Sunday, January 27, 2008

Darling Clementines

When it comes to cooking, clementines and tangerines - normally just eaten out of hand - have a lot of juice.

In the citrus firmament, oranges occupy the top spot. Still, you shouldn't ignore their cousins, sweeter and smaller tangerines and clementines. These used to be fleeting treats, appearing around Christmas for just a few weeks. Nowadays every supermarket in the land stacks the telltale wooden clementine crates sky-high from September well into the spring.

In the kitchen, tangerines and clementines substitute well for oranges - and not just for eating out of hand. Sneak some tangerine juice into a glass with sparkling wine and experience a honeyed, floral twist on the standard mimosa. A crunchy slaw made from crisp fennel and clementines offers layers of delicate sweetness. Aromatic oils in tangerine and clementine zests also serve savory dishes well, giving a beefy stir-fry a subtle and distinctively Asian anchor of flavor and aroma.

CLEMENTINE, FENNEL, AND RADICCHIO SLAW

1 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons grated zest from 3 clementines
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pepper, to taste
1/2 head radicchio, thinly sliced
2 medium fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced,

plus 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
3 medium clementines, peeled, sections separated,

and cut in half crosswise

 

In a medium bowl, mix vinegar, honey, zest, shallot, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to blend. Vigorously whisk in half of the olive oil to blend, then add the remaining oil. Season with pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the radicchio, the sliced fennel, the clementine sections, and 3 tablespoons of the chopped fennel fronds along with the dressing. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, if desired, and sprinkle the slaw with the remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped fronds. Serve at once.

serves 6

 

STIR-FRIED SPICY TANGERINE BEEF

A veggie-packed interpretation of that Chinese takeout standard, orange beef. Serve with steamed white rice. You may substitute 3 large clementines for the tangerines.

3 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons dry sherry or sake
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound flank steak, cut first along the grain into

2-inch-wide strips, then across the grain

into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce or Chinese black vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 medium tangerines
3 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into

1/2-inch strips
2 pounds (1 medium head) bok choy, sliced crosswise

into 2-inch pieces
1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks
1/2 teaspoon salt

 

In a medium non-reactive bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sherry or sake, 11/2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Add the beef, toss to coat, and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

While the beef marinates, in a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of sherry or sake, 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, the Worcestershire sauce or vinegar, and sesame oil, and set aside. In a small bowl, grate the zest of 2 tangerines; add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and set aside. Peel the remaining tangerine and set the peel aside. Squeeze the flesh from all 3 tangerines to extract about 2/3 cup of juice, then pour the juice into the bowl with the Worcestershire sauce mixture and set aside.

In a small pot set over high heat, bring about 1 quart of water to boil. Add the reserved peel and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peel from the water; when it's cool enough to handle, cut into very thin matchstick strips and set aside.

Drain the beef and discard the liquid. In a large, nonstick skillet set over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil until it just begins to smoke. Add half of the beef in a single layer, break up any clumps, and cook without stirring until beef begins to brown on the bottom, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and continue cooking until browned, about 45 seconds longer. Transfer the beef to a medium bowl and set aside. Return the skillet to high heat, heat 1 more tablespoon of oil until smoking, and repeat with the remaining beef.

With a large wad of paper towels, carefully wipe out the skillet. Return the skillet to high heat, heat 1 more tablespoon of oil until smoking, add the bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pieces begin to brown at the edges, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the bok choy, stir to mix with bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems are tender-crisp, about 4 1/2 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to make a well in the center of the vegetable mixture, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, allow it to heat for a moment, then add the ginger, salt, and reserved zest-garlic mixture. Cook until the mixture is fragrant, about 45 seconds, and stir into the vegetables. Add the reserved tangerine peel, return the beef and any accumulated juices to the skillet with the vegetables, and stir to combine. Whisk the Worcestershire sauce ingredients to recombine, add them to the skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve at once.

serves 6

 

CONGREE

Sometimes called jook, congee is savory, soupy rice from China. Tangerine peel and ginger are the basic flavors, but part of the magic of congee is customizing your own portion with a variety of garnishes. Alone or in any combination you like, try chopped fresh cilantro, sliced pickled ginger, soy sauce, chili-garlic paste, chopped roasted peanuts, or thin slices of Chinese sausage.

Turn congee into an even more substantial meal by steaming skinless salmon fillets, a few peeled shrimp or some chicken tenders, or some ground pork right in the pot in the last 20 minutes or so of cooking. Though it couldn't be less authentic, arborio rice makes an extra-silky congee.

7 cups homemade or packaged low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup Shaoxing rice wine or pale dry sherry
3/4 cup long-grain white rice
1 piece fresh ginger, 1-inch by 1-inch, peeled, cut

into 3 slices, each one smashed with the broad

side of a chef's knife blade
2 tablespoons minced peel from 1 clementine or tangerine
1 teaspoon salt
6 scallions, sliced thin, for garnish
Asian toasted sesame oil, to drizzle

 

In a large nonstick pot, bring the broth and rice wine or sherry to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, ginger, and clementine or tangerine peel, return to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally (and often during the last half-hour of cooking), until the mixture is thick and creamy, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the ginger, add the salt, and stir to combine. Garnish each portion with some sliced scallions and drizzle with sesame oil. (Or use as any of the garnishes noted above.) Serve at once.

serves 6

 

Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company