April 12, 2012
Drouant is a century-old Paris restaurant with a majestic Art Déco interior and private dining rooms where the jury for the Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious book award in France, convenes each fall to deliberate.
Beyond that literary glamour, Drouant also serves an excellent cuisine, and one of the features that have turned us into regulars is the poulet-frites that is offered for lunch on Sundays: a farm-raised roasted chicken served with a green salad and thick house-made fries that echo the typical family meal that is enjoyed at exactly that time of week all over the country.
And at the end of the meal, if you order coffee, it comes with a small saucer bearing a homemade truffle for each guest, and the same number of candied orange slices.
I'm not one to turn my nose at a truffle, but these orange slices truly are something special: rather than the more usual sticks of candied orange rind, these are thin, half-moon wedges that still include some of the flesh, so that the distinctive bitter notes of the chewy rind is refreshed by the soft and juicy pulp.
I've experimented in my own kitchen, trying to reproduce these delicious confections, and I am delighted with the result: these orange slices can be served alongside truffles or squares of good bittersweet chocolate, or you could dip them by half in chocolate, orangette-style. They make a lovely gift, too (pack them in layers of parchment paper as they're quite sticky), or you can use them in your baking.
Depending on where you live, it may be the tail end of orange season, so hurry up and make these with the very last of the juicy specimens!
Candied orange slices
- 400 grams (14 oz) organic oranges, about 2 medium
- 250 grams (1 1/4 cups) unrefined blond cane sugar
Makes 20 to 30
Wash the oranges well using a potato brush. With a sharp knife, slice each orange into thin slices, about 1 cm (1/3") in thickness: you can either slice the oranges horizontally to form round slices, or cut into each orange vertically, stopping at its spine and working your way around the orange, to create thin half-moon wedges (as pictured above).
Put the sugar in a large saucepan with 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) water, and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Lower in the oranges carefully to avoid splashing, return to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered. Cover and let cool completely in the syrup.
Later that day and/or the next day, repeat these simmering and cooling steps 4 to 5 times using the same syrup, adding a little water if it thickens too much, until the cooled orange slices reach the right consistency, halfway between tender and chewy.
Line a cooling rack with parchment paper, and spread the orange slices on it, draining each of any excess syrup. Let cool and dry overnight.
The orange slices will remain quite sticky, so it's best to store them (or package them up for gifting) in layers separated by parchment paper. They will keep for a few months in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
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