Dear SOS: Gardel's on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles serves a wonderful flan topped with a delicious sauce called dulce de leche. I have tried without success to duplicate the sauce and would be grateful if Gardel's would share the recipe. And while you're at it, I would love the flan recipe, as well.
Dear Joseph: Tito Tarrago, owner, and chef Ricardo Macchi of Gardel's, an Argentine restaurant, were delighted to share the recipe. The dulce de leche (sweet milk) is actually a caramel sauce. The flan and the sauce are winners.
4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
4 egg yolks
5 whole eggs
Dulce de Leche (caramel sauce)
Sweetened whipped cream, optional
Combine milk, sugar and vanilla in saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly so it does not stick to bottom of pan. Remove from heat and cool.
In separate bowl, mix, without beating, yolks and whole eggs. Add 1 cup milk mixture and blend well. Return egg mixture to remaining milk mixture in saucepan and mix well.
Pour into 6 (4 1/2-inch) fan molds. Place in baking pan filled with about 1 inch water. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees 1 1/2 hours or until custard becomes firm. Serve cold with Dulce de Leche and whipped cream.
Dulce de Leche
4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 whole vanilla bean pod
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
Combine milk and baking soda in saucepan and bring to boil. Add sugar and vanilla bean. Mix well and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Mixture will begin to turn light brown in color. Begin stirring constantly as soon as color begins to change to light brown. Add butter and blend well when mixture becomes creamy and thick. Remove immediately from heat and continue to stir until cool.
Cooking will take 1 1/2 hours over very low heat, stirring frequently and watching closely. Use as much as is needed for recipe. Store remaining for use within 1 week. Makes 2 cups.
Dear SOS: I remember cutting out a recipe for Chicken Smetane many years ago but foolishly lost the recipe. Do you still have it in your files?
Dear Sue: Here's a favorite from the '70s, resurrected. Smetana, the Russian word for sour cream, or smetane, the transliteration, is used when referring to continental dishes made with it.
1 small clove garlic
1 to 1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 teaspoon paprika
Dash hot pepper sauce
4 pounds chicken pieces
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
Mash garlic well and combine with sour cream, lemon juice, seasoned salt, paprika and hot pepper sauce.
Coat chicken in sour cream mixture and chill, covered, several hours or overnight in refrigerator. Remove chicken from cream, allowing as much cream as possible to adhere to pieces.
Roll gently in crumbs and arrange in single layer in greased large shallow baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter and bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour or until chicken is tender and golden brown. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Dear SOS: I have been trying for years to get the recipe for Indian fry bread, and you are my last hope. It's bread dough fried in peanut oil and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Dear Pat: How about a recipe for fry bread from one of our favorite places, the Ranch House in Ojai. The bread can be served with honey, beans or meat.
RANCH HOUSE CAFE INDIAN FRY BREAD
5 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup butter
2 cups milk
Oil for deep-frying
Powdered sugar, optional
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk until moistened. Do not over stir. Mix until smooth.
Roll out onto well-floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 24 (4-inch) circles or 10 (8-inch) circles. (Dough can be stored in refrigerator up to 4 days at this point.)
Heat oil for deep-frying to 400 degrees. Fry dough in deep oil until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 2 dozen.
Dear SOS: While going through my old files, I discovered what is perhaps your lost recipe for Cranberry-Pecan Pie and decided to send it along while cranberries are still in season.
Dear Mary: How kind of you. Let's print it even though fresh cranberries may be out of season. Fresh or frozen, cranberries are a good berry to keep in mind the year-round.
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup pancake syrup
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
Combine flour, cornmeal and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course meal. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring lightly until mixture forms ball.
Wrap dough securely and chill about 30 minutes. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to form 13-inch circle. Fit loosely into 9-inch pie plate. Turn edges under and flute. Bake at 425 degrees 7 minutes. Cool.
In medium bowl, beat together eggs and brown sugar. Slowly add corn and pancake syrups, butter and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in pecans and cranberries.
Pour into partially baked pie crust. Bake at 325 degrees 40 to 45 minutes or until set. Cool thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
Dear SOS: You may be interested to know that the eminent black scientist, George Washington Carver of Tuskegee, Ala., included a recipe for mock apple pie in one of the many bulletins he published in the 1920s and 1930s. Your correspondent in The Times should know that Carver used Saltines instead of Ritz crackers. . . . I donated the bulletin along with others and personal letters from Carver to the George Washington Carver National Museum in Diamond, Mo.
At one time in that early period, Carver served a complete dinner from soup to nuts and dessert to a group of visiting students from Auburn University. The entire menu came from products he had developed from peanuts. As a child he had learned cooking from his mother's owners, the Moses Carvers. I was at Georgia Tech in the 1930s and was one of those fortunate young men in whom Carver took a personal interest. It continued until his death in 1943 and his influence and encouragement has been a mainstay in my life.
Dear Dana Johnson: What a wonderful story, and thank you for sharing it with our Culinary SOS readers. We shall be sure to add this bit of history to the next mock apple pie recipe we print.