Q. I have been invited to a dessert buffet party. Everyone loves my flan, but it is soft and I don’t think it would hold up well for a buffet where you have to get many small individual servings. Can you suggest something similarly easy?
The pumpkin flan recipe here is rich and velvety, fragrant with traditional pumpkin-pie spices, yet has the texture of a cheesecake. The cream cheese makes it firmer than a traditional flan, so you can slice it into thin servings, yet it is still soft and creamy.
The recipe is from a wonderful new cookbook, Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor, by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evangelina Soza (Hippocrene, $22.50). Three generations of a Texas family — immigrant grandmother, daughter and granddaughter — share their takes on Mexican cooking, from traditional to Tex-Mex to fusion.
The cookbook evolved from a desire to save a beloved abuelita’s recipes and stories for future generations, so in addition to the food you become immersed in the culture evolving from another time and another place — a part of the American experience sure to resonate with all of us who are children of immigrants.
Nancy Girton asked for help finding a recipe her mother made in the mid 1950s for a Johnny Cake that used molasses. She believed it might have appeared on a box of Flako or Jiffy mix. Mary Porter of Wilmington, N.C., knew right away what Girton was seeking.
“Johnny Cake is just a quick bread you make with cornmeal that dates back to the pioneer days,” Porter writes. “They called it hoecake when it used to be cooked on the back of a hoe or a shovel set over an open fire. The molasses version is more authentic than modern versions because you were more likely to have molasses than white sugar in your pantry back in the day.”
Q. I love the steak and prime rib seasoning you can buy from a company in Kansas, but it is very expensive. I have tried to mix spices to make one similar but have not had any luck. Any guidance or similar recipe would be greatly appreciated.
The recipe you refer to is, of course, proprietary. But I ordered a few envelopes, tried them on steak, and am convinced that what is at play is mainly salt, pepper and granulated garlic, plus some sweetness for flavor and to develop char. I fiddled with proportions, guessed as to spicing and came up with a darned good rub if I do say so.
It is important when using a rub to first coat the meat with a light brushing of oil. That way the salt won’t suck all the juices from the meat. You should also wait until the meat is about at room temperature to apply the rub so it will cook more evenly.
You can add or subtract ingredients to make your own special blend — dried chipotle powder if you like it hot, for example, or dried lime peel if you find a hint of citrus appealing. Pack it into an attractive jar and you’ve got a an easy-to-make gift.