when the weather starts turning cold, all i want to do is hunker down at home and cook everyday. keeping the stove and oven running also indirectly heats the house so that's an additional bonus. today i was going to try a recipe i've been meaning to for a long time: coconut milk flan. every year i make flan for thanksgiving (2018 2017 2016), and every year i think about trying something new with the recipe but never get around to it. i've toyed with the idea that instead of using milk (flan is basically 5 ingredients: egg, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla extract), i could substitute with coconut milk. i had no idea how it'd taste, but in theory it seems delicious. so today was a trial run, to see how coconut milk flan would do in reality.

before that happened though, i went out on a grocery trip in the afternoon. the weather was the opposite of what i thought it'd be. i expected it might be sunny at least in the morning, when in fact it was cloudy for much of the day. wasn't it supposed to rain as well? but it was dry, though by late afternoon the sky started to darken. and wasn't it supposed to be cold? but the outdoor temperature was actually close to 60°F, though high moisture level in the air made it feel colder. i went to market basket not so much to get flan ingredients (i already had everything) but rather to pick up some pasta meat sauce ingredients for this weekend, i've decided to treat my family to some cellentani (just can't stop eating pasta apparently).

coconut milk flan
(8x 6 oz. ramekins)

5 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
14 oz. can coconut milk*
3/4 cup of half & half*
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar (caramelized)

heat oven to 350°F. mix eggs with sugar and salt. mix in remaining liquid ingredients. set aside, let bubbles dissipate. boil a kettle of water and pour into lasagna dish lined with 8 ramekins. caramelize remaining sugar, coating ramekin bottoms. pour in flan mixture. bake for 90 minutes.

* original recipe calls for 3 cups of milk. because coconut milk is 2-1/4 cups, make up the remaining difference with some half & half (or whatever else dairy you have on hand).

i started making my flan in the late afternoon. i made a small batch - 8 ramekins. since i only make it once a year, i was a little fuzzy on the steps, but i've made it so often, soon it all came back and i was on autopilot. the original recipe calls for 3 cups of milk. because a 14 oz. can of coconut milk is only 2-1/4 cups, i made up the remaining difference with some half & half i had on hand. the coconut milk was more like coconut cream. normally i strain the flan mixture into each ramekins, but because the mixture was already so creamy, i decided to scoop it directly. there was just enough to fill 8 ramekins, nothing left over. i tasted the mixture, it was sweet, but also a little sour, and i wonder if the half & half had gone bad. i couldn't really taste the coconut though.

i also had some trouble with the sugar caramelization. originally i used 1/2 cup of sugar, but that ended up only making enough melted sugar to coat 5-1/2 ramekins. so i melted another 1/4 cup of sugar to make up the rest.

the original recipe called for just an hour of baking at 300°F: i've found in my experience that both numbers are too low. i bake at 350°F for 90 minutes, often times 2 hours if i have more than one tray of flan in the oven. i did check the status after an hour with a knife, it came out still gooey. i then added 20 more minutes, which gave the flan more time to solidify. i then added a final 10 minutes, hoping it'd brown the "tops" (actually the bottom) but that never happened and i finally took out the flan.

the flan came out looking more like cakes, with puffy domes. after i moved them onto the cooling rack, the domes deflated. none of them had any scorch marks which is another way i can usually tell when the flan are done baking. maybe it's because milk has a lot of sugar in the form of lactose, and sugar burns, unlike coconut milk, which contains no sugars.

now i wait the requisite 48 hours before i can sample one of these flans. so i won't know if these are good or not until this weekend.

i found my sichuan paocai floating in the brine this morning. as for the korean kimchi, my house definitely has a kimchi smell, i just don't notice it because i'm gone nose blind to it. but if i leave my house for a long period and come back, i definitely smell it. 3 of the jars have already started leaking, which means it's fermenting and releasing gases. i'll give it another day before putting them into the fridge. the sichuan paocai can be left outside to ferment, there's no danger of leaking from the fido jars. the more it ferments, the stronger the taste.

i finally got around to do a water penetration test on my solar mason jar lid string lights. it involves tightly closely the lid, pour water on top of it, and waiting to see if any water gets inside the jar. water is definitely getting into the lid through the seams where the solar panel is glued to the lid ring itself. i could probably fix the problem by adding a silicone seal ring. but the cheapest i could find on amazon costs around $10, and for that price, i could just as easily order another set of mason jar solar string lights.

for lunch i heated one of the frozen cordon bleu. my body will naturally crave fresh greens when i eat too much processed foods. one of things i got from market basket earlier was a bag of salad mix. in the early evening i got hungry enough that i ate half with some italian dressing. later i heated up a frozen stouffer lasagna in the oven. i've been doing enough cooking this week, i just want to an easy readymade dinner. i ate while watching the return of kemba walker to the charlotte hornets. seems like kemba knew everyone there and was hugging non-stop. being back in his former home must've affected him mentally because he didn't shoot well tonight, but that didn't matter, because the hornets were no match for the celtics, as everyone else contributed bigtime.