Having company for dinner on Saturday night gave me the perfect excuse to fuss. Except I didn’t. Let me explain: I love the planning and execution of making a great meal in equal measure. I love straightforward, honest recipes that make the most of simple ingredients. To me, the perfect meal, either a weeknight dinner for Rob and me or a weekend party for another couple, involves thoughtful planning and simple execution — in other words, fussing (as in, taking care and being thoughtful) but not fussing (as in, worrying or fretting).
Our Saturday menu plan was fresh and seasonal:
- a salad of local arugula topped with panko-breaded goat cheese, and a light lemon vinaigrette
- pork roast stuffed with Swiss chard and dried cranberries, from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
- perfect butter-and-bay roasted potatoes (about which I’ll post soon)
- and a stunning orange-almond tart, also from Dorie’s book, which I’ll share with you here
This orange-almond tart recipe is not at all difficult, particularly if you follow Greenspan’s directions for making a press-in crust as I did (no need for rolling). And you can make the tart in phases up to 3 days ahead of time, so it’s a great “company” dessert. I prepared the almond cream and the tart dough 2 days ahead, par-baked the crust the day before and then assembled and baked the tart the day I served it (it’s best served the day you bake it). Best of all: It yields a gorgeous result—deep brown crust, flavorful almond cream and beautifully arranged orange segments. You’ll be proud to bring this to the table.
(adapted from “Around My French Table”)
1 recipe sweet tart dough
4 navel oranges, peel and pith removed and carefully cut into segments (see a how-to video on making perfect orange segments)
6 Tbsp. sweet butter at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (I used what was labeled “almond meal” from my local market)
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 large egg
2 tsp. dark rum or 1 tsp. top-quality vanilla extract
First, prepare the tart dough per the recipe I’ve linked to above. Butter a 9-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom), and gently but firmly press the crumbly dough into the pan. Follow Dorie’s instructions for pre-baking the tart shell—this makes for a flavorful, flaky crust that’s almost like a good shortbread cookie. You can prepare the shell a day ahead of assembling and baking the tart.
Up to 3 days before baking the tart, prepare the almond cream. In a food processor, whirl together the butter and sugar until they’re well-combined and smooth. Add the almond flour; process to blend. Add the flour and cornstarch, process, then add the egg. Process briefly until the mixture is smooth and well-combined. Add the rum or vanilla and pulse just to combine. Scrape the almond cream into a container and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
The night before you plan to serve the tart, prepare the orange segments. Use a chef’s knife to pare away the peel and all the white pith. Slide the knife blade along the thin membranes separating each segment, and release the segments into a bowl. Arrange the orange segments on a baking sheet between several layers of paper towel and let them dry out for at least an hour or, even better, overnight. (You can refrigerate or leave them on the counter.) Drying the oranges makes for a prettier presentation and keeps the tart from getting soggy.
To assemble the tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or piece of parchment. Spoon the almond cream into the prepared tart shell and smooth the surface. Arrange the orange segments in a circular pattern on top of the cream, leaving a tiny bit of space between the segments to allow the cream to bubble up and turn golden brown.
Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is a rich brown color, the almond cream is shiny and golden, and a cake tester inserted in the cream comes out clean. Remove the tart to a cooling rack and let it cool a bit before lifting it out of the pan (remember that removable-bottom tart pan?). If you’d like, dust the tart with a sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving.