Caramel Oranges with Cardamom

December 14, 2011

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Hands on time: 20 minutes

Back when we were kids, Santa always placed a navel orange in the toe of our stockings. We’d dump all our goodies out on the living room floor, dislodging the boring orange orb in order to free up the awesome gold-foil wrapped coins that somehow always slid to the very tip of the toe. As the oranges bounced across the carpet and rolled under the couch, we unwrapped and stuffed waxy chocolate coins into our innocent little mouths.

But, oh, how could we have been so misguided? There’s not many tastes more refreshing than a bright, juicy orange. And with just the smallest effort, they make one of the simplest and best of desserts when drizzled with caramel syrup. Nothing could be easier than browning a little sugar and then drizzling it over sliced oranges and I guarantee that your guests will be impressed. I love this dish cold, preferably after a few hours in the fridge when the caramel has had a chance to blend with the juice from the oranges. For a little zip, I added a touch of cardamom to the syrup right before drizzling but if there’s no cardamom on your shelf don’t let it stop you from making this festive dish. It’s a definite step up from an orange in the toe of a sock. Waxy chocolate coins be damned.

It’s that easy: Cardamom is a warm, pungent spice used in sweet and savory Indian curries and some Scandinavian breads. You will find it in a few different forms at the grocery store. It can be bought as 1) pods, 2) whole seeds, and 3) ground. I like to buy it as whole seeds and crush or grind them just before using. That way the flavor is at its peak. Though you can buy the pods and crush them freeing the seeds, it is a bit of a bother because then you have to separate the seeds from the crumbled pod.

Serves 6

5 navel oranges
1/2 cup/120 ml sugar
3 tbsp/45 ml water
1/4 tsp/1.25 ml cardamom seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle or a pinch of ground (optional)

Peel the oranges by cutting off the top and bottom to make them flat and then slicing around the circumference of the orange with a sharp knife, cutting away the peel and white pith. Then cut each orange crosswise into about 6 sections and lay them out on a heat proof platter.

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and swirl every now and then over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Do not stir. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Once the syrup is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook it for about 5 minutes or until the syrup has browned to a rich caramel color. It will be very bubbly. Your burners may run hotter or cooler. Watch it closely as there is only a moment between sublime and burned. Add the cardamom seeds and swirl them to combine and drizzle the syrup over the oranges. The caramel will harden on impact. Serve the dish immediately or let the oranges sit in the refrigerator for a few hours so that the they juice up and make a luscious caramel syrup.



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