It might seem a little too basic to be talking about how to break down an orange. It isn’t a side of beef. You’ve got peel and you’ve got flesh and some seeds. But citrus is a staple in my house, and I do a lot more cooking with it than eating out of hand. There's an art to peeling citrus: here's a primer on the best way to get the most out of your citrus experience
The very outside layer of any citrus fruit is the zest. This is the thin layer of colorful skin before you hit the white pith that is the inner layer of the peel. Zest should be removed in one of two ways, either shaved off in thin strips by a sharp vegetable peeler or removed with a rasp-style grater like a microplane. The essential citrus oils are in the zest, so it allows you to add flavor without the liquid that is added if you use the juice. The white pith, or inner part of the peel, is bitter, so usually recipes that call for zest don’t want any pith involved. The shaved strips are great for cocktails and garnishes and can be cut down into smaller thinner strips or sticks or diced finely. The zest from a microplane is tiny and fluffy and brings intense flavor to a recipe, but also disappears texturally.
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Sometimes you do want the whole peel with the pith included, such as with candied orange peels or marmalade or a garnish for a cocktail. To remove the peel whole, you can either score the fruit with a small paring knife and remove the slices, which they do at bars. But for me and home use, I cut the fruit into slices the width of the peel I want and then just peel it off the rounds or half-moons, which means I then get the fruit to snack on.
Slices of the fruit are always meant to be cross-sections, so be sure to slice across the equator of the fruit, with the stem end and blossom end to your right and left. Slices can then be cut easily into half-moons or wedges.
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Wedges are usually designed as a garnish for a cocktail, a squeezable garnish for food, like fish, or a quick snack. There is something deeply satisfying about sticking a wedge of orange in your mouth and digging your teeth between flesh and peel. To wedge any citrus, start by halving from stem end to blossom end, and then slice the half into wedges however thick you need.
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Supremes and peeled slices
Supreming is a fancy way of saying that you are taking just the flesh out of the fruit, with no peel or membranes. Start by cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit to reveal the flesh. Setting the fruit up on one end, remove the peel and outer layer to reveal the flesh by cutting strips off the outside until you have a fully denuded fruit. At this point you can make slices to use in salads or desserts. If you need true supremes, using your small paring knife make cuts between the flesh and the thin white membrane that separates the segments, which should come out easily. Use these in salads or desserts or as garnish for dishes.
Get the recipe: Saucy Pork Chops With Orange Slices