The.Boy and I have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy when it comes to dinner.

By which I mean, I don’t ask him what he wants to eat and then I don’t tell him what he’s eating until he’s actually finished it or is at least halfway through.


Some may decry that as a human rights violation, but you should see how many Mets games he makes me watch.

At the rate with which they lose (the past two Mets-Yankees games being a very rare exception)…trust me, we’re even.


Anyway, I’m pretty sure he barely even glances at what I’ve put in front of him before shoveling it in his mouth (usually because he is so engrossed in the aforementioned sporting events) and, if we’re being honest, even when I say things like “oh we’re having asparagus and leek flan for dinner”, it’s truly anyone’s guess as to how much of my food talk he really comprehends.

The concept of a savory flan for instance, surely had never crossed his mind, and, to be honest, it had never occurred to me either. But that is the genius of Deborah Madison, the woman who took vegetarian cooking and made it simultaneously mainstream and gourmet. And her new cookbook, Vegetable Literacy, is full of treasures like this. Some, like this flan, are fancy enough for dinner parties, but others, like the escarole and potato hash are just perfect for a quick weeknight meal.


In the interest of honesty, I should tell you that this meal was a little too “out there” for The.Boy. But then again, he also claimed that the leeks in the lemony and vibrant ragout that accompany the flan tasted too much like cabbage…so we can just take his opinion with a grain of disbelief.

I, on the other hand, loved it. Every bite.

The flan was creamy with a hint of asparagus flavor, while the sauce that accompanied it was buttery, lemony, and, really, just perfect. And the hash that I served it with was just perfect for soaking up some of those extra juices. Whether you’re looking to wow someone with your cooking prowess or you just kinda want to treat yourself to something a little extra special for dinner, this is definitely it.

And feel free not to tell any of the more vegetable-phobic members of your family exactly what’s in it before they dig in. After that first bite, they just won’t even care.


One year ago…Chickpea, Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Burritos
Three years ago…Guacamole

Asparagus and Leek Flan
Serves 4, adapted from Vegetable Literacy


  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds thick asparagus
  • Butter, for the ramekins
  • 1 tarragon sprig, plus 1 ½ tsp chopped tarragon
  • Sea salt
  • ¼ cup heavy cream or crème fraiche
  • 3 eggs, beaten well
  • Freshly ground pepper

The Sauce

  • Reserved asparagus spears and tips
  • 6 small leeks, white parts only
  • 5 tsp butter
  • 1 ½ tsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • Sea salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Reserved asparagus cooking water
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Snipped chives and chive blossoms


  1. Cut the tough stems off the asparagus and peel the stalks. Set 8 spears aside. Remove the tips from the remaining spears and set them aside with the whole asparagus. Chop the stalks into ½-inch pieces.
  2. Heat the oven to 325. Lightly butter four ½-cup ramekins. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  3. Put the chopped stalks in a saucepan with 2 cups water, the tarragon sprig, and ½ tsp salt. Simmer until tender but still bright green, 10 to 12 minutes. Scoop out the asparagus, reserving the cooking water. Puree the asparagus in a food processor until perfectly smooth. Scrape the puree into a measuring cup and add enough of the reserved cooking water to measure 1 cup.
  4. Whisk ¾ cup of the remaining cooking water with the cream and eggs. Stir in the puree and season with ½ tsp salt. Pour the custard through a sieve, then season with pepper and the chopped tarragon.
  5. Divide the custard among the ramekins. Set them in a baking dish and surround them with boiling water to reach about halfway up their sides. Bake in the center of the oven until the custards are set, about 30 minutes.
  6. To make the sauce, chop the reserved asparagus spears and tips into small, irregular pieces.
  7. Quarter the leek lengthwise, then finely dice them crosswise. Swish the pieces around in a bowl of water to loosen any dirt, then lift them out with a sieve and set aside to drain.
  8. Melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the leeks, tarragon, and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Do not allow the leeks to brown. Add the wine and let it reduce. Add a cup of the reserved cooking water and the chopped asparagus. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, adding more liquid as needed to make a little sauce. Stir in the cream and lemon zest.
  9. To serve, spoon the vegetables and their juices onto individual plates. Run a small, thin knife blade or flexible spatula around the edge of each ramekin to loosen the custard, then invert it onto the vegetable sauce on each plate. Finish the flans with the chives and serve.

Escarole and Potato Hash
Serves 4-5, adapted from Vegetable Literacy 


  • 2 russet potatoes or 3 waxy potatoes, or a mixture (about 12 oz), scrubbed
  • Sea salt
  • 1 large head escarole, leaves separated and chopped coarsely
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, slivered
  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup water


  1. Put the potatoes in a pot with cold water to cover and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to a simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes, cut them into somewhat larger than bite-sized pieces.
  2. Separate the escarole leaves at the base and wash well in two changes of water, rubbing the base of the leaves with your fingers to loosen any dirt. Chop them coarsely.
  3. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes. Add the potatoes and the escarole and season with salt. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, turning the leaves and potatoes every few minutes with a pair of tongs. After about 5 minutes, add the water and cook until the escarole is wilted and tender. Taste for salt before turning out onto a serving dish.



You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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77 Responses to Asparagus and Leek Flan with Escarole and Potato Hash

  1. My husband is like that at times. So here i am cooking something and the moment he sees it he asks me holes into my stomach. He isn’t that veggie… but I did trick him several times. 🙂
    An asparagus and leek flan sounds like a dream come true for me. The tarragon and white wine sauce with lemon must be killer, so glad you shared the recipe here Joanne.

  2. Joanne, you are feeding him gourmet food. What a lucky guy! 🙂

  3. I’m not sure which I’m more excited about – the asparagus and leek flan or the escarole and potato hash! Both look amazing. The.Boy is very lucky to have such delicious and healthy meals made for him 🙂

  4. Barbara says:

    Love the flan. I’m smiling because I would never have served this to my family, but oh my, it’s right up my alley!

  5. This is such a neat recipe! Who knew veggies could be thrown into a flan?! COOL! The hash looks awesome too…win-win.

  6. Mets?! Oh no…! But I love your cooking privacy policy – I do the same with my guy. And with the meals you make – I know he’s being well fed.

  7. Amy says:

    Feed him while distracted, I like it. So, what you’re saying is, if I give Trevor bell peppers while watching Cars2, he might actually eat it. Good plan.

  8. SallyBR says:

    That is an amazing recipe, and what a coincidence, I will be making a veggie flan for a “cooking project” very soon… I need to compare my recipe with yours, I like the texture of your flan, it seems creamier than the one I’ll be making

    the Boy is a lucky guy, but I bet he knows that already…

  9. Kevin Lynch says:

    I really like the sound of a savoury asparagus flan! What a great meal!

  10. Love Deborah Madison! I need to check out her latest cookbook. Not sure I’ve ever made a flan before, but this sounds perfect for asparagus season.

  11. I love your don’t ask don’t tell policy when it comes to dinner. This savory flan is brilliant!

  12. I am loving the idea of a savory flan!

  13. Debbie says:

    This looks like a great meal….the cookbook sounds very interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

  14. Ashley says:

    Savory flan… sounds fantastic! I don’t think I’ve ever attempted flan of any type, but this one looks outstanding!

  15. Pam says:

    I’ve never thought to make a savory flan before. The whole meal looks healthy and delicious to me.

  16. Patsy says:

    I’ve been known to not tell the family every ingredient in a dish until after they have inhaled it… only to prove a point to them that they actually do like the ingredient they claim to hate!

  17. Beth says:

    This looks beautiful, although you pretty much had me at “asparagus”. Have fun watching those Mets games.

  18. Many people would say that the Mets play baseball kind of like your boyfriend eats his dinner.

  19. I love the rapport and conversations between you the boy 🙂 You guys make me smile! Your dish sounds like a great weekend dinner!

  20. Hahaha that’s great that you don’t tell him what he’s eating until after. Great way to avoid those picking eating situations!

  21. Dining Alone says:

    My husband would probably just start weeping if I set this in front of him. I think it looks like the perfect Spring dish!

  22. Natalie G says:

    Impressive recipe, lots of good greens!

  23. Sara says:

    What a cool recipe! I love trying new things that are a little ‘out there’ (my boyfriend would probably agree with yours though!)

  24. What a fancy dish! I love the idea of a savory flan –delicious! Sounds like a fantastic meal. Great post Joanne.

  25. Foodycat says:

    Surely it was the escarole that tasted like cabbage, not the leeks? I think this looks wonderful.

  26. I love sweet flan so I’m guessing I’d be all over a savory version! The Hubster? Not so much if he knows veggies were involved which is why I plan to implement the don’t ask don’t tell policy too 🙂

  27. Sippity Sup says:

    I have a don’t ask don’t tell policy when it comes to baseball. GREG

  28. I’ve never thought of a savoury flan either, though I don’t make flan in general that often. The boy is so lucky to have fancy, healthy, homemade meals like this placed in front of him!

  29. What a cool idea for flan! You are so innovative, Joanne!

  30. Guru Uru says:

    A beautiful meal my friend, I have never seen a savoury flan of sorts before 😀


  31. bellini says:

    This is a great way to go if you have to sneak those veggies in there for kids and kids at heart.

  32. Chris says:

    Impressive flan! I’ve never seen one like it before. I am sorry that you have to watching baseball….even I don’t like watching baseball. I’m pretty sure that is against the Geneva convention.

  33. I’ve never made a savory flan, but flan/custard is like my favorite textured food (i’m weird). Looks awesome!!

  34. fun love the textures hes a lucky guy

  35. Eileen says:

    A savory flan is a really intriguing idea! Must shovel in as many fresh spring veg as possible… 🙂

  36. Gloria Baker says:

    Love this flan Joanne look amazing!!!

  37. flan! You made flan? And not just any flan but asparagus and leek flan? WoW! no words

  38. That Girl says:

    funny – I have a broccoli and potato hash planned for the menu this week, but I’m topping it with an egg instead of flan!

  39. Jessie says:

    Oh wow. Wow wow wow. Asparagus and leek flan – I’ve got to try this. And this dish has asparagus, which is my all time favorite veggie this season. I can understand how this was a little too out there for the.boy, but I’m impressed that he ate it anyway – that’s a man with guts! Besides, you’re introducing him to new tastes 😉

  40. Betty says:

    Looks great to me! The only thing I have to disguise or deny here is beets. I love them, but not hubby. 🙂

  41. OohLookBel says:

    My hubby refuses to eat quiche (except in France), so I say “It’s a tart” when I make quiche. Going to try it with this flan. I love how creamy it looks.

  42. I have never thought of a savory flan like that – how interesting! I love that your boyfriend is open-minded enough to actually taste / eat all these new-to-him foods. That is cool!

  43. I had never thought of the savory flan- love the idea! I am also a fan of meals that are a little “out there” too.

  44. Monet says:

    I would never have thought to do a savory flan either! What a brilliant idea though! And I think it’s great that your boy is willing to try all the wonderful things you make….even if he doesn’t fall in love with every one of them. Thank you for sharing Joanne!

  45. I hope he realizes how lucky he is to eat like this every night! This dinner looks incredible.

  46. Hotly Spiced says:

    Definitely, if you’re having to watch sports on TV, you have no obligation to tell him what’s on his plate. I’m so glad I married someone who isn’t addicted to watching sport on TV xx

  47. Sam says:

    This looks absolutely delicious. I <3 Deborah Madison. I've been debating buying Vegetable Literacy (already owning two of her other cookbooks), but I think I need to now! Savory flan!?

  48. Faith says:

    I had to laugh, lol! Sounds like you and The Boy are on to a pretty good system. This dinner looks killer…I love all the components and I think it’s brilliant how they come together!

  49. Steph says:

    This sounds so elegant and classy! And I’m sure it tastes incredible

  50. Never had this dish ever – but it looks delicious and we are willing to try anything you make these days!

  51. Lora says:

    What interesting flan. Love this idea.

  52. Tarragon, asparagus, eggs and cream – I’m hooked!!!
    Mary x

  53. Looks wonderful! Love the recipe!

  54. Lynn says:

    Unique and looks delicious!

  55. Pam says:

    A savory flan?! Now why didn’t I think of that!

  56. Such a unique and creative dish! I want to try this soooooo badly!

  57. not even sure how my boy will feel about it but I think I would happy gobble this savory flan!

  58. Pam says:

    Mets or Yankees? It’s the Cubs all the way here. 🙂 Great colors on your plate and I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a savory flan. Sounds good, loos pretty!

  59. I never heard or thought about a savory flan! It looks amazing though.

  60. “I don’t ask him what he wants to eat and then I don’t tell him what he’s eating until he’s actually finished it or is at least halfway through.” <---- ha ha ha ha ha! That's sort of how it is with guys, I'm thinking. And kids. But you could definitely tell me and I would still shovel it in. Happily. 😉

  61. Kari says:

    I normally present my husband with a couple of dinner choices, but earlier in the week I realised I was dishing up and hadn’t consulted him at all. I figure if I’m cooking, I get to do that though! I also try and hide vegetables in things but he is pretty good at finding them. He loves asparagus and leek though so I don’t think I’d need to hide this!

  62. Natalie says:

    I like this unspoken rule. Ryan is CRAZY about having to know every ingredient in everything…he’s not even picky, he just likes to know! drives me nuts 🙂

  63. Kelsey says:

    GIRL! Those pics of the asparagus are gorgeous. You should frame them for your new kitchen. For real.

  64. Colynn O says:

    How creative! I love it!

    And I feel you on the baseball thing. It’s no fun to watch on TV. At least make him take you to one. Haha.

  65. Katie says:

    That looks so tasty! You could tell me what it was and I would eat it any day. Something tells me he’s getting very lucky with this deal.

  66. I can just hear Bear if I served this, “So, um, what are we having tonight?” 🙂 I hear this regularly. 🙂

  67. Oh, definitely one of the most creative ways to use asparagus I’ve seen this spring in the blogosphere! I can imagine this would be creamy and amazing served with some nutty brown rice with which to mash it up.
    And your boy is a relatively good sport, as far as picky boys go 🙂

  68. I’m not well-versed in the world of flan, and I had no idea there could be savory flavor! I love asparagus and I love leeks, so this sounds like a major winner to me.

  69. I could always take the boy’s serving of this flan and devour it myself 🙂

    No but really, this flan looks amazing. I just love the creativity of it!

  70. tigerfish says:

    Savory flan? I am intrigued.

  71. This flan is both beautiful and very creative! The color is so pretty and looks like spring!

  72. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    This is such a beautiful dish, I love the way you put it together

  73. So inventive. I could use just an ounce of your culinary creativity right now… my kitchen has been so boring!

  74. very interesting! i wouldn’t have thought of it either, but that’s why i’m so glad we’re friends 🙂

  75. Laura says:

    See, you already know how to deal with kids too! 😉

    I am intrigued. I dislike flan, but that is at least partially because I usually find it too sweet, so a savory flan? Yum!

  76. […] to try something a little new and different? This Asparagus and Leek Flan is served with escarole and potato hash. For those of you who are unfamiliar, flan is just a fancy […]

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