finished two perfect creme brulees

Warm beer and bread they say can raise the dead…whiskey and women are in short supply…I got a spicy monkey ridin’ on my back…halfway through a Jimmy Buffett album you’re pretty clear that running out of decent victuals is high on a pirate’s list of concerns.  Realistically, what you run out of long before whiskey and women — and way, WAY before your sweet tooth gives out — is fresh dairy.  And don’t even start us on trying to keep ice cream aboard a boat.  So when you are surrounded by lovely, fresh fruits that you could only dream of in a stateside supermarket (here, locally grown Eastern shore strawberries) but your soul longs for a creamy dessert and you’ve naught but a can of evaporated milk…don’t despair!  Galley Pirates have you covered.

creme brulee ingredients

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Coconut Flan Ingredients

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
4 tablespoons white sugar
3 eggs
4 tablespoons coconut rum or other flavored liqueur
4 tablespoons brown sugar for crust

Fresh fruit for garnish

This is quite the spectrum of ingredient quality, no?  The Clement is a Creole delicacy from a plantation in Martinique; the can of milk might have been in our storage locker for as long as we’ve owned our boat…but not expired yet, so here we go!  Heat your galley oven to 350 degrees and release the gimbal latch — this is one dish you don’t want to attempt if heavy sloshing is forecast for the next hour!

in ramekins

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, white sugar, evaporated milk and liqueur vigorously for a few minutes, until the eggs are thoroughly combined and you feel that the sugar has more or less dissolved.  Pour the mixture into 4-6 ramekins (depending on size…and I have used ceramic coffee cups in a pinch) and place in a baking pan.  Pour water into the pan to come half-way up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan tightly with foil.

creme brulee cookedBake for about 50 minutes.  Ease from the oven and remove the foil carefully — there will be a lot of steam! — and insert a knife blade or skewer (or marlinspike) to test…if it comes out clean, they’re done in spite of any jiggling.  Otherwise, reseal the foil and pop it in for another 5 minutes. When your knife point is coming out clean, pour off most of the water (or remove the ramekins from the pan entirely) and chill the flan for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

under broilerBefore serving, remove the foil entirely and heat your broiler (if you have one…if not, use Captain Peter’s favorite method of a propane blow torch held about an arm’s-length from the surface…kid you not). Sift brown sugar as finely as possible over the top of the flan.  If you have a fine sieve, use it.  Here I just crushed the sugar with a vengeance to break up any clumps, then worked as hard as possible to distribute it evenly but thinly over the entire top of each cup.  Pop this under the broiler for about 2-5 minutes, watching carefully and turning the pan as necessary to get the sugar glaze atop all four melted at the same time (remove any cups that are done way ahead of the others).

all broiledLet the flan cool for a few minutes, then top with fruit and serve with good coffee.

finished two perfect creme brulees

You do still have good coffee…you didn’t run out of fresh dairy AND good coffee, did you?  No.

Coconut Flan
Course: Dessert
Servings: 4
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons coconut rum or other flavored liquor
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  1. Release the gimbal latch on your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.  Whisk together milk, white sugar, eggs and rum until the eggs are fully incorporated and it feels like the sugar has mostly dissolved.

  2. Set 4-6 ramekins -- or just use ceramic coffee mugs -- in a baking pan and fill evenly with the milk mixture.  Pour water into the pan to come about halfway up the filled portion of the cups.  Seal the entire pan tightly with foil.

  3. Bake for 50 minutes.  Remove foil and insert a knife blade -- or marlinspike -- to test.  If it comes out clean, they are done even if they still jiggle a bit.  If not, seal the foil back up and give them another 5 minutes.  When done, dump the water from the pan (or remove the cups) and chill them in the icebox for at least an hour or overnight.

  4. When ready to serve, sprinkle the brown sugar as finely as possible over the top of each cup.  If your oven has a broiler, broil for about 5 minutes -- watching carefully -- to melt the sugar without burning it.  If you don't have a broiler (or propane torch, as my skipper has been known to use), simply letting the sugar sit for a few minutes should dissolve it ...  not quite as glamorous as melting, but garnish with fresh fruit and no crew will complain!



5 thoughts on “Flan-From-A-Can

  1. When I was growing up in Canada, Carnation milk was a staple of the Canadian diet. In Newfoundland, where one of the Galley Pirates skippers hails from, it is known as “tin milk”. Sweet recipe!

  2. Fête de la Saint- Jean Baptiste . You have brought the lowly tin of Carnation milk to new heights. My dear,kind grandmother,the mother of ten,would be so impressed.She made the best rice pudding using that ,or goats milk,that was always available in ” Outports” in Newfoundland. I am forwarding this recipe to my relatives in St. John’s,Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saguenay and Victoria,B.C. Some new Pirates may be showing up in your Galley. You see, we are never far from the sea.

  3. Thank you for your interest. I would love to forward a book of”almost authentic ” colonial recipes. Would you like to give me a mailing address?I will take it from there.
    We have had a picture perfect sailing season.
    Now preparing for Thanksgiving and keeping a close eye on Matthew.

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