I have a thing for fire, as my family and friends already know. The grill is my friend (and it’s always grilling season, even in snow), if a dish can be flambéd, I will do it. Creme Brulee was a dish I learned early in life and my brandy fired sweet potatoes even made it to a NPR Thanksgiving recipe article.
So when a friend posted this recipe for candied oranges I automatically saw them on fire, with whiskey. They did not disappoint.
Sugar Candied Oranges
6 firm seedless oranges preferably with thin skin. I used Blood oranges from Spain and now can’t imagine using anything else. Must be small, no larger than a baseball.
6 Cups sugar. I used a mix of white granulated and Demerara 4 cups white and 2 Demerara
Parchment paper cut into a circle just a little larger than the diameter of the pot
2 tablespoons whiskey. I made 2 recipes, one with peated whiskey and one Irish whiskey. The peated whiskey went exceptionally well with the oranges.
Wash and dry blood oranges (organic are best. If blood oranges are not available Cara Cara are good). Use a good sharp channeler to channel remove strips of peel from each orange from top to bottom. Goal is to twist the channels so they look like a Russian Onion Dome. Unfortunately my tool wasn’t sharp so my oranges had a less attractive pattern. Keep the peels. Use a large stainless steal pot and fill with water, bring to boil. Add the oranges and peels to the boiling water and reduce to a simmer. Over the oranges, put a lid that is one size too small for the pot to keep oranges under the simmering water. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes to remove any bitterness and blanch. Remove oranges, they should swell and soften but not split or turn to mush.
Drain and keep oranges and peels to one side. In the clean pot add 6 cups water and 6 cups sugar. Bring to boil for approximately 10 minutes or until the liquid takes on a slight syrup quality.
With a slotted spoon, place the oranges and peels into the simmering simple syrup. Cut out the parchment paper into a circle 2 cm or 1 inch larger than the diameter of your pot. Put the parchment over the oranges and cover with the small lid. Reduce the heat until barely bubbling. Keep on this heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the oranges take on a glazed, semi- translucent quality. Remove and place the oranges and peels in a container with the sugar syrup. Cool then store in the fridge. Best eaten after they have cooled for 24 hours. The flavour is hard to describe but is somewhat like marmalade, except better, less bitter and with no gelatine. The entire orange is eaten and is absolutely delicious.
At this point I served the oranges in 2 ways: One way was over a scoop of vanilla ice cream with Slane Irish whiskey. The second was just the orange with Laphroig peated whiskey. I added a few spoonfuls of the sugar syrup before adding the tablespoon of whiskey.
To flambé: Alcohol needs to be gently warmed in order to light. Pour one tablespoon of whiskey over your fruit. Add another tablespoon of whiskey in a pan and gently heat until just slightly warm. Overheating will evaporate your alcohol making it impossible to light. Light the pan on fire (you can see the blue flame) and pour over your dessert. The warmed whiskey will light the rest of the whiskey on top of the oranges. This should definitely be done when the dishes are in front of your guests. It’s dramatic and satisfying. Best yet, the peated whiskey went amazingly well with this dessert. The peat added a smokey quality to the orange and sugar that helped cut the sweet. The Irish whiskey was also delicious but added a caramel flavour to the dish.
The thing I love best about this dish is it looks quite complex but isn’t. It can also be made ahead of time and the oranges in syrup will keep in your fridge for well over a week (I’m going on 2 weeks now). Assembling takes seconds and the end result makes you look like an experienced chef. One could easily put half an orange over thick custard, a panna cotta or ice cream then lighting the entire dish on fire with a tasty whiskey. The perfect end to a fancy dinner. That is if you can keep from eating them all yourself.
I want to thank Tomese Sieminskie Buthod for alerting me to this candied orange recipe from the New York Times.
Any of the left over orange simple syrup may be used as the base for a top notch Old Fashioned. The candied orange peels, soaked in whiskey, are decorative and addictive. Sláinte!