Best Thing We Ate

Best Thing We Ate: Tocinillo de Cielo at Mercat

By Sarah Freeman  |  November 19, 2013

"It's flan," was the first thought that popped into our heads as soon as the server at Mercat a la Planxa placed this glistening dessert in front of us. The server just as quickly read our mind and said, “This is not flan.” We were skeptical about his claim. The gelatinous Spanish dessert with a caramel top that jiggles when you poke it sure looked a lot like flan. However, this custard-based sweet by the name of Tocinillo de Cielo is not flan - it is its far superior cousin.

Translated to “heavenly custard,” the dessert is a sweeter and lighter version of flan, native to the Andalusia region of Spain. The dish first made an appearance at Mercat during the Spain in Seven Plates dinner, representing Jaen, Spain. Now it has a permanent place at the restaurant, served with Castillo de Canena Picual olive oil, grilled apricot and tarragon.

The custard has an irresistibly light texture - it felt guilt-free to eat bite after bite of the airy dessert. The custard gets its richness from egg yolks and sweetness from caramelized sugar, which forms on the bottom of the custard when it cooks and then spreads rich syrup down the sides of the custard once inverted and served. The sweetness of Mercat’s version is contrasted by savory olive oil, while the tarragon brings out the oil's earthiness and pops of apricot remind us that it is still dessert.