What if you could capture the most exquisite early summer day and put it in a jar: the blue sky, the warm sunshine, the scents of grass and flowers awakening, all the pent-up life that’s been waiting for months and months to emerge? Inside every piece of fruit is contained the story of the day it was picked, perfectly ripe and bursting forth with a backstory of all the days it hung on the branch or the vine, the people who tended and picked it, the skies that rained on it and fed it with sunshine. Stephanie McClenny spends her days telling this story, making small-batch artisanal jam that tastes like heaven. We visit her and her business partner/husband Houston McClenny at the jam factory to talk about what keeps their culinary inspiration alive, the pleasures of blowing the budget on high quality ingredients, and the invite list for their dream dinner party. Keep reading for a recipe inspired by Confituras orange vanilla bean marmalade.
What inspires you?
Stephanie: I work alongside some wonderful chefs in my shared commercial kitchen-they inspire me every day to try new things and be my best. I am also truly inspired by my customers-I am lucky enough to get honest and direct feedback every week at the farmers’ market.
Tell us about your dream dinner party–you can invite six guests (real, imaginary, living, or dead) to dinner-what, who, & where?
Stephanie & Houston: Both of Houston’s grandfathers (whom I never got to meet), Julia Child (for obvious culinary reasons, but she also seems like she was such a riot), Mickey Mantle (we are huge baseball fans), our buddy Dave who we lost way too soon (also a huge baseball fan), and his wife who has the best laugh. We would definitely have it at our house. Smoked meats would allow for plenty of time to cook together, hang out, have a drink, and relax over a great meal.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Stephanie & Houston: lots of half-filled jars of tester jams, Mill-King table cream (our favorite), dry French rose, Real Ale coffee porter, plus other assorted craft ales, and leftover sriracha chicken wings Houston made for a Super Bowl party.
What flavors inspire taste memories for you?
Stephanie: anything made with Lawry’s taco seasoning or Lipton onion soup mix–these spice envelopes were added to everything when I was a kid! I still love the combination of spices in them, I just use my own fresh spices to recreate the taste without the preservatives or extra sodium.
What’s your favorite ingredient?
Stephanie: Whatever is the freshest and best quality I can afford. I don’t have a collection of expensive shoes, so I am able to spend a few extra dollars on what we eat and drink. It’s all about choices.
Inspired by the exquisite seasonal jams cooked up and captured in jars by Confituras, I created this buttery, tender tart that combines bright winter citrus with the deep, nutty flavors of toasted almonds and vanilla bean.
Combine butter with flour, sugar, orange zest and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and attach to mixer. Using paddle attachment, mix until very crumbly. Add orange juice a little at a time until the dough comes together. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. NOTE: I found this dough really difficult to work with–when you get ready to roll it out, it is super crumbly and I found that I had to patch it together repeatedly. Even so, I am so enamored with the finished product, that I would not recommend substituting another recipe. Just hang in there & be patient!
While dough is chilling, make almond cream:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, powdered sugar, almond extract, zest and salt until light and fluffy. Add beaten egg slowly, and mix until incorporated. Add flour and mix until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the toasted, chopped almonds. (The pastry cream might look a little curdled until you add the almonds. At that point, the cream base will smooth out, but it will look like chunky peanut butter with the almonds added.)
Preheat oven to 350.
Remove tart dough from refrigerator and place on a well-floured sheet of baking parchment. Roll out to 1/4″ thick (patching as you go, and remembering to stay calm). Using a sharp knife, cut a rectangle 12″ x 16″. Transfer rectangle on parchment to a cookie sheet. Spread marmalade over dough, leaving a 1″ border all the way around. Spread almond cream as evenly as you can over the marmalade (it helps to dollop it out evenly before trying to spread). Fold edges of dough in to create a crust. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare the citrus for topping:
Cut both ends off of each piece of citrus, creating a flat surface. Place fruit on one of the flat ends, and following the curve of the fruit, cut off all of the rind and pith. Then slice into rounds, 1/4″ thick each. Remove seeds as necessary. Remove tart from refrigerator and lay citrus slices evenly over the surface. Place them close together, but not overlapping. Brush the edges of the tart with the beaten egg, and dust the whole thing with sugar, going heavier on the dough edges than the fruit. Place a dot of butter on each slice of citrus to prevent burning. Bake tart for 40-45 minutes, or until both the almond cream and crust are a deep golden brown. Cool on rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or creme fraiche.