What's in Season: Cara Caras
First discovered in Venezuela in the mid-1970s (at the Hacienda de Cara Cara, for you Jeopardy die-hards), our Cara Caras come mainly from California’s San Joaquin Valley, and are at their peak in January. They’re bright-skinned and seedless, like their Navel siblings, but cut one open and parentage becomes questionable. A little grapefruit canoodling, perhaps, given the deep pink color? But this is a citrus, not a senator, so no, there’s no tartness, just sweetness, low acidity, and undertones of cherry and rose. Look for them at Whole Foods, DeCicco, and Food Emporium markets.
Chef Reza Khorshidi first encountered Cara Caras in the mid-1980s, working the meat station at, fittingly, Los Angeles’s famed L’Orangerie. Now it’s his Rebeccas (265 Glenville Rd, Greenwich, CT 203-532-9270) that is famed, and this time of year, Cara Caras abound at its meat station as well as in its pastry kitchen. Oranges are a traditional accompaniment to game, and Khorshidi pairs his Cara Caras with seared foie gras. “They’re low in acid,” he says, “so you don’t have to add sugar or honey for balance, as you would with other oranges.” Consequently, he notes, there are also fewer calories. And then there’s the practical aspect. “I could use blood oranges, but their color bleeds into the rest of the dish,” he says. So Cara Caras it is, with both the foie gras appetizer and a frothy Pavlova dessert of meringue, mascarpone, and raspberry coulis. Talk about abundance; it may not be in the cards for most of us right now, but at least it’s on the menu.
Cara Cara Orange Pavlova
Courtesy of Reza Khorshidi
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup superfine sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp distilled white vinegar
½ cup egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 275˚F with rack in center position. Lightly butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Dust sides with confectioner’s sugar, tapping out excess. Line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper.
In food processor, combine superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Pulse until well mixed. In a small bowl, stir together vanilla and vinegar. In electric mixer at medium speed, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time. After all the sugar has been added, beat for one minute more. Add vanilla mixture and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about five minutes.
Spoon meringue into prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake meringues for about one hour, until tops have crisp crusts and feel dry to the touch (the insides will be soft).
Turn oven off and cool meringues in oven one hour, with door slightly open (meringues may sink in and crack while cooling). When cool, remove meringues from pan.
FOR PAVLOVA CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
½ cup sour cream, chilled
Beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in sour cream.
8 Cara Cara oranges
Peel and gently section oranges. Place one meringue on serving platter and spread over it half the Pavlova cream. Top with half the orange sections. Cover with second meringue. Repeat the cream and orange layers. Cover with third meringue.
Serve with raspberry coulis. (Purée two pints raspberries and simmer with ½ cup superfine sugar and juice of ½ lemon, for three minutes. Strain and chill.) Spoon coulis on top of and around Pavlova.