Happy 2010 and Merci Beaucoup, Chris!
Throughout the South of France, one finds bundles of chewy sugary orange peel. I could never resist. They are absolutely a labour of love, and worth every tender moment spent hovering over them. When Chris pulled up a photograph of these a couple of days before Christmas, I found myself standing on the corner of a side street very near the central of Aix en Provence on a fresh spring afternoon. A barrel of fragrant chewy citrus Orangettes tied in fine brown twine stopped me in my tracks. I am compelled to pick one up and breath in its irresistible essence. But that would be so wrong. I enter the narrow shop and buy some. The small translucent parchment bag they were stuffed into is perfect. Reaching in, I root around untying the twine to wiggle one free….
“Valerie…”, he patiently waits. I am sitting on a cold chair in the drafty Enterprise Center on a blustery -30ÂºC December day in downtown Edmonton. Chris has developed my website and has double duty with keeping me focused. “All right, but I am making Orangettes tonight!”
And, look at how gorgeous they are! The flavour bursting with the distillation of bright orange citrus oil is indescribable. Truly a “sunkist” moment (though I used organic Cara Cara oranges), and a welcome ray of sunshine through this particularly cold month. These sparkly citrus pinkles glistening on this plate are the quintessential crowd-pleaser after a luxurious meal. Perfect for my Christmas Dinner.
Food brings people together. It just does. I met Chris earlier this fall when I was searching for someone to build a website for me. What a wonderful discovery. He is intelligent, patient, kind, and a consummate learner. It was hard for me to stay on topic during our website development meetings. Did I say that already? I just wanted to learn from him. Oh, about the website, too!
He sent me his recipe the next day. I had stopped on the way home and chose the organic Cara Cara oranges so that I could use the flesh in a salad and have a healthy zest to prepare. That didn’t happen. The flesh was just too delicious. Lauren, Vanja and I worked together late that evening preparing the peels, juices running down our chins as we stuffed the fruit into our mouths. “Once you try a Cara Cara, you will never go back.” the clerk had said. She is right. Outrageously delicious!
I learned from Chris that the peels needed to be brought to a boil three times to rid themselves of their gasses and toxins. Then, swim in a sugar bath until almost all of the sugar is absorbed. This was a tricky part for me this time as the instructions were different than what I have made in the past. So, I failed, and then succeeded: it seems to be the way I learn.
I used only three oranges as that made a generous plating for dinner service. The recipe called for the peels to dry several hours, or overnight, before sugaring them. I dried them for one hour at 170ÂºF in my convection oven, and they were perfect: pliable, dry to the touch, yet received the sugar coating.
And then, of course I had to dip some of them in the dark earthy sumptuous 64% Valrhona Manjari chocolate I had in my pantry just waiting for such an opportunity. They were just too lovely to completely enrobe in the chocolate, and I did not dip them all. Oh, no. The pairing of the lively bright citrus with the dark brooding chocolate was trÃ¨s magnifique! But, but, but, but… there is something so simple and perfect about a sliver of orange peel blushed with a dusting of sugar. Half had to remain au naturale. Had to.
- organic orange peel, washed, pith removed, sliced in strips
- enough water to cover the peels
- sugar weight of the water and peels, combined
- sanding sugar, for dusting
- Cover the peel in cold water in a heavy sauce pan; bring to a boil, and strain
- Do this three times; the first time takes 6 to 8 minutes, and the last two about 3 to 4 minutes each
- Weigh the peel
- Weigh the same amount of sugar
- Cover the peel in water, and measure the water; add the same amount of sugar to the weighed sugar
- Cover the peel in water again, add the sugar, and bring to a low boil; simmer, stirring constantly, until half of the water has evaporated being careful to keep the temperature low enough to not colour the sugar bath
- When the sugar water has thickened and the liquid has reduced to about half, strain the peels, carefully separate them and lay them on parchment paper, or a silpat to dry for several hours, or overnight (If you have a convection oven, dry them for one hour at 170ÂºC)
- Toss them in the sanding sugar, and enjoy!
- These are best kept in a tight container to maintain their pliability, if not eating them right away
Orangettes au Chocolate: Recipe
- 100-200g of chocolate for dipping
- It is best to use chocolate that you do not have to temper for this recipe and heat it 40 to 49ÂºC to melt
- Dip the Orangettes totally, or partially in the melted chocolate and place on a parchment paper to dry (This is best if you can prop each on its side to avoid markings on the chocolate and pooling of the chocolate on the confection)
- Dip only as many as you will eat right away as they tend to bloom a day or two after dipping (This is because the moisture in the peel dissolves the sugar coating the Orangettes and causes the sugar to dissolve out of the chocolate. Sugar Bloom has a gritty texture and a grey, dusty look.)
What a great way to christen my website. A heart felt tribute to Chris through a shared recipe that graced my family table at the end of the meal this holiday season. Merci, Beaucoup, Chris, a thousand times a thousand.
Make sure you only dip as many as you need, because they bloom within two to three days.