Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Citrus Reigns Supreme

Sigh...I'm reaching, I know.

Today's class was worth the price of admission or at least tuition for this quarter, because we learned how to make citrus segments, or supremes in "chef speak." Supremes are the segements of oranges and grapefruits that are free of that nasty white pith and lie jewel-like on the plate.

I have struggled and struggled, cursing and moaning the whole time, trying to figure out how to do this, and why the hell I never Googled it before I started this blog entry, I have no idea. Because, if I had, I would have found this lovely little step-by-step set of instructions from the fine folks at Sunkist. (Smacks hand into forehead, then pokes finger in eye.)

Basically, you cut the top and bottom off your orange or grapefruit, and then take your paring knife and cut away all the outer peel/rind of the fruit. You could zest the orange first and save the zest in the freezer for later. After you have removed the pith and peel, working over a bowl, hold the fruit in the palm of your left hand (adjust if you are a Lefty), and carefully cut the segments out. Do sort of a "V" around the segment and just push it into a bowl. Let's borrow a nice illustration from the Sunkist site for demonstration purposes.

If I had found that website sooner, we could have all been saved a lot of grief, my feet, some tuition money, and I would not have embarked on this whole culinary school roller coaster of insanity.

Here's a better picture that I swiped from somewhere else:

It gives more detail and a better idea (than the line drawing) of where you are supposed to cut.

After you have removed all the segments from the fruit, squeeze the remaining fruit over the bowl; the juices help preserve the segments. That's it. Period. No big mystery there, now is there?

Chef demoed quite a few fruit cuts and assembled a simple fruit display. The coolest thing were the papaya crowns. He did those as garnish, and they looked really neat. If you check out this site, there are more elaborate crowns, and a nifty tutorial on making them and little vegetable cups.
(Where the hell have I been, and why have I not been Googling this stuff all along??)

While we're on the subject, let's talk about papayas. Hate them. Plain and simple. They taste kind of like soap to me...sometimes like kerosene, or what I imaging kerosene to taste like if I were to drink kerosene. (But, I'm not quite there yet!) I know, I know, it's weird. The first time I was presented with fresh papaya, I was excited, because it was a new and different tropical fruit. I eagerly put some on my plate and got ready to be transported to a tropical paradise complete with hot young Antonio Banderas-looking cabana boys and drinks with umbrellas. I'm sure if anyone had actually been looking at me when I ate the first bite, all thoughts of cabana boys and paradise would have flown straight out the window. Ick! I thought, this is bad, very bad. Maybe it wasn't quite ripe, I think to myself, so I get another piece to try. Urk...even worse than the first one. I've tried it again and again, even once more today, and I still think it tastes waaaaaay bad. Way bad. Maybe, I'm just not wired right to appreciate that little bit of tropical paradise...but I can still appreciate the cabana boys.

Another fruit we discussed today was the star fruit or carambola...sometimes called "Chinese tamarind," according to the Chiclet, or at least in her home country. Personally, I've never been that impressed with the flavor of the star fruit, but it does look pretty and is sort of a built-in garnish. I always thought they came from far away, which was why they're so expensive, and that might account for the lack of flavor, i.e., picked before ripened, etc., but no, they're now grown commercially in Florida. So, why the heck are they so expensive, then? It's not like Florida is half a hemisphere away or anything, like Sri Lanka is, where they are also grown. I guess exotic = expensive...which is probably why I would never make it on the exotic dance circuit...unless maybe I covered myself in star fruit slices, orange segments, and worn a papaya crown?

It seemed to work for this woman.

"Oh, cabana boy!"


Linna said...

I love the papaya crowns. I happen to like papaya myself, maybe because the first time I ate it was in Hawaii (at a really swank buffet in some fancy hotel on Wakiki, where we could watch a few hardy wind-surfers get smashed into the water by the wind and rain outside). You have to get the really ripe papaya -- the kind that yields when gently squeezed.

I'm afraid of mangos. Because of the huge seed. I guess I need one of those mango-slicers, but I don't want to give it drawer space. I'm also mad at mangos because the seed is so big and I feel like I'm paying for nothing.

Glad you liked the class. Sounds like more useful information for the average wedding catering job than how to make crepes.

Belinda said...

You will never know how much I love you for posting the citrus de-pithing instructions. I KNOW, that's the part with the fiber and all, but I hates it in my juice, and it's the reason I don't generally eat whole oranges. And this state is the whole POINT of canned mandarin oranges. Wonder how they "supreme" those wholescale? I mean, they can't possibly do them by hand, but it seems like a machine would mangle them!

Poodlebugz said...

I aim to please! I have wondered about mandarins, since they are like tangerines...they already come in segments, so I guess you just have to clean off the stringy part. And there must be a mass production method of doing this, but beats me how you do it. I'll ask Chef today.

I really like canned mandarins, but if you get a chance for fresh ones, they are great, too. Once, on a business trip to California, one of the guys brought me half a dozen Satsumas that grew in his backyard, and they were the most fabulous fruit I had ever eaten. I managed to control myself and bring 2 home to The Man, who enjoyed them greatly. I've actually got some fresh ones now that I picked up at the international farmer's market--they even still have the leaves on them.

Clementines are also a type of mandarin orange, and those we see more often in our grocery store, but I like the Satsumas better.

And, the mango--Chef did show us a better way to cut mangoes that got more of the flesh off. Remind me and I'll show you next time we're over at T's making salsa or something.

Kim said...

Thanks for the instructions on de-pithing. I have never tried it and will check out the site for instructions.

I cannot stand papaya, yuck!! We would have to drink it when we were younger and I gagged everytime.