caramelized brown sugar oranges with yogurt

Just in case there was anyone still out there mistaking me for some sort of domestic diva, or even a moderately skilled at being domestic, you should know that it has taken until the spring of the year 2016, nearly a full decade after starting a food website where I’ve had the brass to coax others along in the kitchen as if I had some sort of innate greater understanding of it, for me to learn how to use my broiler. Prior to consulting experts reading my oven’s manual um, Googling it a few months ago, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why other people managed to broil things whenever they needed for as long as they needed but mine shut off after 4 minutes. It turns out that cracking open the oven door keeps the temperature from getting so high in the oven that it goes into a panic a shuts off, freeing me fulfill my lifelong fantasy of setting all my food on fire.

the last of the oranges my kind of flowersskinned slices

I’m only a little bit joking. Last summer, trying to return to a level of normalcy in the weeks after bringing the sweetest potato home from the hospital, Alex and I spent a week Netflix binging on the first season of Chef’s Table and I fell head over heels for cooking I will probably never experience in my life, that from Francis Mallmann. Mallmann is an Argentine chef whose specialty is wild, open-fire cooking — everything over wood fire, usually in an open pit, on cast iron planchas and parrillas, and sometimes in the ashes too. And his food looks out of this world — even something as simple as a cheese toast made with a log of goat cheese you can get at your local Stop & Shop is transformed in a griddle over open flames into a crisp, golden-brown crusted melt that I would climb through a television screen to get at. The episode ended and I declared it time to get a fire pit. My husband cited fire codes and other pesky side effects of living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I sulked.

dabbed with brown sugar broiledready to chill from the fridge

But now that I have a functioning broiler — or, to be clear, now I am functioning at using my broiler — and at least the tiniest portion of this desire to cook and eat artfully charred food is sated. I am also now able, at last, to return to some of the simplest delights of high-heat cooking, in this case, broiled citrus. We’re at the tail end of peak citrus right now as (hopefully) we’re going to be reacquainted with fresh, local spring produce soon, and I wanted to have one last hurrah with the Moros, the Cara Caras and Minneolas before they’re gone. Broiling them with a thin schmear of light brown sugar transforms them into something even more special, a fleck of burnt sugar bitterness with the tang of pineapple in the running juices. Chilling them when you’re done creates a distant relative of a compote that you can use for anything you please over the next week — on pancakes, with yogurt and mint for a luxe breakfast or light dessert, or even with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an unexpected treat, and I didn’t have to break any laws to pull it off.

finished with mint
caramelized oranges with yogurt and mint

One year ago: Wild Mushroom Pâté
Two years ago: Three-Bean Chili
Three years ago: Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini
Four years ago: Raspberry Coconut Macaroons
Five years ago: Spaetzle
Six years ago: Romesco Potatoes
Seven years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis
Eight years ago: Swiss Easter Rice Tart
Nine years ago: Rich Buttermilk Waffles

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Broccoli Cheddar Soup
1.5 Years Ago: Latke Waffles
2.5 Years Ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
3.5 Years Ago: Crackly Banana Bread
4.5 Years Ago: Apple and Honey Challah

Burnt Sugar Oranges with Yogurt and Mint
Inspired by this combination from Nigella

Let this be my contribution to the “no recipes” movement, because you are not going to need one here. What you need is some brown sugar, a few oranges, even imperfect ones, some yogurt and a few leaves of mint. You do not need measuring spoons. You will be most successful if you keep an eye on it, as broilers will vary in how fast they get things done. But, here’s roughly how to do it:

A few oranges, even imperfect ones
Nonstick cooking spray
A little light brown sugar
Plain Greek yogurt
A few leaves of mint, sliced thin

Heat your broiler.

Cut tops and bottoms off oranges, exposing the flesh inside and creating a flat edge that you can stand it up on. Then slice off all the white from each orange. Cut skinned oranges into 1/2-inch crosswise slices, so that each resemble a wheel or flower.

Line a heavy baking sheet with foil and lightly coat it with oil or a nonstick spray. Arrange orange slices in one layer on it. Dab or schmear each with a little bit of brown sugar — I used about 1/4 teaspoon on each. Run under the broiler until they begin to brown on top; this can take anywhere from 5 minutes in a very good broiler to 10 to 15 in my sleepy one. Keep an eye on it.

Transfer oranges and any juices on tray to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight. More juices will have puddled by the morning. Place a few orange slices in a small glass or cup, top with yogurt, a spoonful of juices and mint.

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81 comments on caramelized brown sugar oranges with yogurt

  1. I’ve recently discovered the magic of adding caramelized citrus (mostly grapefruit, but have used oranges a few times) to kale salads. Amazing. I love the idea of topping it with yogurt.

  2. It’s like the Sam Sifton “narrative no-recipe recipe.” Honestly, last time I posted, I did the same thing. I feel like a good 1/3 of my dishes are exactly that. But I didn’t realize it was a movement. Am I part of the movement if I didn’t know I was doing it?

    Hope your little bean is feeling better. Four visits! Poor little one.

  3. The first time I tried the ‘keeping the oven door cracked’ trick, per my mother’s infinite wisdom, my husband threw a fit and told me I was going to burn the whole building down! Luckily, he was wrong and our dinner was delicious. This looks incredible as always and your sweet potato is simply the cutest!

  4. deb

    AP — Great point! I have a recipe for those too, well, with chocolate. Because chocolate:

    Molly — I noticed that Bon Appetit is doing a no recipes column at least online, and was thinking of Food52s new app. I like the idea of “no recipes” a lot for when you need easy cooking inspiration — maybe something you hadn’t had in a while or a clever way to combine things you hadn’t considered. It can be so helpful just to see what other people are making for dinner. It makes a lot more sense than a recipe for 1 (8-ounce) potato, leaving you fumbling because yours was 12 ounces, or for levels of ingredients in a mixed, flexible salad. Not all cooking is (drumroll) Cooking! of course.

    But when I’m cooking, at least for the most part, I do like a recipe because I’d rather someone take the wheel, so to say, tell me how many carrots and how much ginger makes a perfect salad dressing; I don’t particularly want to play roulette with my limited at-the-counter energy most evenings. And my god, if I am going to get my act together and chop and onion and simmer some broth, I’d like it to have a good chance of tasting exceptional or I’ll be extra grumpy I even bothered. I want it to have extremely good odds of tasting better than anything I could have picked up from takeout or Trader Joes and spent that 45 minutes playing on a carpet with my rugrats. Usually the best odds for this come with finite measurements and clear directions. Or, that should be the promise inherent in any written recipe.

  5. janna

    I am terrified of my broiler. I’ve been terrified of the broiler in every stove I’ve ever used. Maybe I should try to get over that…

    Also – thanks for your commentary in comment 11 about recipes. I, too, like a recipe that someone else has figured out. I’ve always thought that was because I am more of a baker than a cook – you can throw unspecified amounts of meat and veggies together and come up with something resembling dinner, but you can’t throw together flour, eggs, and sugar and come up with dessert.

  6. Jen

    This is fantastic. I bring a little cup of fruit to work every day to eat with my cup of plain yogurt and I’ve been looking for some new ideas to spice it up a little. I have brought chopped up orange or grapefruit (with a little honey or chocolate chips mixed in) but this sounds like a nice adaptation of that. (I’ve also done macerated strawberries, blueberries with lemon curd, cherries with almonds, figs with honey, pineapple with coconut, pear with candied ginger. In case anyone else is looking for ideas. But it’s almost every day so new ideas are always welcome!)

  7. Nancy

    So, I’m going to be the brat that tells you I’ve been to 1884 Francis Mallman in Mendoza! It was amazing, but sometimes the burnt theme went a little too far. Or maybe it was too overwhelming for one meal. In any case, these oranges look beautiful.

  8. Gerley

    Comment 11 nails everything about cooking I keep trying to put in to words and
    this is exactly what I keep telling people who say that “real” cooks need no recipes or measurements since they do it by “feel/eye-measurement”: Yes you can wing it sometimes and yes sometimes throwing something together results in fabulous but your chances are just that much higher with a recipe that has been tested. Also you will never quite repeat “that one dish I made with the leftover onion that one thursday” unless you have just a few dishes like that on rotation and enough practise with them to be consistent.

  9. Baking is chemistry. You’re changing a liquid into a solid, and the proportions have to be right or the result will be wrong. Other cooking is less about measurements, though it can be good to know whether you’re making enough to feed four or eight or 12. Instead, it’s about processes (broiling, roasting, sautéing, braising) and seasonings. I’m fine with no recipe. I don’t usually follow them precisely anyway.
    My husband is one of those cavemen who must eat meat, and eat it cooked (just barely) on a fire. He will grill all year, since it’s the only way to “respect” the meat. But we do other things with fire: veggies, pizza (not easy but good), whole onions thrown unpeeled on the grill to slowly confit inside, and, the most decadent, a whole camembert. You unwrap the cheese and put it back in the little wooden container and set it near the coals. It melts and you scoop it onto baguettes. Amazing.

  10. Anne of Boston

    That same cookbook inspired my dear husband to dig a ~4 ft long fire pit in our back yard, borrow a bunch of grill grates, and cook crazy amounts and types of meat for an Argentine wine tasting a few years back. It was awesome, even if unsafe and possibly illegal in the city of Boston. And all of our clothes smelled like meat and fire for days.

  11. Laura in CA

    Haha, every time a recipe says “broil,” I just stop reading right there and skip it. Somehow I never got around to learning how to use the broiler, and feel irrationally intimidated by it. But I should just face the broiler and give it a go!

  12. Chad

    My dad would have loved this. While I’m happy to live in four season Illinois my youth was in sunny Southern California. My dad had a few stories about the smudge pots they used to burn in the orange groves to protect the crop from frost. That memory will help me enjoy these carmelized oranges even more. Thanks

  13. Margaret

    I have always been a little afraid of the broiler. The fact that I did, in fact, once set some salmon *on fire* inside the broiler did not ease this fear at all. Since I left NYC, however, I have had to settle for electric ranges, and one small benefit is that electric broilers are slightly less intimidating, as actual flame is not involved.

  14. Ann

    These oranges sound wonderful.
    Back in the 1950s my mom always broiled our grapfruit halves with brown sugar..and if luck was on my side, there would be a cherry in the middle too..still like them this way…

  15. This looks amazing, and I’m sure it tastes amazing as well with this wonderful combination of flavours! The sourness of the oranges with some fresh yoghurt…yummy!

  16. I have broiled grapefruit with brown sugar for years and years, but never thought to do the same with oranges! How silly! This is on the to-do list today! : )

  17. ScopeyPDX

    I have valuable broiler-and-oven-door intel!

    I broke my mothers oven. My oven lets you broil with the door closed, which is nice because it contains some splatter and stuff. Your oven shuts off when the door is closed, perhaps to keep itself from destroying all the electronics in its top when it gets too hot. My mother’s old oven, with the door closed like I do it, cooked its brain and had to be replaced at great inconvenience and expense. The guy who installed the new one told me, If the door has that notch where it can be parked just a little bit open, then do that when you use the broiler. If it doesn’t let you stop it there (like mine) then it doesn’t need to be open when you broil.

  18. Maureen

    Back in the 50’s-70’s broiled grapefruit was the “elegant” addition for brunches. Cut them in half, run a knife around the inside edge, cut through each section, sprinkle sugar on the top and broil. Top with a cherry, serve. It is served in it’s natural outer container. In fact there is even a special knife (curved) to use around the edge between the outside pith and grapefruit sections and another tool to remove that interior middle pith section. The knife was great. The other tool – not worth the money, time or effort. Many stainless and flatware patterns offered a special grapefruit teaspoon to eat this fruit with.

  19. Kelly

    My broiler actually tells me to close the door when I use it, although maybe that is because I am often using it for finishing items, like crisping the skin on oven roasted chicken thighs, so the oven is already preheated.

  20. Meredith

    What a beautiful dish! I wonder if a sweet vanilla yogurt, even with a drop of vanilla extract, could create a fresh take on a dreamsicle!

  21. Alex Cook

    I’ve been following your blog for years but this is my first time writing a comment or asking a question. Using your “find” suggestion, I see that you say the juices have a hit of pineapple taste. I have a pineapple, as well as oranges, on hand and was thinking of putting some of each under the broiler. What do you think???

  22. Becca

    I make my six year old son watch the cheesy toast under the broiler and he tells me when the cheese starts to bubble. Perfect chore!

  23. O my goodness, and this is perfect for winter. As we move into winter oranges are coming in season and these looks so lovely. Fresh fruit and yoghurt my favourite “healthy” desserts. I actually think a lovely caramel rum/brandy sauce will do as well.

  24. Karen P.

    Oh! That Sweet, Sweet Patato of yours!
    She is beautiful, & even when she doesn’t
    feel well?!? I love her red hair! Wherever
    did that come from?

  25. Anne Talley

    1980: My first apartment was a studio with a tiny, three burner gas stove with enough chrome to clad an Edsel. I had been raised on electric stoves, so I thought the drawer at the bottom of my wee gas stove was for storage, so that’s where I put my cookie sheets and metal pie pans. The first time I actually lit (yes, lit, with a very long match) the oven I was soon treated to the smell of scorching cookie sheets in what was the broiler, not a storage drawer…

  26. Katie VK

    Often, when I read your posts, I feel as though a “huzzah!” would be an appropriate ending. The elation of enjoying your successful solution to a problem or overcoming great odds to create a beautiful dish (see: broiler battle 2016) warrants such a response. So picture me with a glass raised to toast you: Huzzah!

  27. Swoon. I made this today with creme fraiche instead of yogurt because I had leftovers from your chicken salad toasts. OH MY, so amazing. The creamy creme fraiche is perfect with the caramelized citrus. My weekend eating has been about 60% smitten kitchen and i’m perfectly fine with that.

    Also, I know how to use my broiler and I cause fires in it all the time. #kitchenproblems

  28. Alicia

    I made these in a pie plate in my toaster oven on “broil” tonight, it worked beautifully. I have no restraint and served them with vanilla ice cream and chopped candied ginger, and I would do the same again.

  29. karen

    HELLO WHERE HAVE I BEEN?!! you had another baby???? i ditched my laptop for an iphone 3 years ago and stopped checking all of my blogs regularly. i still see you on FB but hadn’t realized you had a kid. SHE’S SO FRIGGIN CUTE OMG HOW IS SHE SO PERFECT?!!? also how is she a redhead (obvi i didn’t pay attention in biology lol)

    anyway this is so perfect and beautiful. im feeling very nostalgic seeing your blog. I remember first stumbling on it when i had too many grapefruits and not enough recipes lol. I made a grapefruit poundcake that i found on your blog and was smitten ever since (har har) I can’t believe that was so long ago! must have been ’07/’08? anyway im back on my laptop and will go back to stalking your recipes.

  30. Carrie

    I never would have thought of this! Wonderful and simple. I took comment #1’s advice and added them to a salad! wow.

  31. deb

    Nancy — No way. I am jealous but also it’s good to know that I shouldn’t necessarily get on a plane just to go there. I’ll just have to settle for a fire pit. You know, on my street-facing terrace in a densely populated neighborhood, no way this could go badly.

    karen, Karen P. — Thank you. TBH, we have no idea how she has red hair either. I both enjoy the mystery of it and the confused questions we get and am also hoping some volunteer geneticist will explain it to us. (We do technically have redheads on both sides of our families, so I guess that’s all it takes, or I’ve read that at least.)

    Maureen — I have one of those knives. Grew up eating my grapefruits halves with the segments loosened first with the knife — never got the same results from the spoon. We never broiled them though. I’m going to ask my mom why now. :)

    Alex — Go for it. And yes, it was so strange, but I tested broiling them with both coarse brown (turbinado) sugar and regular light brown sugar and the latter tasted like pineapples. I think broiled pineapples would be amazing.

    Kylee — I love that book so much that I actually blurbed the US edition. :) (And it’s so cute too.)

    Taste of France — I think your husband would enjoy the sign my friend saw at a Texas steakhouse where it said that rare = “A skilled vet could still save the animal.”

  32. cR

    Never thought of you as a domestic diva. You are a talented photographic eye – a talented eye in general, a persnickety/fussy, opinionated and greedy (in the Nigella Lawson usage of the word) eater, a deft wordsmith who created the charming illusion of a BFF relationship between yourself and your adoring readers. Add it all up and you got a impressively successful food blog. Oh I forgot – super smart. For all the self-deprecating jabs you take at silly old Deb, SUPER smart. And my guess is that the hubs (worst sobriquet EVER) Alex is, too.

  33. Tawni

    Lately I’ve been eating oranges and grapefruit with the Fage blood orange yogurt and it is delicious. I will have to broil the fruit next time!

  34. Gail

    I just figured this out too – about the broiler, and leaving the door open a crack. I too immediately passed by recipes that depended on it, and always skipped that last step involving, run it under a broiler to brown the top… THank you for this great idea!

  35. jamie

    Any way to do this without a broiler that you’d recommend? I live in a tiny apartment with a very basic oven, but I’d love to make this for dessert when my future mother-in-law comes over this weekend! I think it’d pair perfectly with the risotto milanese I’m making.

  36. Tiernan

    So I have no doubt these would be delicious in a bourbon old fashioned… the question is whether you think the whole would be better than the sum of its parts…

  37. Herald

    I was directed to this spell caster by a co-worker of mine because i was looking for help on how to get my boyfriend back. I felt all was lost, but the Doctor stepped in after I contacted him. He saw the problem and told me that it will be very easy for him to solve, compare to the ones that he has done for others. After much conversation, he proceeded and then he cast the spell for me, and told me that my boyfriend will come back within 3 days, and so surprisingly, the girl that i have not seen for the past three months, called me to tell me that she was coming back to my house. She really came back back on Sunday morning and that was my birthday, and apologized for everything that happened,and that was how my ex girlfriend suddenly came back to me and told me that she is very sorry for every thing that she has done.
    You can contact him anytime that you have a problem like this, or anything related to spell casting, and i am sure that he will help you out.


  38. Andy

    When the blackberries are ripe I like to take one of those French onion soup bowls (with the handle) and put some plain greek yogurt in the bottom, then stud it with berries and sprinkle a little brown sugar on top. Broil until the sugar is just bubbly, then eat it. There will be warm brown sugar mixed with tart berries and little areas of still chilled yogurt. The textures/flavors/temperatures all meld into something amazing.

  39. Cathy

    I have a recollection from when I was I kid that my Uncle David, when he was visiting, would broil halved grapefruits with brown sugar and rum on them for breakfast. He claims not to remember the rum. Hmmmm…..

  40. This look so awesomely yummy! I eat Paleo so I think I will make a few modifications. I would switch the yogurt for coconut cream and the brown sugar to coconut sugar/coconut nectar. I can’t wait to make this!

  41. lp

    There’s a restaurant in Manhattan, the name escapes me, that used to serve bruleed grapefruit halves at brunch and I was in love with it.

  42. A beautiful looking and wonderfully simple sweet thing. I added sweet and salty lavender and finely chopped walnuts that I had hanging around my pantry leftover from sweet and salty lavender marcona almonds and a batch of thumbprint cookies. I liked what those two additions contributed to an already winning combination. Thank you!

  43. Natasha Briar

    This is incredible!! I would never have thought to broil fresh citrus but the flavor is phenomenal. I used both orange and grapefruit, with a splash of grenadine added after cooking to counter the bitter of grapefruit

  44. Helen

    How long will these keep in the fridge? I’m thinking of making them for Christmas breakfast, but if I could make them today or even tomorrow, that would make everything a little easier.

  45. MollyBDenum

    There is something to be said for that first taste of a ripe summer peach, or a warm apple pie in the fall, but THIS recipe makes me yearn for local fresh citrus like nothing else — the navels, the bloods and even sometimes a grapefruit (although I still prefer the sweeter fruits).

    I found that spraying the nonstick spray on the baking sheet itself (vs the foil) really eases clean up — no finicky teeny tiny pieces of foil stuck here and there. This is also a wonderful way to justify crumbling the soft granola bars from my local bakery into the mix with the plain yogurt. Swoon!

  46. Hi Deb:

    I will be substituting this for fruit salad and sikarni (an amazing but simple Nepali yogurt dessert) for a Nepali meal I am making this week. We are still end of winter here in Montana and citrus is such a blessing.

  47. jessica

    i’m totally saving this for december bc YUM, but also! since i know you love grapefruit, you should totally try this with grapefruit bc broiled grapefruit is amazing, even without the sugar. you can do slices obvs, but you can also just broil the grapefruit half & eat it the same way you’d do raw. delish!

  48. Bridgit

    What about eating them right away? Is this a “better when cold“ situation, or would the temperature contrast add to the interest of the dish?