I am a sucker for anything gourmet. Unusual ingredients are a particular weakness (see bamboo rice.)
It all started with a tweet from a Seattle chef I admire and follow on Twitter, @ChefReinvented (Becky Selengut). She was catering a party for 60 and tweeted her menu, including this little gem:
Seared wild U.S. prawns with tangerine dust, New Mexico chiles and smoked paprika aioli.
Tangerine dust? All of a sudden, I’m fixated on getting my hands on some tangerine dust.
A quick glance around the kitchen and I spot a 5-pound box of Cuties®. So they’re not tangerines, but I thought, why not?
For the record, tangerine is much sexier sounding than cutie.
The Cutie is a type of mandarin orange — a Californian clementine — as is the tangerine, the satsuma and the Dancy.
Cutie Dust just doesn’t have the same ring as Clementine Dust. Or Tangerine Dust for that matter.
The clementines need to be sliced whisper-thin, but after a few, painfully slow slices with my knife, I quickly figured out I had better things to do with my Sunday. I dug out the mandolin.
Technically it’s a Japanese Benriner, the only one I’ve found (sorry France and Germany) that slices food so thin you can see through it.
Adjusting the mandolin to cut as thin as possible, each clementine produced 10 or 12 slices, not counting the first couple of slices or the last little bit, as I stopped before I sliced my finger tips off.
Funny thing, this particular mandolin has the words “watch your fingers” printed in English and Japanese.
I’m guessing that the Japanese words say the same thing. They could say something entirely different, like “we only printed the English words ‘watch your fingers’ for the careless English-speaking people, but we know you, our slice-savvy Japanese customers, know when to stop.”
Or something like that.
I laid the slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and stuck them in a 200ºF. oven for about 3 hours.
If you don’t slice them as thin as I did, it might take a little longer. They should be brittle when they come out of the oven, but don’t let them get too brown or they’ll taste burnt.
At this point, they make a nice little potpourri garnish. Throw in a couple cinnamon sticks and call it a day.
But I was after the culinary profit of dust, so I crushed a handful and put them in a spice blender with a big pinch of sugar and small pinch of kosher salt.
Chef Becky had warned me that they might be bitter without cutting with a little something. This is especially true if using thicker skinned tangerines instead of thin-skinned clementines.
Several grinds later, a pretty powder: clementine dust.
It looks like ground ginger, only brighter. The taste? Intense. Like an orange to the 10th degree. Exquisite.
Four clementines yielded 1/4 cup of powder, er, dust.
I’m thinking about making some more, stashing them into little spice tins to give to friends for Christmas and Hanukkah.
Dusting scallops with this angelic powder just before searing sounds like a fabulous idea. So does mixing it into a dry rub for ribs or maybe adding a teaspoon to a vinaigrette to punch up the flavor.
What do you think about adding a teaspoon or two to a pound cake or muffin batter? Or maybe sprinkling on top of ice cream, or folding a teaspoon into whipped cream?
The possibilities are endless…and flavorful and fragrant.