Are you sick of Valentine's Day already? Because if I knew you well, I'd admit to you, privately, that I'm kind of sick of it. Maybe because I spent 3 hours yesterday baking little cookies for my sons' friends' valentines. Maybe because every blogger from here to Micronesia is writing about chocolate and flowers and hallmarky sweetness. I just can't put my game face on today. Tomorrow I'll put it on, but today I'm feeling a bit acerbic.
Can you tell?
I found these ridiculous little fruits at Trader Joe's called Mandarinquats, and they're matching my mood perfectly.
They're a mandarin/kumquat hybrid -- wincingly acidic and filled with big seeds that you can spit directly into the sink when no one's looking. As with regular kumquats, you can eat the peel, too. I bought them on a lark because I thought the name was hilarious, but not in a funny ha-ha way, just in a "Really?" kind of way. I know you know what I mean.
And in an effort to improve my mood and add a little sweetness to my day, I caramelized them, stringing threads of hardened sugar all over my kitchen in the process.
Excellent. That'll be a hoot to clean up.
So now I have candied, caramelized mandarinquats, and I can tell you this: I never, in my entire life, thought I would write the sentence, "I have candied, caramelized mandarinquats."
Paired with some vanilla ice cream and just a sprinkling of shaved dark chocolate, it's Valentine's Day-ish, but with an edge. A sharp edge.
Perfect for today.
Tomorrow, sunshine and lollipops!
Recipe for Candied, Caramelized Mandarinquats
Citrusy and with a face-contorting tartness, mandarinquats are great to eat alone or to pair with ice cream. If you leave them at room temperature, the caramel will harden into candy. If you refrigerate them, the caramel will liquify. Both ways taste unique and delicious. And yes, you can certainly use kumquats instead.
Serves about 4
6-8 mandarinquats or kumquats, sliced, seeded
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Vanilla ice cream and shaved dark chocolate for serving, if desired
Place the sliced fruit and any residual juice in a bowl. Place a silpat on a rimmed baking sheet. Set both aside.
In a small saucepan, preferably enameled cast iron and certainly heavy and sturdy, combine the sugar and water. Swirl lightly to combine, then set over medium high heat. Cook, without stirring, for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture turns deep amber and begins to smell like caramel.
(Note that the time it takes for sugar to caramelize varies widely and depends on your stove and your cookware. Just don't walk away or answer the phone or you risk having a burnt mess on your hands. Also be very, very careful as caramel burns are no laughing matter.)
As soon as the sugar caramelizes, remove the pot from the heat and carefully add the fruit and juice. Give a quick stir with a heatproof spatula and turn out onto the lined baking sheet. The mixture will immediately begin to harden in spots.
Allow to continue hardening, or scrape into a bowl once cooled and store in the fridge. Serve, if desired, with vanilla ice cream and shaved chocolate, or eat straight up.