At their peak between December and April—traditionally, they were the treat in the toe of a Christmas stocking—is when you’ll find the usual navel oranges, Valencias, Hamlin, Sunstar, blood oranges, et al. You’ll also find relatively rarer relatives like satsuma mandarins (a case of the finest of these sold in Japan for $10,000 in November), the recently branded Halo and Cutie Clementines, and the hard-to-find, adorably tiny Kishu.
Orange Carving 101
Use everything but the white stuff
• Peel an orange carefully with a vegetable peeler or very sharp knife, taking care to cut off only the orange-colored peel—the white pith is bitter. Orange peel may be cut into julienne strips to use as a garnish or part of the basic flavor mix. Candy it by cooking it in sugar syrup and then let it dry—add to sweet or savory main dishes, salads and desserts. Rub a salad bowl or drink glass with a larger piece to impart the orange oil’s fragrance subtly.
• Slice an orange horizontally (across the sections,) set on a cookie sheet and place in your oven heated to the lowest possible setting. Leave the slices until dry; this could take several hours. Check often; you don’t want to burn them. Use them to garnish cocktails, enliven charcuterie trays or zest up a main dish.
• Use orange sections, sautéed or fresh. A skinned orange section is called a supreme, and because orange skin is inedible unless cooked, a supreme is the main way (other than juice) to use an orange in hot or cold cuisine. To most easily cut it into sections, first cut a small slice from the top and bottom. Then cut away the peel in strips, top to bottom. Using a sharp knife, slice the pulp away from the white pith, cutting as close as possible to the bitter edge. When all the sections are cut away, squeeze the pith that remains to extract every last bit of juice.
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