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I love special occasions.  They provide me with the excuse to indulge in decadent treats with the justification of honoring the “event”, whatever that may be.  The most recent occasion worthy of celebrating was my sister-in-law’s birthday and celebrate we did.  Before I share the highlights of the early part of the evening, I am going to jump right to the best part.  Dessert.

Flan and Marsala

I think I may have found the most insanely delicious wine and food pairing ever.  To start, I must state for the record that I really love flan.  A lot.  But it has to be prepared correctly (some places overcook it, I prefer my flan silky, having just barely crossed over to a solid from a liquid).  My fabulous neighbor Kathy, whom I have revered in several posts for the great cooking lessons she has given me, also taught me how to make flan.

A few weeks ago I went to an Italian wine tasting and learned about this Marsala wine which arrived on Friday.  It went so amazingly well with the flan that words just can’t do the synergy justice.  The Marsala has strong hints of toasted caramel which coincidentally, is a big flavor in the flan, so they really complemented each other.  The Marsala even looks like Caramel in a glass.

Liquid Gold and Solid Gold

Warning: Do to try to repeat this with Marsala from the grocery store.  You need the good stuff.  The flan is not difficult to make but you need a flan pan which kind of looks like a small cheesecake pan with a lid but the bottom does not come out.  You need a sealed environment to cook the flan in.  My recipe for flan is this:

3 eggs

1/2 can condensed milk

1/2 can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon high quality vanilla extract

You also need to make the caramel which takes patience and attention.  In the flan pan over medium heat, melt 1/4 c. sugar with 1 T water until it goes through all sorts of phases and becomes a liquid caramel.  Be careful, this can burn you very easily.  Mix up the ingredients above in a blender and add to the pan with the caramel.  Put into a larger pot, add water to the halfway mark and cook with the top on the big pot for 40 minutes.  Chill overnight or for at least 6 hours.

For the rest of the courses, I prepared light and healthy fare knowing that decadence awaited us.


The appetizers included my smoked salmon spread with cucumbers, goat cheese with TJ’s roasted pepper spread and this delicious sauvignon blanc jelly, marcona almonds, grapes and a rosemary asiago cheese.

Dinner was roasted salmon, brown rice, yellow lentils and a salad that came out so well, thanks to a balsamic glaze that I was given as a gift.  It really added something magical to the salad.

Mozzarella, Roasted Pepper and Arugula Salad

Kathy also taught me how to make the perfect salmon, and since that lesson, my success rate with this fish has gone through the roof.  I don’t like overcooked salmon but at the same time, want it to be cooked enough that it is safe to eat and will be enjoyed by those who are not sashimi fans.

The secret – start on high heat (400) and when you put the salmon in the oven, reduce the heat to 275.  You can also do this on a grill but this takes more practice with the temperature reduction.  But the result is a tender salmon that just melts in your mouth.  I like to season mine with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chives and Italian parsley.

Salmon Pre-Oven

I served several wines over the course of the evening, but here are two that were very particularly lovely.  We have been big Hall fans for years and this wine is a blend of Cabernet and Syrah.  Great wine.  The Morgan Chard is a newer wine for me.  We visited the winery last year but I did not drink the wines I had bought until recently.  A full bodied but very food friendly Chard.

05 Hall Darwin and 09 Morgan Chardonnay

It was a great meal and that was partly because of the wonderful company.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I really believe that the setting, ambiance, company and mood you are in will effect one’s enjoyment of food and wine.  And the fact that I knew about the flan waiting at the end of the tunnel put me in an even better mood than I was in already.  Happy Birthday Bonnie!