How Nanita Learned to Make Flan
Cinco de Mayo, (Spanish for the 5th of May) not to be confused with Mexican Independence day, is a holiday held on May 5 that commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The date receives limited observance in Mexico itself, however, it is observed nationwide mostly in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.
The day is not just an excuse for a margarita. I wanted my kids to participate as well. Last year, I picked up How Nanita Learned to Make Flan at the library for the kids to read in observance of the holiday to read while eating their tacos. The story itself is a little dark, as it is a Cinderella-like story of a girl whose father is a cobbler who has no time to make his daughter, Nanita, shoes. One night she pieces some colorful shoes together for herself. Once on her feet, the shoes magically walk her to a cruel ranchero's home, where she becomes his unwilling servant. A parrot that lives on the ranch teaches Nanita to make flan, which the ranchero cannot get enough of, and ultimately helps Nanita return to her father. The illustrations are full of Mexican cultural symbols (Day of the Dead skull masks and religious icons). One particularly touching scene is of Nanita wearing her white communion dress (and new white communion shoes made by her father) in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In the end papers of the book is Nanita's (or the Parrot's) flan recipe:
Nanita's Flan Recipe
8 tablespoons plus 5 tablespoons sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Carmelize sugar over medium heat.
Pour carmel syrup into six oven-safe ramekins.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly whip eggs with a wire whisk until light-colored.
Beat in remaining sugar and gradually add juices and rinds.
Pour the mixture into ramekins and place ramekins in pan of shallow hot water.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
Remove ramekins from water and cool.
Do not refrigerate.