Active ingredient: Pumpkin
Yukihiro Kawaguchi ("Guchi") of Guchi's Midnight Ramen
Yields just over 1 quart (16 portions in 3-inch ramekins)
Preheat oven to 340 degrees. In a small pot, heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water on medium heat, whisking to dissolve. (Don't agitate once the sugar begins to caramelize.) Slowly heat on medium-low until it becomes amber in color. Carefully remove the pot from the heat and pour the caramel into the ramekins to coat the bottom. Gently swirl the ramekins to evenly coat the bottoms. Refrigerate so the caramel can harden; set aside.
Cut 1 kabocha in half. Scoop out seeds and cut off the rind; then slice to about ½ inch thick and 2 inches long; place slices in a bowl and cover with plastic. Heat in the microwave for 4–5 minutes until the kabocha is fork tender. Set aside. In a small pot, heat 1/3 cup sugar and 4/5 cup milk to dissolve; do not boil. Blend milk mixture, kabocha, 1/8 tsp. vanilla, and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat 2 large eggs and 1/3 cup heavy cream until homogenous; then whisk together with the kabocha mixture. Strain. Fill ramekins with this mixture until ¾ full. Place ramekins in a large baking dish; fill baking dish halfway with water so ramekins are in a water bath. Bake in the middle rack for approximately 40 minutes. The kabocha is done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean; if you give the tray a gentle shake, you will see the kabocha mixture is no longer liquid. Carefully remove the tray and all the ramekins; refrigerate the ramekins so they chill thoroughly. Invert and serve the kabocha flan at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy with whipped cream, grated nutmeg, or a sprinkling of cinnamon.