My Sweet Tater Friends

Several months ago, one of the ladies who works in my catering kitchen was passing around one of those fund-raiser order forms to help her kids raise money for school. You know the ones I'm talking about....the "I feel obligated to buy something or else I'll look like a miser" fund-raiser. I thumbed through the catalog pages wondering what useless trinket I'd end up with this time when, to my delight, I realized that magazines had been added to the fund-raising repertoire! I gladly shelled out my $12 for a year's subscription to Bon Appetit and anxiously waited for the first issue to arrive.

The October issue didn't disappoint. I've ear-marked several great recipes that I hope to blog about very soon but for now I want to share this dessert with you, my "Sweet Tater Friends." I've copied the recipe verbatim from the magazine's website and I didn't make any changes when I prepared it. While the flan was baking, I was thinking that maybe I should have kicked it up a notch by adding some cinnamon or nutmeg or just something because you foodies know what I'm talking about when I say I can't help but screw around with a perfectly good recipe. In the end, I'm glad that I didn't....it turned out to be a perfectly smooth and creamy blend of flavors (I know my picture makes this look anything BUT perfect, but I'm working on taking better photos!) I did, however, run across this nifty idea for decorating the flan for Halloween. If I can make one suggestion to you, it would be to keep your eye on the caramel when you turn it to high heat. If you take your eyes off of it, you'll end up with something that resembles black strap molasses and smells equally as unattractive (listen to the voice of experience...) Oh, and also, I cut the baking time by 15 minutes. When I checked the flan at 45 minutes, it was perfect, so do pay attention to that as well. Bon Appetit!

Sweet Potato Flan

1 large red-skinned sweet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 cup sugar, divided
2 tablespoons water
1 cup half and half
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tawny Port

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pierce sweet potato with fork; roast until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on width of potato. Cool. Cut potato in half and scoop flesh into mini processor; puree until smooth. Measure 1 cup puree (reserve any remaining puree for another use). Maintain oven temperature.

Stir 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour caramel into 8-inch-diameter metal cake pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons caramel in saucepan. Using pot holders, swirl cake pan, allowing caramel to coat bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides.

Add half and half to remaining caramel in saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until caramel dissolves. Whisk eggs in medium bowl until frothy. Whisk in cream, salt, 1 cup sweet potato puree, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Gradually whisk in hot half and half mixture. Strain into same saucepan. Stir over medium heat 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in Port. Pour custard into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake until just set in center, about 1 hour. Remove flan from water. Chill until cold, about 5 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Dip bottom and 1 inch up sides of cake pan into pan of hot water 15 seconds. Wipe dry. Invert onto rimmed plate, scraping caramel in pan over flan.

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