The second challenge in Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog contest asks bloggers to tackle a classic dish from another culture: “an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone.”

After some thought, I went in search of classic Brazilian recipes, in honor of my friend Sam, who is teaching at an international academy in Brasilia. Sam and I have been friends since college; in 2006, he drove six hours to see me graduate.

May 2006

And we saw each other roughly every six months after I graduated, when he was working as a teacher in Maryland and I was a reporter in Pennsylvania. He would always stop at my place for a few days on his summer and winter tours of western Pennsylvania.

Dec. 31, 2009

So, if Sam could step so far enough outside his comfort zone to live in Brazil, then it was the least I could do to tackle a Brazilian dish. (Although to be fair, I don’t know if anything is outside Sam’s comfort zone — he once flew to Iceland by himself on a whim.) I read through several recipes for both entrees and desserts and decided on Brazilian Orange-Flavored Flan from Emeril Lagasse.

I chose flan because I knew it wasn’t a dessert I could bluff my way through. For the flan to set up correctly, all of my measurements would have to be exact (none of the “a pinch here, a dash there” from my usual cooking and baking methods) and I would have to pay close attention to the recipe’s directions (I rarely do).

I set the sugar, water and lemon juice over medium heat and anxiously waited for it to turn amber. The recipe said not to stir but to swirl the pan occasionally.

Yay! It’s working! Attempting flan made me nervous. I was so relieved when the sugar mixture caramelized. I poured it into the bottom of cake pan to cool and harden. (The recipe calls for a 10-inch pan; I believe mine is 9 inches.)

Then I beat together the remaining ingredients: sweet condensed milk, milk, orange juice, six large eggs and orange zest.

Some of the other flan recipes I read had called for whole milk; we drink 1 percent, so I used a half cup of 1 percent and half a cup of cream (which was left over from my honey nougat ice cream, and I haven’t been able to find another use for it). This recipe also said to use a stand mixer with a whip attachment, but I don’t own one (yet — hello, wedding registry) so I used my regular ol’ hand mixer.

I poured the liquid custard into the pan with the caramel on the bottom, then placed it inside another pan with hot water about half way up the sides of the flan pan.

Then the flan had to bake at 300 F for 90 minutes. Usually when I bake, I open the oven door every 10 minutes to check in and poke at whatever I’m making. It drives fiance nuts because it is so inefficient and lets so much heat escape. I decided to sit back and be patient with the flan and didn’t even open the oven until an hour had gone by.

When it emerged from the oven appearing flan-like, I was relieved.

Then, the flan went into the refrigerator overnight to set up. I was not looking forward to trying to coax it out of the pan. I had visions of a big, sticky mess, with half the flan clinging to the pan and the other a runny mess on the plate.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. As my punster fiance said, “It’s flan-tastic!” (Heh, heh.)

I think this would be an excellent dish to make for company,  especially now that I am over the intimidation factor. I really enjoyed the orange flavor; most of the time, I don’t care for flan because you can taste the egg and sugar so clearly, but the orange juice and zest really puts a whole different spin on it.

To vote for my entry in Round 2 of Project Food Blog, go here. Voting will officially open Monday, Sept. 27. Thank you for your support!