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story.lead_photo.caption Slow-roasted Whole Lemons (For The Washington Post/Stacy Zarin Goldberg)

Winter tempts us to roast everything — even fruit. Roasted fibrous apples or almost-ripe pears fill crostatas and crisps, turn up next to meat and game or get added (sometimes clumsily) to salads.

Citrus, so plentiful in winter, typically gets little oven time, and that's a shame.

Roasting citrus may seem at odds with the bright fruit that's mostly juice, spongy pulp and waxy rind. Instead, uncooked segments pop up in salads; the juice and zest go into dressings, marinades and custards.

Try roasting lemons and oranges, however, and you'll find that the sugars caramelize to create surprisingly intense flavors.

Roasted sweet orange slices add concentrated flavor and texture to dishes; while roasted whole lemons and oranges taste sunshine-bright, candy-rich. They are as versatile as they are assertive.

Citrus can be roasted successfully in one of two ways: Cut the fruit into thin slices and dry roast it at high heat; or leave the citrus whole and cook it low and slow in a bit of water and its own liquid.

In either case, you need to foil the ambitions of the bitter pith with vinegar, or by allowing that white membrane to cook until nearly clear and sweet.

I stumbled upon the process of roasting citrus. One day, I had a surplus of citrus and just thought, "What if?" I kept roasting until the richness balanced out the bitterness, and I was hooked.

Thin-skinned, sweet oranges are the best choice for slicing and dry roasting. Underneath the fragrant, bright peel, the white pith is soapy and bitter. But if the pith is thin, as with juice oranges, such as Valencia, the fruit roasts perfectly in slender, pretty slices.

The pulp pulls taut as it roasts, sometimes becoming floss-thin and caramelized at the edges, giving the oranges a little chew. Reinvigorate the roasted slices with vinegar to elevate their sweetness and knock out that residual bitterness.

Roasted orange slices are sturdy enough to toss into a salad, a pan of sauteed greens or a bowl of toasty grains. Like any other dried fruit, they deliver a concentration of flavor.

Roast orange slices on parchment paper, rather than directly on the baking tray. This prevents the thin pieces from sticking to the pan, and the parchment becomes a steaming pouch for softening and seasoning the dried slices.

Once the orange slices become tender and begin to brown, pull up the sides of parchment to gather together the pieces, then — after adding a splash of vinegar — fold the paper onto itself to create a pouch that traps the newly created steam. The vinegar at once loosens the bits of fruit and caramelized juices from the parchment, and as it settles into the slices it intensifies their flavor.

For the second roasting method, you cook the fruit whole for a long time over low heat. Slow roasting works beautifully with lemons and oranges.

A thinly sliced shallot added to the pot at the start becomes a catalyst for caramelization. The shallot melts into the juices released from the citrus creating a delicious, intense sauce. The fruit's natural pectin, especially abundant in the long-simmered seeds, thickens the fruit's pulp and juices to a golden syrup.

Since I've been making them, I stopped buying preserved lemons altogether. The roasted lemons are quite different taste-wise and much more versatile.

Pair roasted citrus with a wide range of flavors, including olives, capers and aged cheeses; sweet and hot peppers; dried and fresh tomatoes; shrimp and sardines; any herb and leafy green; and even dates and bittersweet chocolate.

Add pieces of roasted lemon to the pan toward the end of roasting the chicken, meat or whole fish. Mash a small piece into vinaigrette or pesto. At the very least, add the roasted citrus to olive oil for slathering on bread.

Slow-Roasted Whole Lemons

5 small, thin-skinned lemons, preferably Meyer (about 1 pound), scrubbed, cut almost in half across middle, remove exposed seeds

1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Place oven rack in the middle position, and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the lemons, shallot, salt and ½ cup water in a Dutch oven or any oven-safe, heavy-bottom pot with a lid. Cover the pot, place in the oven and roast for about 90 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, check on the lemons every 15 to 20 minutes, stirring gently to coat the lemons with the liquid. If the lemons begin to brown, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees to prevent scorching.

Watch for the lemons to begin to collapse, and for the liquid in the pot to take on a golden hue and thicken slightly. The shallot will melt into the liquid.

Remove the pot from the oven when the lemon pith is completely translucent and the juices have turned syrupy and caramel brown. Using tongs, grab a piece of lemon and use the softened fruit to mop the sides of the pot, loosening any bits. Drop that lemon back into the pot with the others.

Remove the lemons and the accumulated liquid from the heat and let cool completely. Serve as a condiment, or use to add flavor to sauces.

Makes about 8 servings.

Roasted Orange Slices

(For The Washington Post/Stacy Zarin Goldberg)
Roasted Orange Slices (For The Washington Post/Stacy Zarin Goldberg)

Add these roasted orange slices to leaf or grain salads, or a cheeseboard. Serve them alongside game, pork or poultry, or just nibble on them as a snack. They have the chew and sweetness of dried fruit with a slight bitter edge.

Roasted Orange Slices

1 pound thin-skinned oranges, such as Valencia, scrubbed, stem removed

1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

2 to 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Place oven rack in the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Quarter the oranges and remove any seeds. Lightly trim any membranes still attached to the central core of the wedges. Slice each wedge crosswise into triangles, no more than an eighth-inch-thick. Place the slices in a bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt.

Arrange the oranges on the parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, until the slices are soft and beginning to brown at the edges.

Carefully lift the long sides of the parchment paper toward each other and gently shake the slices so they fall together into the center of the paper. Sprinkle the gathered orange slices with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Then, fold the raised edges of the parchment together several times to make a pouch, carefully folding and tucking the open ends underneath. Roast for an additional 10 minutes, steaming the slices.

Allow the orange slices to cool inside the parchment pouch before tasting them. If the slices remain bitter (they shouldn't), sprinkle with another tablespoon of vinegar, add a pinch of salt, fold the parchment over again, and place the baking sheet back in the oven to steam for 5 more minutes.

Remove the oranges from the oven. Place the slices in a glass or ceramic container, scraping any accumulated juices over the slices. Cover and let cool completely.

Makes about 2 cups.

Chicken With White Wine, Roasted Lemons and Capers

(For The Washington Post/Stacy Zarin Goldberg)
Chicken With White Wine, Roasted Lemons and Capers (For The Washington Post/Stacy Zarin Goldberg)

Roasted lemons, capers and crushed red pepper flakes are stirred into the sauce of this simple braised chicken, just before finishing in the oven.

Serve with a crisp green salad.

This dish calls for allowing the chicken to rest 30 minutes before cooking. Use this time to prep your vegetables.

Chicken With White Wine, Roasted Lemons and Capers

2 pounds chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), bone-in, skin-on

Kosher salt

1 ½ tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, sliced

5 cloves garlic, sliced

6 large fresh thyme sprigs

1 cup crisp, white wine, such as sauvignon blanc

¼ cup chopped whole preserved or Slow-Roasted Lemons, chop rind and pulp, discard seeds; see related recipe

¼ cup roughly chopped capers

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Generously season both sides with salt and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 hour. When ready to cook, pat each piece dry again.

Place a large, oven-safe, heavy skillet with a lid over high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Place the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer in the skillet. Cook each piece until it turns deep brown, about 10 minutes, then flip the pieces and brown the other side, an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pieces to a plate.

Remove all but about 2 teaspoons of the fat from the skillet. Add the onion, garlic and thyme. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and turn heat to high to bring to a quick simmer.

Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, placing them on top of vegetables, skin side up. Pour any juices left on the plate back into the skillet. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Flip the chicken pieces and stir the vegetables. Cover and let simmer for another 15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, place an oven rack in the middle and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the lid and stir in the roasted lemons, capers and crushed pepper flakes. Turn the chicken pieces skin-side up. Cover the skillet and place it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

The chicken is ready when the meat easily pulls away from the bone, and the sauce is thick.

Let the chicken rest in the pot for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes about 4 servings.

Food on 01/15/2020

Print Headline: Fruitful winter


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