Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How to section an orange

I can't help but reach for citrus every time I am in a store these days. Why bother with styrofoam tomatoes or limp zucchini when I can get the juiciest blood oranges, meyer lemons, and tangerines. Citrus fruit are extremely versatile and pair well with everything from fish to desserts. Since many of my fish recipes call for "sectioned oranges" or other citrus fruit, I thought it's about time I explain what I mean by this.

Sectioning an orange means removing all unwanted elements -- skin, white pith, and membranes -- and leaving only the juicy parts. Why would you bother with this fussy technique that yield less fruit than peeling, and separating into segments? Because sectioned oranges taste much better on top of fish, salads, and desserts, and they brown better under the broiler. Have you noticed how the oranges and tangerines that come from cans have no membranes? Believe it or not, it's not hard to do that at home. The reason you wouldn't just use canned oranges is that the fresh ones taste so much better. All you need to produce those glistening nuggets is a knife with a narrow blade and a little patience.

Step 1: Cut off the top and bottom of an orange.

Step 2: Set the orange on a cutting board flat side down, and cut off the skin and all of the white pith in curvy strips. You'll have to cut off a little of the juicy part too to make sure no white pith remains.

Step 3: Continue working your way around the orange until no skin remains.

Step 4: Hold the orange in the palm of one hand and the knife in the other hand. Choose a section that you are going to free. Run a knife on the right side of the section next to the right membrane, and then on the left side of the section next to the left membrane.

Step 5: Loosen the section and remove it from the orange.

Step 6: Continue removing the rest of the sections folding empty membranes to one side like pages of a book.

Ta-da -- you have a sectioned orange!


Amy said...

Ah you beat me to it! I've been meaning to put a demo like that on my blog!

Nice photos, Helen!

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen!

Great post! I didn't realize that a sectioned orange (or any citrus) would affect the finished product all that much. You have inspired me! Great pictures too.

Elise said...

Hah! Just the thing I was wondering about. So that's how you do it! Very helpful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Are there other to-dos hidden in here somewhere? :)

Anonymous said...

I was your 10,000th visitor, just wanted to say keep up the good blogging

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Helen!


Anonymous said...

Using sectioned oranges is the only acceptable way to make good old-fashioned southern-style ambrosia, though it is time-consuming!

Helen said...

Hi Josh,

Thanks for that video! I wonder if there are any other technique videos on NECI's site.


Nupur said...

Thank you, thank you! You just taught me something very useful. It works so well.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I was just going to put some blood oranges in crêpes and I was wondering how in the world to remove the membranes. Thanks!

Trig said...

hi helen,

i've been looking for a good sea bream recipe for a family meal on xmas eve, yours looks utterly delicious so i'm pinching it haha. I've only just stumbled across your blog, which looks great by the way. i'm surprised i haven't seen you before, but next time i need to seek advice on fish i'm sure i'll turn to you.

i admire your attention to detail when it comes to fish, you have some great knowledge to pass on to people. i find many people are afraid of preparing and cooking fish, which is rediculous really. it's so quick and easy to cook, no one need be nervous about it.

it's great to see more trained chefs blogging, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can use our knowledge and experience to help foodie enthusiasts all over the world.

P.s. i love your orange segmentation pics, it's something i learnt very early on im my training and is a bugger to explain to someone without the visual aid!

Keep up the great blogging!

Helen said...

Hi Trig,

Merry Christmas! Good luck with that bream :)


Anonymous said...

Did you all really need to be shown or told this? Is it not dead obvious how to do that? Helen, don't mean to take away from your glory, but come on..

Anonymous said...

haha i was really wondering how they do it in the cans! and seriously.. great to have pics!

Anonymous said...


Charles said...

Wonderful photos and explanation of this. I linked to it from my site with credit to you. You should get some visitors from me. Thanks.

smart cell phone said...

Ah you beat me to it! I've been meaning to put a demo like that on my blog

Anonymous said...

Yep, it did need to be said. Thanks so much!