PLAYING WITH PECTINASE

I subscribe to a site called Chefsteps.com that deals with stuff going from molecular gastronomy to sous-vide, but also covers more mundane topics, like making the most of your mandoline or brewing that perfect cup of coffee. A few weeks ago they featured the use of pectinase to turn clementine segments into the sweetest gems similar to those you can buy canned, but are extensively processed to taste so great. The method couldn’t be simpler: you peel the fruit, separate the segments and place them in a bowl with water containing a few drops of pectinase. What is pectinase? First, a very brief lesson in biochemistry. All enzymes are proteins with a specific activity on a component referred to as its “substrate.” They usually follow a nomenclature with the suffix “ase” to indicate which substrate the enzyme acts upon. Proteases degrade proteins and are of course part of our digestive system. DNase destroys DNA, and it is a nightmare for those working in molecular biology. We need to be always protecting the DNA we work with from being degraded. Pectinase destroys pectin which is the main component that forms that white pith around citric fruit segments. The pith is not only harsh in texture, but also in taste, quite bitter.  By allowing pectinase to work, that outside layer is removed, and you’ll end up with perfectly smooth pieces of fruit that will taste considerably sweeter. Even though pectinase is not toxic, once you get the fruit the way you want it, simply rinse the water containing pectinase out, blot the pieces dry and enjoy them.

clementines

Aren’t we awfully cute?

Pectinase is sold – like almost everything you can dream of – by amazon.com, and it’s pretty affordable, plus a little bit goes a loooong way. One of the interesting things about enzymes is that they are not consumed in the reaction, so like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep going and going. Adding five drops works, but adding one works too, it will simply take a little longer. I added about 4 drops to the bowl and left the fruit at room temperature for a couple of hours, then stuck it in the fridge for 6 more hours until we were ready to use them. You can leave the fruit in water longer, for a day or so, no problems.

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Pectinase, like most enzymes, will work faster in warmer temperatures, so it is conceivable to use sous-vide (or even a simple water-bath) to speed up the reaction without cooking the fruit in the process. Think anything around 100F for 30 minutes to one hour.

The clementines were delicious to nibble on while binge-watching “How I met your mother” late at night, but when added to this favorite salad of our recent past, it made for a LEGEND… wait for it… LEGEND… wait for it… LEGENDARY MEAL!

 

salad

Use this recipe, but substitute clementines for grape tomatoes…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Poached White Asparagus with Lemon and Pistachios

TWO YEARS AGO: Dan Lepard’s Saffron Bloomer

THREE YEARS AGO: Fesenjan & The New Persian Kitchen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pasta Puttanesca

SIX YEARS AGO: Miche Point-a-Calliere

 

CLEMENTINES IN CINNAMON SYRUP

Three ingredients.  Four if you count water. It was one of the best things I’ve made in the last few months, though.  Slices of clementine soaking in a light caramel infused with cinnamon.  First, let me assure you it is not going to be too sweet. It is a perfectly balanced mixture, the clementines lose any of that harshness often found in the raw fruit, and the syrup is so good that I drank what was left in my small bowl after enjoying the fruit. Yes, I grabbed the bowl and drank from it as if it was a glass. What’s more amazing, I did it in the presence of members of our department gathered in our place for a get-together with a guest speaker. That should give you an idea how irresistible it was. I found this gem of a recipe on the fun blog hosted by Zach and Clay, The Bitten Word. If you don’t know about their site, make sure to stop by, you will become a regular visitor… 😉

ClementinesCinnamonSyrup
CLEMENTINES IN CINNAMON SYRUP
(seen at The Bitten Word, original recipe from Martha Stewart)

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
8 clementines, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise

Bring water, sugar and cinnamon to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cook until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.

Arrange clementines in a large bowl. Pour warm syrup over top, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Divide clementines and syrup among 4 bowls.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I hope you won’t let the simplicity of this “recipe” prevent you from making it, telling yourself that it cannot be worth it.  If you like fruit and a dessert that makes you feel light as a feather and pretty energized (must be all that vitamin C, and the cinnamon oils), this is it.  Maybe some might feel tempted to serve it as a topping for ice cream, but for my taste, nothing else is needed.  Just make sure you have enough caramel sauce to soak the slices, and to satisfy your desire to drink every single drop of it.  Slurping is optional, depending on the audience. 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2013 

TWO YEARS AGO: Thrilling Moments (CROISSANTS!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Maple-Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Trinity: coffee, mushrooms, and curry

 

 

OTTOLENGHI & TAMIMI’S ROAST CHICKEN WITH CLEMENTINES

For someone who only roasts chicken by the “low and slow” method followed by a “high and fast” step, trying this recipe from Jerusalem cookbook was quite a change: the pieces are blasted at 475F from start to finish. They advise to check the state of the skin after 30 minutes, and reduce the temperature slightly in case it’s darkening too fast. I was curious to see how our Supernova handled this challenge. but it cruised through the test! All pieces were nicely and homogeneously browned, the meat cooked to perfection.  This is a super festive dish, perfect for entertaining.

Roast Chicken with Clementines2

Jerusalem is one of the many cookbooks sitting on my bookshelf, but my inspiration to make this dish was a post from “Alexandra’s Kitchen” ,  a blog I love! You can read, and print her version of this recipe (which I followed) by jumping here.

ROAST CHICKEN WITH CLEMENTINES: An outline

This is a simple but unique treatment of chicken pieces. A flavorful marinade is prepared with a mixture of arak (or ouzo), honey, orange, lemon juice and spices.  You can use a whole chicken cut up, or go for chicken thighs as I did.  The main flavor will be fennel and anise. Reading Alexandra’s blog as well as a few other sources in the net, it became clear that if you are not a fond of anise, better modify the recipe.   It turns out that I absolutely despise ouzo (as well as Pastis, which brings a sad tale to my mind that shall be told some other time), so I used dry Vermouth instead. I also added only 1 teaspoon of fennel seed instead of 2 + 1/2  as originally called for.  It turned out perfect for us.

The clementine slices add a lot visually to the dish, but I did not care for their texture, even the ones that cooked protected from direct heat seemed a bit bitter and tough to me.  They release a lot of juice and flavor into the sauce, so even if you don’t eat them in the end, no big deal.

After the chicken is roasted, the sauce is transferred to a saucepan, reduced almost to a glaze, and poured over the meat on the serving dish.  You might be tempted to skip this step. Do not.  It is one of those details that take a dish from great to spectacular, trust me on that…

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Additional comments:  Probably one of the reasons this recipe works so well with intense heat from beginning to end, is the fact that the pieces are surrounded by quite a bit of liquid during roasting.  The final texture is perfect, and the sauce tastes amazing, a powerful kick of fennel and the sweetness of clementines pairing with it.  If you like anise flavor, go for Ouzo or, if you can find (and afford it), opt for the more authentic Arak.

I know that most people associate recipes from Jerusalem exclusively with Ottolenghi, so I made a point of including Tamimi on the title of my post.  I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for  being the co-author of such an amazing cookbook.

This dish was our first dinner in the year 2014, and I thank Alexandra for the inspiration. It was a  perfect meal to launch the New Year!

Roast Chicken with Clementines1Dinner is served!

ONE YEAR AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

TWO YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

THREE YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

CLEMENTINE CAKE

cake

Clementines will always remind me of my stepson Alex, as he and his Dad would sit together devouring a few of them after dinner or mid-afternoon on weekends. We made sure to keep a backup bag stored away, just in case.  In our neck of the woods, they are sold as cuties, a well-chosen name. This cake – made in the food processor – is supposed to be very easy.  Of course,  Sally + Cake = Drama.  But it  ended reasonably well, except for a burn on my right hand. Actually, two burns.  A sticky kitchen floor. And a major spill of orange extract.

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CLEMENTINE CAKE
(From Razzle Dazzle Recipes)

Cake:
3 clementines
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

Icing:
1 clementine
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (I used orange extract, about 1/4 tsp)

Grease an 8-cup bundt pan. Peel clementines; cut into quarters. If there are seeds, remove them (they are normally seedless).  Process with sugar in food processor until smooth. Add butter, then eggs; processing after each addition until smooth.  Add flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt; process until combined. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan.

For icing: Grate and squeeze juice from clementine. In food processor, measure 1 teaspoon rind and 2 tablespoons juice; add butter, confectioners’ sugar and liqueur. Process until smooth. Drizzle over cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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At some point I would like to be able to bake a cake smoothly. No bumps, no boo-boos.  In this particular case, the cake part went fine, except for the fact that since our oven is a perverse piece of equipment, I had to keep moving the pan around to try to cook it evenly.  Burned my hand twice in the process, touching the grids. I thought I was off the hook, and proceeded to make the icing.  Knowing how powdered sugar has a tendency to make a mess, I was extra careful measuring the first cup, and then, all confident in my flawless technique, grabbed the 1/3 measuring cup but the bag literally Poltergeisted on me!  Powdered sugar everywhere, counter, floor, rug, my shoes…   Truth be told, not the first time it happened, and I suspect it won’t be the last.  (sigh)  No time to clean then, just chased the dogs away, failing to  notice I had the bottle of orange extract already open next to the food processor.  I bumped it. Double mess to clean up, a sticky mixture of powdered sugar and orange extract.  Its smell lingered for a looong while…

Although I greased the pan well, some parts of the cake stuck while unmolding.  I went Zen, and carefully lifted the stuck parts, patching them nicely back on top of the cake.  I expected the icing to hide my poor baking skills.   That takes me to the icing part. Since I did not have orange liqueur and the orange extract seemed quite strong, I reduced the amount to 1/4 teaspoon.  Eyeballed a little water to compensate. It seemed too thick, so I added more water.  That was a mistake in judgment.  The icing ended up too thin and failed to cover the cut and paste job on the surface of the cake. It explains why you only see a close-up photo of my production… I may not know how to bake a perfect cake, but I can point the camera like a pro!  😉 Anyway, I took the cake to the department already sliced, so the boo-boos were less evident.

The cake has a very intense clementine flavor, if you like cakes that are not too sweet, this is a great option.  Of course, it does have a lot of sugar in it, but the clementine juice and zest comes through loud and clear.   A perfect cake to make graduate students happy.  And lots of staff and faculty members too…

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