Gnafron – A French Flan with Garlic Cream

May 15th, 2010

There is a story behind this dish and I have been wanting to make Gnafron since the first time I read about it in Peggy Knickerbocker’s book Simple Soirees; Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties. Miss Knickerbocker was in Lyon, France with a friend on a wintry day. It was lunch time and they were hungry. At an open air market on a quay on the Rhone they asked advice from a vendor who sent them to Rue des Marronniers. She assured them that all of the restaurants there were good ones. They chose Chabert it Fils just as it was about to close. After hearing the description of Gnafron, “an andouille flan wrapped in delicate cabbage leaves, steamed to wobbly perfection, and drizzled with garlic cream” Miss Knickerbocker was smitten. It lived up to it’s description and she asked for the recipe. Unfortunately the chef had left for the day and she departed with only the taste memory and an obsession with getting the recipe. It would take more than a year. At a dinner party she ran into an old friend whose fiance’ lived just blocks from the restaurant. The fiance’ got the recipe and sent it to her scribbled on a napkin in French. Her version is in her cookbook which I highly recommend. I have posted more of her recipes Here and Here.

The name Gnafron refers to a hard drinking children’s puppet in the puppet show Guignol written by Laurent Mouruet in the 1880’s. How the dish came to share the name is anybody’s guess. All I can tell you is that it is unusual and delicious. I felt intimidated at first, but it is really not difficult to make. Napa cabbage leaves are blanched to soften them and then draped in small ramekins. The eggy flan mixture is combined with the andouille wine reduction and poured into the ramekins. The cabbage is then draped over the top. They are cooked in a water bath until set. All of this can be done ahead of time. Just as an aside, I have been getting my eggs fresh from a farm near me. I had two left, so had to add two store bought eggs to the bowl. Can you tell which are farm fresh?

Give this flan a try. It is perfect for a brunch or a light supper.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 carrot, diced
1/2 pound andouille sausage or other distinctively flavored, spicy sausage, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teapoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Splash of white wine
1 Napa cabbage, separated, tough parts of the core removed (16 to 20 leaves)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing the ramekins
4 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
For the Garlic Cream:
3 cloves garlic
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
Splash of white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the carrot, sausage, onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer slowly for 15 minutes. When the mixture becomes slightly dry, add the wine and stir well.
When the ingredients have become soft and aromatic, another 5 to 10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, bring 4 cups of salted water to a simmer over high heat. Blanch the cabbage leaves (tender parts only), a few at a time. Remove with tongs and allow them to drain on clean kitchen towels or paper towels.
Grease 6 small ramekins or souffle dishes with butter. Line the dishes with the cabbage leaves, allowing them to overlap so that when the sausage mixture is spooned onto them, they can be folded over to make a little package.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs with the cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the sausage mixture into the egg mixture and mix well. Divide the mixture among the lined ramekins and fold the overlapping leaves over the top. Don’t worry if the mixture leaks out around the leaves.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the ramekins in a deep baking pan large enough to hold them all. Pour warm water around them so that it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 1 hour, or until the Gnafron has set and the top is firm to the touch. If the tops begin to brown or get too dark, place a sheet of foil over the tops. It’s okay if the tops get golden brown.
To Make the Garlic Cream:
While the Gnafron bakes, make the garlic cream. In a small heavy pot, combine the garlic, sugar, salt and a splash of water; cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Add a splash of white wine, allow it to cook down for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the cream, and warm it for about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the garlic to steep in the cream until the Gnafron comes out of the oven. Reheat the garlic cream over low heat, the cream will be slightly thin. Remove and discard the garlic.
To serve, run a knife around the sides of the ramekins to loosen the mixture. Turn out onto a platter or individual plates or serve in the ramekins. Serve with a little garlic cream drizzled over or around the Gnafron. Sprinkle with a little reserved andouille if desired.

14 responses to “Gnafron – A French Flan with Garlic Cream”

  1. There are a lot of steps involved, but it looks well worth it.


  2. Anncoo says:

    This looks interesting and new to me 🙂

  3. I’ve never made a flan. I agree with Blondie. There are a lot of steps involved, but Peggy knows what she’s talking about when it comes to great food.

  4. Katy ~ says:

    Gosh this sounds delicious, unique, and elegant. And what a presentation they must make. Way to wow some family and friends!

  5. I love to hear about these type of dishes with history and family behind them.

  6. Robin Sue says:

    What a very sophisticated dish and such a nice presentation. This is very impressive to serve. What an interesting history to the dish as well. Thank you for your well wishes about my mom. She is feeling much better and just sad that the entire ordeal ruined a trip to Boston that she and Dad had planned for months to see her own sister and and family. That’s life though, one never knows…

  7. Mary says:

    What a treat. I’ve never had or seen this before, so you know I’m all over it. What a nice recipe, Penny. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  8. Sophie says:

    Your flan sings to me!! The endresult says it all!


  9. Norma says:

    Looks wonderful

  10. racheld says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. racheld says:

    What a lovely provenance to a recipe, and what a wonderfully tongue-curling description you give!!

    The combination of flavors must be stunning.

    Re: the name—a lot of restaurants would name dishes for celebrities, sports figures, writers, habitues, etc., and after a time, if a particular dish did not prove popular, it was removed from the menu.

    Lovely post.
    Perhaps there were several characters from the play whose names were attached to certain dishes, and this one was the only one which stood the test of time—a la Peach Melba and Crepes Suzette.

  12. Aida says:

    I have made this dish and it is a Delicious Flavor Bomb! Not had to make at all. Try it! It is very me of my favorite things ever and you can substitute well-seasoned cooked Mushroom for the sausage if you want to go that route.

  13. Gryphonisle says:

    I made this from Ms. Knickerbocker’s book, after salivating over the idea for a week. It is astonishingly simple, and easy (for those already blanching at all the steps) and comes out quite nicely, easier than an omelette. Sadly, it has almost no flavor. I don’t understand this, cabbage AND andouille? Also, I did not take the garlic out of the cream, and the next morning it was even nicer on the reheated gnafron. I’m going to try it again this week, this time with crab, reasoning that the mildness might be the perfect vehicle for the shellfish.

  14. Gryphonisle says:

    Yep, with crab it’s much better! A great crab delivery device!

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