, indeed.

I immediately thought of flan when I tasted it, and came up with this recipe, which I wrote, refined, and tested on everybody Sunday night – it blew us all away. It’s got fresh stout in the caramel, reduced stout in the body of the flan, and the color, taste and scent are knockout punches. Try making this with your favorite stout, and let me know how it goes.

Urban’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout Flan

For the Caramel

2/3 cup Bakers Sugar

1/3 Cup Reduced Stout

2 finger Pinch fine Salt

For the Custard

4 Large Eggs

2 Egg Yolks

1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk

1 Cup Heavy Cream

1/2 Cup Bakers Sugar

1 Cup of Stout (reduced to 1/2 cup – see below)

1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste (or 1 Tablespoon Extract, or 1/2 scraped Bean)

1/2 teaspoon fine Salt

Open and pour your chosen Stout, then let it sit while you work through prep (to kill off some of the carbonation).

Add 1 cup of Stout to a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Reduce to a bare simmer when the stout starts to boil, and simmer until the volume is reduced by half. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl or cup to cool.

Pull a 8” or 9” cake pan, or six 3” ramekins, plus something big enough to act as a water bath for whatever you’ve chosen to bake in – a big roasting pan on braiser works great for that.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, cream, and sugar – whisk to thoroughly incorporate, then scald, (heat only until tiny bubbles start to form at the edge of the mixture) – Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, yolks, vanilla, and reduced stout – whisk to incorporate.

Add cooled milk and sugar blend to the egg blend, and process with a stick blender until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute.

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle position.
Check the height of your baking pan versus the water bath vessel, then add enough water to the bath so that water level will sit about 3/4 way up your baking pan. Slide the pan onto the middle rack.

In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of unreduced stout. Stir to thoroughly combine and continue stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Continue to stir steadily, until the caramel starts to brown, about 3-5 minutes.

NOTE – Using stout instead of water means there’s a lot more stuff in the mix for the sugar to react with as it heats up. This blend will foam aggressively, and keep doing so – So you must lift the pan from the heat and stir constantly until the foaming subsides.

Keep the pan close enough to not lose heat, but far enough away that foaming is minimal – if you don’t, you’ll get molten sugar boiling out of the pan, which is not good at all.

Reduce heat to low and continue simmering and stirring constantly until the caramel is golden brown, about another 1-2 minutes.

Remove caramel from heat and carefully pour into your pan or ramekins, then gently swirl the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Set the pan aside.

Whisk the custard base to confirm that everything is still fully incorporated.

Fill your pan or ramekins with the custard mix to within about 1/2” of the top, then cover and seal tightly with metal foil.

Carefully transfer filled pan or ramekins to the water bath vessel.

Bake at 350° F for 35 minutes.

Open the oven and check the flan by giving the pan or ramekins a gentle shake – you should get a little shimmy in the middle, but overall it should be quite firm. If you need to go another 5 minutes or so, that’s A-OK.

Very carefully slide the rack out and gently remove your pan or ramekins to a cooling rack – allow the flan to cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, cover with a plate sized larger than the top of the pan or ramekins, and carefully flip the whole deal over. Slowly pull the pan or ramekins and viola – you’ve got a stunningly good dessert.