Mid-Winter Dinner Benefit From Early Preparation

Desserts can limit a meal, but you should put it first and foremost, especially when preparing a large dinner. In fact, cooking dessert before anything else is usually a wise strategy. Then the work is relieved so you can focus on the savory dishes. And if you can make dessert all day in advance, all the better.

Enter flan, best made a day or two in advance to serve, its taste will improve over time. While the flan is typically orange, this version incorporates the jewel of winter, mandarin, and is somewhat brighter in flavor.

The flan can be made in individual ramekins or in a large pan. Either way, it’s a somewhat confusing process. You need to caramelize first to coat the bottom of the mold. For best presentation and flavor – remember to let the caramel turn dark, not burnt. After the rich custard is prepared and poured into the molds, the whole mixture is baked in a water bath and refrigerated.

Then it came other, more savory dishes using the best of this cool season: star salad with curly offal and pork chops with fresh-crop dates.

Salads are a good way to start a meal, no matter what time of year. Fries are definitely the greens salad of choice right now – not like soft pastry at all, but wonderfully fresh. For this menu, curly salmon, also known as frisée, fits the bill nicely, alone or in combination with its colorful cousins, Belgian salmon, Chioggia, Treviso or Castelfranco radicchio speckled.

All chicories have a mild, pleasant bitterness that goes well with an assertive sauce – in this case, a mustard dressing. Shredded Eggs and Gruyère add extra interest (and a bit of protein). In fact, a large portion of this salad is great, served as a snack.

Pan-fried pork chops in the middle can be a hearty addition to a main course – and what draws me to them is their ease of cooking. But to make sure they stay juicy and succulent, you should use a simple brine. Mix this up – it’s just an aqueous solution of salt, sugar, and aromatics – and let soak the ribs briefly or overnight. Even soaking in brine for a few hours will achieve soft and delicious results.

For an easy effect, mix soft dates with butter and sage leaves in a spoon over the finished chops, this gives them a savory, sweet flavor. (If you can’t find dates, prunes with holes are a good substitute.) Beets work well as an accompaniment, but so are sweet potatoes or baked squash. The brown butter and date treatments go well with them, too.

Many elements of this meal can be prepared the day before, so getting it right is important. But in return for your foresight, you will reap attractive rewards, and your teammates will applaud.

Dates and radishes will add a sweet touch to this dish, so I’m thinking both white and red won’t clash or look too austere. Among the reds, look for wines that are dry, fresh and fruity, but not overpowering – some new wave garnacha or bobal wines from Spain, maybe the term zinfandel Made from California or good Côtes-du-Rhônes from France. Other possible choices include red from Languedoc, Bairradas from Portugal, Rosso di Montalcinos from Italy and blaufränkisches from Austria. For whites, I prefer chenin blancs from the Loire Valley or South Africa, which can be dry but appear sweet, or can be a moderately sweet riesling, like kabinett or spätlese from Germany. ERIC ASIMOV

Cooking recipe: Curly Endive Salad with Mustard Sauce, Egg and Gruyère | Pan-fried pork with sage, date and radish | Flan Mid-Winter Dinner Benefit From Early Preparation

Fry Electronics Team

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