In fact I baked it in ramekins without any bread, and yesterday when it was time for lunch I decided to see what the result was like. Voila! Tomato flan: creamy, full of tomato flavor, light feeling (despite the rich ingredients) and very delicate. An elegant accompaniment, I would think, to a slice of braised lamb, or as a first course for a summer lunch. A frico (parmesan crisp) sticking out of it would be nice, too.
The recipe? Go back to the bread pudding, omit the bread, and bake it in buttered ramekins. I think I'd go longer than the 45 minutes I specified there with this, however, as it was barely holding together: the tester should definitely come out clean. Chill thoroughly. To unmold, run a thin sharp blade around the edge of the flan, then warm the ramekin briefly in a hot water bath. Place a cold plate over the ramekin and quickly turn the plate upside down, with the ramekin held tight to the plate. Tap the ramekin a few times if necessary to dislodge the flan.
A side note: the flavor of the flan reminded me of a similar old favorite dish, the Tomato Aspic as done by Fabio Picchi at Cibrèo in Florence. We happened into this wonderful restaurant completely by accident in 2001 (turning, by the way, a bad day into a wonderful day, but that's another story), and I had the aspic and made enthusiastic notes. Then, on returning to the U.S., I wanted to try to replicate it, so I went to Epicurious to review some aspic recipes for procedures and proportions and found the original Cibrèo recipe! This aspic is like none you have ever had, and certainly a long way from the flabby versions I used to find on my plate at family Thanksgiving dinners: full of the flavor of the tomato, the basil, the chile and the garlic, it's like a mouthful of summer. With that memory renewed, I'm going to go back to the tomato flan and make it with a tomato sauce made of slow-roasted late season tomatoes, instead of the canned tomatoes and tomato paste, to kick up the fresh tomato flavor of the flan if I can. Stay tuned for a future post.
Also, Alanna and other bread pudding fans, take note: I think the flan experience suggests that we put a little less bread in the pudding...say about 5 ounces instead of 7, packed more loosely (I'd keep the perimeter "fence" (though maybe made of crustless slices instead of crust as before) -- because it makes a nice presentation -- but just use less cubes in the well). When I do this variation I'll post it and we can all compare...
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