For this menu, start with dessert

For this menu, start with dessert
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By David Tanis, The New York Times

Dessert may cap a meal, but there’s wisdom in putting it first and foremost, particularly when preparing a large dinner. In fact, cooking dessert before anything else is often a wise strategy. The job is then out of the way, so you can concentrate on the savory dishes. And if you can make the dessert a full day ahead, so much the better.

Enter flan, which is best made a day or two in advance of serving, its flavors improving with time. While flan is often flavored with orange, this version incorporates that jewel of winter, tangerine, and is somewhat brighter in flavor.

A flan can be made in individual ramekins or in a single large mold. Either way, it’s a bit of a fiddly process. You need to make a caramel first to cover the bottom of the mold. For the best presentation — and flavor — be sure to let the caramel go quite dark, without burning. Once the eggy custard is prepared and poured into the mold, the whole affair is baked in a water bath and refrigerated.

Then it’s on to other, more savory bits that employ the best of this cool season’s produce: a stellar salad with curly endive, and pork chops with new-crop dates.

A salad is a fine way to begin a meal, no matter the time of year. Sturdy chicories are the salad greens of choice right now — not at all like tender lettuces, but wonderfully fresh tasting. For this menu, curly endive, also known as frisée, fits the bill nicely, alone or in combination with its colorful cousins, Belgian endive, Chioggia, Treviso or speckled Castelfranco radicchio.

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