The first time I saw a blood orange I was in a restaurant in Florence, Italy. It was 1980 and we had finished dinner. The waiter had brought a bowl of oranges, a wedge of Gorgonzola Dolce and a bottle of Grappa to the table. As I began peeling the orange, I couldn't believe the color. It was beautiful. Too beautiful to be real. I actually wondered if they added dye to obtain the dramatic, red flesh. The peel had a blush to it and the juice was tart, but sweet. It was at that moment I fell in love with the Blood Orange. The waiter told me they were from Sicily, a variety called Tarocco and were the favored orange of Italy.
When I returned to Manhattan, I began searching the specialty stores for these Sicilian gems. The only store that stocked them at the time was Balducci's in Greenwich Village and they were only available in Feb and March. Every year I would anticipate their arrival in the market. I would buy loads and use them in tarts, salads, cocktails or place them in bowls on the coffee table for an evening treat.
Over the years they have become available everywhere. But I still find myself anticipating the arrival of the deep red Morro Blood Orange. This year I made Blood Orange Crepes Suzette, perfect as a Valentines Day dessert. Red, sweet and romantic. Enjoy them with a glass of Champagne and the person you love.
Cooks Illustrated has the best crepe batter recipe ever. I use that one, period the end. However that said, the sauce you can certainly play with and change to you hearts delight.
adapted from cooksllustrated.com
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk, the original recipe calls for whole milk, but I found skim works well
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cognac
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons oil for greasing the pan
Place all ingredients in the blender 5 seconds, scrape sides and blend for another 5 seconds. Allow to rest in the refrigerator 2 hours.
Heat a 9 inch crepe pan and brush with butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter in center of pan. Swirl pan to spread batter all around. Don't worry about small holes, you will fold the crepes, cover them in sauce and believe me, no one will notice a few small holes. If they do they are undeserving of your crepes.
Cook until the crepe looks set, not wet and lightly colored on the bottom, less than one minute.
Loosen the edges with a spatula and turn. Cook another 20 seconds and turn out onto a plate to hold.
Continue until all the batter has been used.
This recipe makes approximately 12 crepes in a 9 inch crepe pan. Serving 4.
Blood Orange Sauce
adapted from cooksillustrated.com
4 tablespoons cognac or brandy
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 1/4 cups blood orange juice, from about 4-6 oranges
2 tablespoons triple sec
6 slices of blood orange, halved
Adjust the oven rack to lower position and pre-heat the broiler.
Using an oven proof skillet, add 3 tablespoons of cognac to the skillet. As the cognac heats it's easier to ignite. Hold the handle and tip the skillet away form you, as the cognac reaches the edge of the pan it will ignite and burn for about 30 seconds. Don't let it alarm you, it looks dangerous but it's not. If your timid about igniting the cognac, just heat it and use a chimney match. Shake the pan until the flames subside.
Add the butter, sugar and 1 cup blood orange juice to the pan and simmer briskly over high heat whisking occasionally until it reduces to a thick syrup, 6-8 minutes. You should have just over 1/2 cup of sauce. Do not wash the pan.
Pour the syrup into a large glass measuring cup and add the rest of the orange juice, triple sec, cognac, zest and cover to keep warm.
Using the same skillet, fold the crepes in quarters and place 9 crepes along the sides of the pan, the edges facing outward. Arrange 3 in the center, sprinkling evenly with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Place under the broiler and broil until sugar caramelizes and the crepes start to brown, about 5 minutes. Watch the crepes, you don't want to scorch them.
Remove from the oven and pour half the sauce over the crepes. Place on serving dishes and serve immediately, garnished with an orange slice and pass the extra sauce separately.
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