Last week I did something I had always dreaded and therefore never tempted so far: I used a bain-marie. Until now, whenever I read a recipe requiring that something be cooked in a water-filled dish in the oven, I turned the page of the cookbook and discarded the dish in question as unsuitable for me to make. (For a very long time, I actually felt the same way about cake recipes asking for separating yolks and egg whites and whipping the egg whites - I'm glad to say that I overcame that condition). Lately, I had been dreaming of eating a vegetable flan, which would capture the full-bodied taste of ripe summer vegetables in soft fluffiness. It was clear to me even before I went looking for a recipe that I would make that flan in the bain-marie. I didn't even consider a mousse, no, I wanted the real thing. How come I could suddenly face this technique which I had always tought impossible for me to master? I have no idea, maybe it's yet another step in a mysterious process I go through as I get older until I reach complete kitchen maturity and make my own puff pastry.
I looked at several recipes I found on the internet and combined them to make my very own:
Bell pepper flan with piment d'espelette
- 6 medium-sized peppers (red, orange and yellow)
- 2 eggs
- 100g crème fraîche
- 1 teaspoon piment d'espelette
- salt and pepper to taste
- a little butter for greasing the ramequin dishes
Place the halved and deseeded peppers on a baking tray, skin-side up and roast in the oven (preheated to 200°) for about 30 minutes or until the skins are blackened and blistered. Put the peppers in a freezer-bag and let cool, then peel of the skins. Preheat the oven to 210°. Blend the peppers into a smooth purée, add the egg, crème fraîche and piment d'espelette. Season generously with salt and pepper. Fill the mixture in four little buttered ramequin dishes. Place them in a shallow oven-proof dish and add enough boiling for the dishes to be 3/4-covered. Put in the oven and cook for about 20-30 minutes or until the flans have set. Remove the dishes and let cool. Upturn the flans onto plates and serve.
I served mine with a simple rocket salad and some bread. I was very pleased with the results of my first bain-marie trial. The flans were every bit as light and fluffy as I had imagined and still moist. The taste of the peppers was sweet, with a hint of caramel from the roasting, balanced by the freshness of the sour cream and the strong, smoky flavour of the piment d'espelette. The piment d'espelette really makes this dish special, so go buy some if you have not done so already. Just ignore the price tag, you won't regret it.
The flan-making was a blast (at least in small portions, I might have to wait another few years to tackle the family-size flan). Bain-marie and I shall meet again- soon!