Holiday Cheer!

Coquito

As the year is quickly drawing to an end, I notice my friends reflecting on the year that was, and hoping and planning for the year that will be. In the spirit of taking stock of my life, I have a confession to make. I, the one and only Cuban Reuben, have an obsession with, of all things, Christmas carols. That’s right. White Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Let it snow…you name it, I love it. But while some of my friends choose to tease me about this unconventional fascination, my good friend, Meredith, made an astute observation. My list of favorite Christmas carols? They were all written by Jews. “Of course you love them,” she says!  So, maybe it’s not so sacrilegious after all to love Christmas carols as much as I do. It’s true that Jewish holiday music doesn’t elicit the same degree of jolly cheer as your average good ol’ carol, but that’s where Coquito comes into play.

Coquito Pitcher

What better way to help bring out your jollies than to imbibe on a sip or two of the rum-spiked creamy Puerto Rican festive drink, Coquito?  Particularly if you are being held hostage by a snowy blizzard, this creamy coconut cocktail that tastes like a tropical vacation in a glass, will not only help warm your insides, but might even loosen you up to the point of joining your friends as they go caroling down the neighborhood. Liquid courage never tasted so good.

I’ve also served this for several New Years’ Eve celebrations to rave reviews. By now, my friends have requested it to help them ring in the new year. And for those of you whose resolution includes to shed a few pounds, don’t worry about the rich nature of this drink. I’ve tried this recipe using the reduced fat versions of the ingredients, and it still comes out quite tasty, though not as creamy.

Happy holidays to all of my readers here at The Cuban Reuben. Let’s toast to a happy and healthy new year!

Puerto Rican Coquito
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Latin
Serves: 6-8
Prep time:
Total time:
 
This festive drink will liven up any party, Christmas time or year-round.
Ingredients
  • 1 12oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk
  • ½ Tbs coconut extract
  • ½ cup white rum
  • 1-2 whole cinnamon sticks
Instructions
  1. Pour all ingredients into a large pitcher, and stir until well combined.
  2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 hours, or until ready to serve.
  3. The longer the drink sits, the better the flavors marry.
  4. Serve in small glasses.
Notes
Sprinkle on some cinnamon powder to each serving, to really heighten the holiday flavors.
Can also be made non-alcoholic by omitting the rum.

 

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Pumpkin Flan: The perfect ending to any of Fall’s festive meals

Pumpkin Flan

Like many others, I am a sucker for the spices that accompany this time of year, and appreciate the warmth they bring to any dish. But pumpkin pie, in particular, with its creamy pumpkin custard speckled with warm cinnamon and nutmeg, encased in a flaky crust and dolloped with fresh whipped cream? Well, that is a can’t-miss dish for me, and I can’t imagine ending a festive fall meal without it. It’s no wonder that for generations, pumpkin pie has been the go-to dessert for American families.

That’s all about to change.

Several years ago, during one of our many get-togethers, my mom pulled a fast one on the family, and replaced our much beloved pumpkin pie with the less traditional pumpkin flan. And while there were many skeptics in the bunch (myself included), once they had a single taste of the creamy, rich flavor and burst of spice from a little orange-tinged bite of the pumpkin flan, there was simply no going back. The verdict was in. We had a new fall dessert! Since then, serious jeers abound if we get together in the fall, and there is no pumpkin flan in sight.

As featured on MyJewishLearning.com

A slice of the creamy pumpkin flan.

A slice of the creamy pumpkin flan.

I understand that flan, in general, is a polarizing dish. Trust me, I’ve tasted my fair share of egg-y, rock solid, just plain bad flan. But if you’ve never tried Cuban-style flan, you’re doing yourself a disservice, as its thick, creamy custard with sweet caramel sauce oozing down the sides, is more akin to a crust-less cheesecake than anything else. And when you combine that with the distinct flavors of fall that can only be found in a pumpkin pie, what results is an undeniably can’t-miss dish. It’s truly a perfect ending to any fall festive meal, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Shabbat, or in this year’s case, even Channukah. Promise.

Pumpkin Flan
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 12
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A perfect finish to any of Fall's festive meals.
Ingredients
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • ½ can coconut milk
  • ½ can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tbs water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and add your empty pan in the oven to warm.
  2. Mix first seven ingredients (from evaporated milk to salt) in a blender, and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, cook the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar becomes a deep amber color (about 15 minutes).
  4. Working quickly, remove the empty pan from the oven, and pour in the now melted sugar. Swirl the pan around, so the sugar covers the entire bottom of the pan. Pour in the milk and egg mixture over the caramelized sugar.
  5. Insert the now full pan into a larger pan, and fill the larger pan about half-way up with water (a water bath).
  6. Return the flan pan and water bath to the oven, and bake for about 70-80 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Remove the flan pan from the water bath, and set on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  8. When you are ready to serve the flan, run a knife along the edge of the pan, place a rimmed serving platter over the pan, and invert it. The flan should fall easily, and the caramel sauce will coat the top and run along the sides.
  9. Serve immediately
Notes
I recommend using a 9-inch metal cake pan.

 

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