This easy, stylish recipe is an old favorite, adapted from a recipe in a French fashion magazine circa 1972. You can serve it as you would fruit compote for brunch, or as a refreshing, light dessert after a spicy meal. Or spoon a moat of it around a scoop of vanilla or honey ice cream or a trembling spoon of panna cotta. Recipe from Pure Dessert (Artisan, 2007) —Alice Medrich
good eating oranges, preferably organic or unsprayed
Zest 2 of the oranges, using a zester or Microplane to make fine shreds. Or use a vegetable peeler to peel wide strips of zest from the oranges and then cut the zest into very fine slivers with a chef's knife. Set aside.
Use a sharp knife to remove the skin and all of the white membrane from all of the oranges. Cut the oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, or "supreme" them by cutting the sections from the membranes. Remove any seeds. Arrange in a shallow serving dish, drizzle the rum over the oranges, and sprinkle with zests. Set aside.
To make the caramel, set a white saucer by the side of the stove to use to judge the color of the caramel. Spread the sugar in the dry skillet. Set the pan over medium-high heat and heat, without stirring, until the sugar begins to melt into clear syrup around the edges.
Turn the heat down to medium and continue melting the sugar without stirring -- shake the pan to redistribute it -- for as long as the syrup remains clear. When the syrup begins to color, stir it with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, mixing and spreading the syrup and sugar together, until all the sugar is melted and beginning to color evenly. If some of the syrup starts to color too quickly before the rest, turn the heat down, or take the pan off the heat for a few moments, and continue to stir.
Drop a bead of syrup onto the white plate to judge the color. When the syrup looks pale amber on the saucer, turn the heat down even lower, or remove the pan, and stir until a drop of syrup is reddish amber, or the color of medium-dark honey.
Immediately pour the hot caramel over the orange slices. The oranges may be prepared to this point and kept, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days. If you serve the oranges after a brief chilling, some of the caramel will have hardened into a thin brittle layer on top of the oranges, providing a pleasing crunch. Lengthier chilling will melt the caramel completely, bathing the oranges in sweet rummy caramel syrup without a crunchy layer. The choice is yours.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).