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.
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.
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.
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.