Multi-award winning author Heather Haven writes humorous, noir, historical, and romantic mysteries, short stories, and plays. Today Lee Alvarez, protagonist of her Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, shares one of her uncle’s recipes. Learn more about Heather and her books at her website.
I don’t mean to brag, but as the central character of the humorous Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, I get to eat a lot of terrific food. That’s because my Tio is the retired head chef of the world famous Las Mananita’s Restaurant in San Jose, California. During his illustrious career, his recipes were often written up in gourmet food magazines. They’d throw in a few pics, too, because Tio is one classy-looking uncle.
I have all the articles and pictures in a scrapbook I started in my early teens. That was before my PI days. I don’t have time to make scrapbooks anymore – I don’t have time to do squat anymore– but I always seem to find time to sit down at the dinner table and scarf down one of his culinary masterpieces!
Tío’s desserts undo me. While he’s creating a recipe, he makes it again and again until it reaches his idea of perfection. Meanwhile, lucky me gets to gobble up every version, as he strives for the ultimate. When Tio was working on his homemade mango and red plum ice cream garnished with fresh spearmint leaves, I must have gained six pounds. Fortunately, I spend a lot of time chasing bad guys over Bay Area rooftops, so I tend to lose the weight as fast as I gain it.
I’ll tell you, though, my favorite is his Flan de Naranja. No lie, his flan has gone down in song and legend. Tio even picks the oranges himself from our backyard. Olé!
Tio’s Flan de Naranja
5 egg yolks
1 cup white sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 orange peel
1/2 fluid ounce orange liqueur
2 ounces candied orange peel, grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, beat eggs and yolk. Beat in sugar until smooth. Set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, half-and-half, the vanilla bean and its scrapings, and the peel of one orange. Heat until bubbles form at edges of liquid, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove orange peel. Beat hot cream into egg mixture, a little at a time, until all is incorporated. Stir in orange liqueur. Pour into 4 to 6 individual custard cups.
Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel. Place cups on towel, inside roasting pan, and place roasting pan on oven rack. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the cups.
Bake in preheated oven 45 to 60 minutes, until set. Let cool completely. Sprinkle candied orange peel on top of each cup before serving.
The Culinary Art of Murder
Book Six of The Alvarez Family Murder Mystery
Lee’s Uncle Tío is smitten with the guest chef at a Silicon Valley culinary arts institute. When the woman is arrested for the murder of a fellow chef, a reluctant Lee agrees to help prove Tío’s lady love innocent. But Lee suspects the ambitious, southern belle of a cook might just be guilty. Undercover work at the institute proves to have more pitfalls than whipping up a chocolate soufflé. The killer isn’t done and tries to get Lee out of the way permanently. But just who is the murderer? The accused? One of her two sons? Another inmate from a cooking school with more to hide than dirty dishes? With secrets as plentiful as sauces, the nagging question remains, if Lee proves the lady chef guilty, will Tío ever forgive her for sending his new love to jail?
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