Tangerine Sorbet with Candied Peels–Valentines Day 2016 (part 2)

When I was planning my Valentine’s Day menu, dessert was not on my radar. I knew the dumplings were going to take up most of my time and I didn’t want to stress myself out by planning elaborate dessert. I was just going to do something simple like fresh berries with a little Grand Marnier (one of my parents’ go-to desserts). But a recipe for tangerine sorbet by David Lebovitz came into my inbox the Friday before Valentine’s Day and I thought, “This looks easy enough, tangerines are in season, it’ll go nicely with my menu, and I’m working from home today. I have time to do this.” So I took a mid-morning break from work and walked to my local produce market to pick up some minneola tangelos (though any tangerine or mandarin orange varietal would have worked, too).

IMG_2531

This recipe does require planning ahead (which for once I successfully did!). You have to juice the fruit, add sugar, some zest, and a little Grand Marnier, and let it chill overnight. Since I was working from home and didn’t have to take my 45 minute commute home, I was able to start on this right at 5 pm, perfect for stress-free prep, i.e. I am not juicing fruit at 9:30 at night. I busted out the juicer and juiced about 8 tangelos, enough to get 4 cups. The juicer is a pain to clean, so if you have a large citrus squeezer or a hand juicer, I recommend going that route. I have neither, so the juicer it was. I ended up with a little more than 4 cups of juice so I used the extra to make screwdrivers for happy hour. Another plus for starting this project at 5 pm.

The next day I took the juice from the fridge and put it in the freezer. Taking instructions from Lebovitz on how to make ice cream without a machine, I took the juice out of the freezer every half hour, for a couple of hours, and blended it with my stick blender (you can also mix with a hand mixer or with a spatula by hand). This allows for a smooth, consistent texture as it slowly freezes. Otherwise you’ll just have a big bowl of popsicle. While it would still be delicious, it would prove a bit difficult to eat.

Lebovitz also candied the peels of the fruit to serve alongside the sorbet. I thought that was a great way to minimize food waste, and decided to do the same. So I peeled the tangelos before juicing to candy later. However, Lebovitz’s recipe for candied orange peels is not available online, so I had to do some research for a recipe. To candy a citrus peel, you basically boil it in sugar water. But I found many methods to do this, with a variety of sugar to water ratios, boiling times, etc. Considering my history of candying fruit and trouble with boiling liquids with a high sugar content, I wanted to be careful about what recipe I chose. I didn’t want to make a sauce-pan full of hard candy.

What most recipes agreed on was cutting the peels of whatever citrus fruit you’re using (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or a mix) into 1/4 inch strips.

IMG_2540

But that is where the recipes diverge. Some recipes blanch the peels a number of times to remove the bitterness, like Jacques Pepin does in his recipe (this video of his is also helpful). Others boil the strips once for 10-15 minutes, like Martha Stewart. I decided to go the multiple blanch route because that’s what I saw people do more often. After blanching, you boil the peels in sugar water for about 8-10 minutes, until they are translucent. Martha Stewart uses a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar. But Jacques Pepin uses a 2:1 ratio. I randomly decided that Jacques has more authority in this matter and went with the 2:1 ratio. I was also afraid of the 1:1 sugar to water ratio, reasons of which I stated previously.

IMG_2542

peels after their sugar-water boil

After the peels have been boiled, you toss them in sugar to coat. Martha’s recipe recommends letting them dry out for about an hour before coating. Jacques doesn’t. I went with Jacques’ method again, but found that the sugar clumped together more than I would have liked. Even after being left to dry for an hour, they were still pretty wet. Martha may have been on to something with her drying instructions.

IMG_2545

Although the peels turned out very tasty, I was not 100% satisfied with how these came out, and I am going to keep playing around with the recipe. I think a lot of the trouble has to do with how much peel you have and knowing how to scale the sugar to water ratio accordingly. Because you’re not always going to have 8 oranges worth of peel. Clearly, I do not have my magic method for candied orange peels yet, but my adapted recipe for this particular batch of peels is below.

I leave you with the final outcome of the sorbet, garnished and everything. Another good way to server it would be to chop the candied peel and sprinkle it on top so that you can have little bits of candied peel in each bite.

IMG_2568

Recipes

Candied Orange Peels (adapted from Jacques Pepin)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups orange peels (or any mix of citrus peels), cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar (plus 1/3 cup for coating)

METHOD

  1. Peel the zest of oranges, leaving off as much of the white pith as possible. Julienne the peels into 1/4 inch strips.
  2. In a saucepan, cover the strips in water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 seconds. Drain peels in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Repeat one more time.
  3. Return the peels to the saucepan with 1 cup sugar and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the mixture starts to thicken and the peels turn translucent, about 8-10 minutes, though it took a little longer for me, probably becuase I simmered rather than boiled. I was scared of making hard candy. (This is the step where I need to make the most adjustments, perhaps in sugar to water ratio or cooking temperature.)
  4. Strain the peels, saving the syrup for another use (like cocktails or to sweeten tea).
  5. Spread 1/3 cup of sugar on a tray or medium sized bowl. Add the peels and toss, separating the pieces so that each strip is coated with sugar. Transfer the strips to a cooling rack and let stand for at least an hour, until dry. (Again, my peels didn’t really dry, so I will try letting them dry a bit before tossing in sugar.)
  6. Store in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. You can refrigerate or let it stand at room temperature.

Pork Soup Dumplings–Valentine’s Day 2016 (part 1)

Valentine’s Day is just another day for the Kims. We don’t buy each other gifts or go out to a nice restaurant, but it does provide a reason to get flowers for our table and make an elaborate meal at home, not that you ever need a reason to do either. This year’s V-day menu was pork soup dumplings (all from scratch), green beans, and homemade tangerine sorbet with candied tangerine peels, with French 75 cocktails to enjoy throughout.

I spotted this recipe for pork soup dumplings in an issue of Bon Appetit about a year ago and saved it as a “someday” cooking project. Then sometime in the new year it popped up again in BA’s daily email, and with my mild success at making pork buns, I thought I would try it for Valentine’s Day. It was also an excuse to buy Asian soup spoons, which I was thrilled about!

There are three components to soup dumplings: soup, filling, and dough. The soup is made with pork skin, pork bones, and a pig’s foot (as well as some ginger, scallions, and Shaoxing wine). The skin contains so much collagen that when you chill the finished stock, it turns into a Jell-o like consistency, or meat Jell-o, if you will. Then you cut the jelled soup into small cubes and add it to the pork filling. As you steam the filled dumplings, the jelled soup melts and that’s how you get the soup inside the dumpling. The soup itself is simple enough to make–it’s like any other stock, but it does require a trip to an Asian market as conventional butchers don’t necessarily have pig’s feet and straight up pork skin you can buy. It’ll also be the best place to get black vinegar and Shaoxing wine, which you’ll need for the filling and dipping sauce. I also recommend making the soup the day before.

IMG_2558

chilled and cubed jelled soup ready to go into the filling

The filling is really easy. You just mix ground pork with some scallions, garlic, ginger, and other Asian sauces like Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. And if you already cook a lot of Asian food, you will have most of these ingredients in your pantry. If not, as I mentioned above, a trip to the Asian market will get you those ingredients very inexpensively. Once all those ingredients are mixed, you add the cubed jelled soup to it.

Now for the dough. Compared to pork bun dough, this was a breeze. It’s literally just flour and water. You let it rest for an hour (I prepared the filling while it was resting), and then divide it into pieces to be rolled into dumpling skins. I knew shaping the dumplings would be difficult (18 pleats!), but I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to roll out the skins themselves. The dough was very sticky, so even when I got the dough into a nice round shape, it would stick to my countertop when I pulled it up, stretching it out and ruining it. I then added more flour to the dough to prevent it from sticking, but then it would get tough.

On top of that, I could not get a handle on how to get the appropriate thickness. The middle of the skins should be thicker (so they don’t break when steamed), and the edges should be thinner so that when you make all those pleats, the top of the dumpling won’t be tough and chewy. My dumplings were the exact opposite. The middle was way too thin, the edges way too thick. In the photo below, you can see my scrapped skins in the top right corner. And those skins on the top left are not exactly circles.

IMG_2559

Luckily, I had a back-up plan. I told a colleague of mine (who happens to be Chinese) that I was making soup dumplings. She commended me for the attempt, but also advised me to buy pre-made skins just in case the dough failed. So while at the Asian market picking up pig’s feet and Shaoxing wine, I grabbed a package of dumpling skins as well. Or what I thought were dumpling skins (there were so many kinds!). I was glad I took my colleague’s advise because the dough failed me, or more accurately, I failed the dough. But when I tried to pleat the store-bought skins, they didn’t stick! I was surprised and frustrated by this, and ended up using my homemade dough anyway because at least I could get it to close. At that point I lost all patience with trying to roll and shape the dumplings correctly, so I just filled and sealed the dumplings anyway I could just to get them made. I figured however misshapen, they would still taste good. It wasn’t until after I made all the dumplings that Andrew stepped in and told me that you have to wet the edges of store-bought skins with water to get them to seal (an embarrassing display of my ignorance, and frankly, my whiteness).

IMG_2563

my ugly dumplings

With the dumplings finally made, I set about steaming them. That was when I truly discovered why you don’t want the bottom of your skins to be too thin, because all the dumplings broke and lost all their soup. So in the end I just made regular dumplings. They were pretty thick and chewy on top because of how I carelessly shaped them, but otherwise they were pretty good, especially with the dipping sauce made of black vinegar, soy sauce, scallions, and ginger. Served with Chinese style green beans and a strong French 75 cocktail, it turned into a rather nice meal.

IMG_2565

I would definitely make this recipe again, but using store-bought skins (making sure to wet the edges with water, of course). It’s just not worth the trouble making the skins by hand. And despite how much I love making meals entirely from scratch, I’m learning that a good home cook also knows when to cut corners and still keep the integrity of the home-cooked meal intact.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post to get the inside scoop on the tangerine sorbet I made for dessert (pun most definitely intended).

Recipes