Chef José Andrés Shares a Recipe and Memories of Cooking with His Mother

Photo: Courtesy of ThinkFoodGroup

Photo: Courtesy of ThinkFoodGroup

A native of Spain, lauded culinary superstar José Andrés is chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup, the team responsible for Washington’s popular and award-winning dining concepts Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlántico and the critically-acclaimed minibar by josé andrés, as well as Los Angeles’ exciting award-winning destination, The Bazaar by José Andrés, part of the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.

His passion for food began when he was but a child. Andrés says, “From the time I was a little boy, I always loved being in the kitchen. Growing up, my mother always cooked; we did not go to restaurants much as money was tight, and I was often at her side. She was a simple home cook, but at her side I learned the power of food to evoke memory  — in my parents’ case, of Asturias and the family they left behind when we moved to Barcelona. I am no different. Today I prepare Spanish food not just at the restaurants but at home for my children. It is a way of reconnecting with home through food memory.”

His mother’s influence continues to be felt – and can be tasted at one of his restaurants. He shares, “I serve my mother’s flan recipe at Jaleo. It is my version of Proust’s Madeleine. One spoonful never fails to take me back to that apartment kitchen in Santa Coloma de Cervello.”

Continue reading for a recipe from Chef José Andrés.

Recipe: Flan al estilo de mi madre
(Spanish flan in my mother’s style)
Adapted from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by Jose Andrés, published by Clarkson Potter

My mother Marisa’s flan is imperfect, but I love it. Like all good Spanish mothers, she cooks her flan in an oven that gets too hot, creating small air bubbles in what should be a perfectly smooth and creamy dessert. Yet each of those bubbles takes me back to the Sunday lunches of my childhood, when me and my brothers would try to slurp up a flan in one glorious mouthful. This recipe is inspired by my mother’s flan, but the results are even better.

1/2 cup plus 3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split

1 lemon peel

1 cinnamon stick

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees.

To make the caramel, put the 1/2 cup sugar in a small pan. Start cooking over low heat. After 5 or 6 minutes, you’ll see the caramel starts turning a light brown color. Cook for another 7 or 8 minutes until it becomes a dark brown color. Keep an eye on the caramel as it cooks; you don’t want it to burn.

Remove from the heat and carefully add 1/2 cup of water. The caramel will sputter and release steam as it hardens. Return to the low heat. After about 5 minutes, the caramel will become thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool a little. Coat the bottom and sides of 4 small ramekins with the caramel, using your fingers or a spatula.

In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half and the cream. Add the vanilla bean and seeds, along with the lemon peel, cinnamon, and the 3/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, removing the pan from the heat just as it reaches a boil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Carefully pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking vigorously in the bowl. Strain the mixture into another bowl, then fill the ramekins.

Set the ramekins in a deep baking pan. Carefully fill the pan with hot water up to a level in the middle of the ramekins. Place the dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove and let the ramekins cool.

Store the flans in the refrigerator overnight. Serve cold.

José’s tips:
If you don’t want to make a traditional caramel, use a good quality maple syrup. Cook the syrup and reduce it to a thick, dark brown consistency. You can then coat the ramekins just as you would with the caramel, and continue with the recipe as above.