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Articles / Peel Here for a Sunshiny Day

Peel Here for a Sunshiny Day

Published January 23, 2023

Embrace winter by inviting citrus fruit to your table

When I was a kid (I know: commence yawn), people still sent citrus fruit up from Florida to the northeast. They’d go on vacation, there’d be these places that specialized in sending mostly grapefruits, oranges, and occasionally tangerines (mandarins, kumquats, pomelos … these were virtually unheard of), they’d stop and fill out a form and pay, and a week later you’d get a crate of citrus that was immeasurably better than what you were buying in the supermarket.

Those days do seem to have ended, but they were the inspiration (and the reason) for the Bi-Rite box we started a few years ago. (Unfortunately – and this happens when real people and real agriculture are involved, we had to cancel a number of shipments, plus all remaining, of the Bi-Rite x Bittman boxes this year, for weather issues.)

But there is such a thing as too much citrus; you might eat a few pieces a day out of hand, but the novelty does wear off (doesn’t it? It does for me, anyway). And there’s even such a thing as too much marmalade.

Here Kerri is, as usual, to the rescue, with a little collection of simple recipes featuring, well, citrus. There’s no intention to serve these together, but they’re different enough so you can make them all within a couple of days and not feel overwhelmed by either work or flavors. Of these, my favorite is the fennel-orange salad, which has been a staple in my life for literally 20 years. Try it with a few added olives. Read on for:

  • Orange-Ginger Tea, Wet or Dry

  • Citrus Salsa

  • Fennel and Orange Salad

  • Boneless Chicken in Packages with Orange

See you Wednesday, friends.

– Mark


Orange-Ginger Tea, Wet or Dry

Replacing some of the water with freshly squeezed orange juice—or adding chopped fruit—is an easy way to flavor tea. As is the addition of some booze. You also choose the kind of tea, whether to enjoy this hot or cold, and how to garnish. We don’t even care what kind of oranges you use, so  long as there are a lot of them.


Citrus Salsa

Tomato salsa—like this chunky, pico de gallo-style version—is America’s favorite condiment for good reason, since you can use it for saucing meats, vegetables, eggs, or grains; as a dip for everything from crudités to dumplings; or served the usual way with chips, tacos, and burritos. In winter, citrus salsa is a much better choice than terrible tomatoes, and you can use it all the same ways. For a smooth salsa, simply combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s as smooth as you like.


Photo: Aya Brackett

Fennel and Orange Salad

Here’s a sprightly side dish that’s easy to make more substantial: Toss it with torn escarole leaves and shaved parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese; top it with cooked shrimp, crab, or fish; stir-fry it until just tender and saucy, then toss with pasta or rice; or use it as a bed to roasting or steaming salmon fillets or chicken breasts.


Boneless Chicken in Packages with Orange

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour

This method—traditionally called cooking en papillote—is easier than it seems, and always impressive at the table. You can use either parchment paper or aluminum foil to wrap the chicken, oranges, and seasonings. If you make foil packages, you can actually prepare them in advance. Other proteins you can use in this recipe: any cutlets—pork, chicken, or turkey.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 oranges, depending on the size

  • 2 to 4 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds total)

  • Salt and pepper

  • 12 or so fresh basil leaves, or 4 sprigs fresh chervil, parsley, mint, or cilantro

  • About 4 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

1. To prepare the oranges: Cut the ends off each orange, and use a knife to remove the zest, pith, and outer membrane, cutting downward as close to the flesh as possible. Cut the oranges crosswise into wheels or carefully cut the segments free of their tender skins  (see the illustrations below). Put them in a bowl with all their juices.

2. Divide the chicken into 4 portions, cutting the breasts as necessary so they’re of roughly equal thickness (1/2- to 1-inch each). Tear off two 1-foot-square pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper and stack them one on top of the other. Put a chicken breast on the first sheet of foil or paper top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and one quarter each of the orange slices and herb, and drizzle each with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.

3. To seal the package, begin at one end and fold the foil or paper around over the edges. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. Put the packages in a large baking dish or rimmed baking sheet. (At this point, you can refrigerate foil packages in the sheet or dish for up to 4 hours before proceeding; return to room temperature before putting in the hot oven.)

3. Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the sheet pan or baking dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully cut through a package with a small sharp knife and nick into the chicken. The blade should meet with little resistance and when you peek, the meat will show very little or no hint of pink. (Sorry, there is no other way until you get a feel for this technique; thermometers are also tricky with thin cuts.) If the chicken isn’t ready, return the packages to the oven for another 5 minutes. To serve, transfer the packages to shallow bowls to be opened at the table.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition