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Cooking | Magazine

Oranges shine in 4 savory recipes, including a beef stir-fry

Orange zest enhances the crispy coating of caramelized pork while orange slices perfume a simple steamed fish dish.

Caramelized pork with orange and sage.
Caramelized pork with orange and sage.Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Logo for magazine's cooking column w/ Christopher Kimball and cooks of Milk Street.

Among citrus fruits, orange too often is overlooked for savory dishes. And that’s a shame — it can add wonderful floral sweetness, tart acidity, even bitterness from the peel. Orange marmalade lends all three to our beef stir-fry with Chinese five-spice powder and scallions. Sage, orange zest, and brown sugar create a crispy coating for broiled pork tenderloin cutlets. Pureeing an entire orange with juice, ample ginger, and soy sauce creates a sweet-savory sauce for chicken thighs that caramelizes in the oven. And using orange slices to line a steamer basket perfumes white fish coated in a simple marinade of cilantro, ginger, and sweet hoisin sauce.

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Caramelized Pork With Orange and Sage

Makes 6 servings

Argentine chef Francis Mallmann tops pork tenderloin with brown sugar, thyme, and a fruity orange confit tinged by bay leaves and black peppercorns. The flavorful coating is seared onto the surface of the pork on a cast-iron griddle until the orange and thyme are crispy and charred. We love the taste, but the technique isn’t home cook friendly. To simplify and preserve the flavors, we start by streamlining the orange confit: Orange zest and fresh sage, coarsely chopped, give a similar texture and fragrance. Gently pounding the tenderloin ensures a flat surface so the sugar mixture will adhere. Instead of searing the pork, we opt to broil it, making it easier to maintain the topping. Brown sugar becomes a sticky mess under the broiler, so we use coarse turbinado sugar, which keeps its shape and crunch. If the sugar gets too dark before the meat comes to temperature, turn off the oven; the pork will finish cooking in the residual heat.

To preserve the candy-like crust on the meat, skip tenting the pork with foil after removing it from the oven. For the same reason, avoid spooning the sauce over it.

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2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut into 6 pieces

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

½ cup turbinado sugar

3 strips orange zest, chopped (1 tablespoon), plus ½ cup orange juice (1 to 2 oranges)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Heat the broiler to high with a rack 6 inches from the element. Pat the pork dry, then use a meat mallet or a small heavy skillet to gently flatten the pieces to an even 1-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub together the sugar, orange zest, 1 tablespoon of the sage, and the cayenne. Set aside.

In a 12-inch broiler-safe skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the pork and cook until deep golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pork, browned side up, to a large plate; reserve the skillet.

Press the sugar mixture onto the tops of the pork pieces in an even layer, then return the pork to the skillet, sugar side up. Set under the broiler until the meat registers 135 degrees at the center and the sugar mixture is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Transfer to a carving board and let rest.

Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium-high heat on the stove top. Add the orange juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of sage and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve the pork on top of the sauce.

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Stir-fried orange beef with scallions.
Stir-fried orange beef with scallions.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Stir-Fried Orange Beef With Scallions

Makes 4 servings

This stir-fried spin on Chinese orange beef, a perennial favorite that typically calls for deep-frying the meat, uses orange marmalade to add layers of sweetness, bitterness, and citrusy brightness. Five-spice powder adds to the complexity with its warm spiciness. Finish the stir-fry with scallions or use basil to accentuate the anise notes of the five-spice powder. This is great with steamed white or brown rice.

1½ pounds flat iron steak or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick against the grain

1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder

Ground black pepper or ground white pepper

1 tablespoon neutral oil

3 tablespoons orange marmalade

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths or 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn if large

Juice from ¼ orange, plus extra if needed

Toss the beef with the five-spice powder and ½ teaspoon pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the beef in an even layer and cook without stirring until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Stir, then add the marmalade and soy sauce. Cook, stirring, until the beef is lightly glazed. Off heat, stir in the scallions or basil and orange juice. Season with pepper and additional orange juice, if needed.

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Orange-ginger chicken.
Orange-ginger chicken.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Orange-Ginger Chicken

Makes 4 servings

The marinade for this recipe is made in a blender with a quartered whole orange — skin and all — and the ginger does not need to be peeled, either. When transferring the chicken to the wire rack, allow a good amount of the marinade to cling to the pieces for deep browning and crusting. For easier cleanup, line the baking sheet with foil before setting the rack on top.

1 navel orange, not peeled, cut into quarters, plus orange wedges to serve

½ cup orange juice

1 cup low-sodium soy sauce

7 ounces fresh ginger, not peeled, thinly sliced

½ cup packed brown sugar

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed

Sliced scallions, optional, for garnish

In a blender, puree the orange, juice, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, add the chicken, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, then arrange the chicken, with marinade clinging, skin side up on the rack. Bake until the thighs reach 170 degrees, about 45 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and broil until the chicken is deep golden brown and lightly charred, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with orange wedges. Garnish with scallions, if using.

Steamed fish with hoisin, cilantro, and orange.
Steamed fish with hoisin, cilantro, and orange.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Steamed Fish With Hoisin, Cilantro, and Orange

Makes 4 servings

We balance the sweetness of hoisin with herbal cilantro, the sharpness of fresh ginger, and the tang of rice vinegar. Grated orange zest in the flavoring paste, plus using orange slices as liners for the steaming basket, perk up the flavors. Be sure to grate the zest from the oranges before slicing them.

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1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more to serve

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon grated zest from 2 oranges, oranges thinly sliced (see headnote)

1 tablespoon neutral oil

2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar

Ground black pepper

4 6-ounce cod, haddock, or halibut fillets (about 1-inch thick)

Toasted sesame oil, optional, for garnish

In a large shallow bowl, combine the cilantro, hoisin, ginger, orange zest, oil, vinegar, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add the fillets and turn to coat.

Fill a Dutch oven with about 1 inch of water, then cover and bring to a simmer. Line a steamer basket with half the orange slices, place the fillets on top, and lay the remaining orange slices on the fish. Place the basket in the pot, cover, reduce to medium heat, and steam until the fish flakes easily, about 10 minutes. Using a wide spatula, transfer the fish to a platter, discarding the orange slices. Sprinkle with additional cilantro. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil, if using.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.