Mandarin Orange Dust

I am a sucker for anything gourmet. Unusual ingredients are a particular weakness (see bamboo rice.)

It all started with a tweet from a Seattle chef I admire and follow on Twitter, @ChefReinvented (Becky Selengut). She was catering a party for 60 and tweeted her menu, including this little gem:

Seared wild U.S. prawns with tangerine dust, New Mexico chiles and smoked paprika aioli.

Tangerine dust? All of a sudden, I’m fixated on getting my hands on some tangerine dust.

A quick glance around the kitchen and I spot a 5-pound box of  Cuties®. So they’re not tangerines, but I thought, why not?

For the record, tangerine is much sexier sounding than cutie.

The Cutie is a type of mandarin orange — a Californian clementine — as is the tangerine, the satsuma and the Dancy.

Cutie Dust just doesn’t have the same ring as Clementine Dust. Or Tangerine Dust for that matter.

The clementines need to be sliced whisper-thin, but after a few, painfully slow slices with my knife, I quickly figured out I had better things to do with my Sunday. I dug out the mandolin.

Technically it’s a Japanese Benriner, the only one I’ve found (sorry France and Germany) that slices food so thin you can see through it.

Adjusting the mandolin to cut as thin as possible, each clementine produced 10 or 12 slices, not counting the first couple of slices or the last little bit, as I stopped before I sliced my finger tips off.

Funny thing, this particular mandolin has the words “watch your fingers” printed in English and Japanese.

I’m guessing that the Japanese words say the same thing. They could say something entirely different, like “we only printed the English words ‘watch your fingers’ for the careless English-speaking people, but we know you, our slice-savvy Japanese customers, know when to stop.”

Or something like that.

I laid the slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and stuck them in a 200ºF. oven for about 3 hours.

If you don’t slice them as thin as I did, it might take a little longer. They should be brittle when they come out of the oven, but don’t let them get too brown or they’ll taste burnt.

At this point, they make a nice little potpourri garnish. Throw in a couple cinnamon sticks and call it a day.

But I was after the culinary profit of dust, so I crushed a handful and put them in a spice blender with a big pinch of sugar and small pinch of kosher salt.

Chef Becky had warned me that they might be bitter without cutting with a little something. This is especially true if using thicker skinned tangerines instead of thin-skinned clementines.

Several grinds later, a pretty powder:  clementine dust.

It looks like ground ginger, only brighter. The taste? Intense. Like an orange to the 10th degree. Exquisite.

Four clementines yielded 1/4 cup of powder, er, dust.

I’m thinking about making some more, stashing them into little spice tins to give to friends for Christmas and Hanukkah.

Dusting scallops with this angelic powder just before searing sounds like a fabulous idea. So does mixing it into a dry rub for ribs or maybe adding a teaspoon to a vinaigrette to punch up the flavor.

What do you think about adding a teaspoon or two to a pound cake or muffin batter? Or maybe sprinkling on top of ice cream, or folding a teaspoon into whipped cream?

The possibilities are endless…and flavorful and fragrant.


Filed under Tips & Tutorials

24 responses to “Mandarin Orange Dust

  1. awesome Gwen! I have only ground the dehydrated peels (no pith) I just love how you ground up the entire dehydrated fruit. I wonder how the taste compares. Will have to try that myself. Beautiful photos.

  2. Love it! Tis the season for Cuties here in CA and I always have a bag of them around.
    “Cutie Dust” sounds suspiciously close to Pixie Dust, which I kinda like. But I have to agree, “Clemintine Dust” sounds so much more respectable.
    The Benriner Mandoline is an awesome (and yes, dangerous) tool. I have one and I use it all the time.
    The color you got from the powder was incredible. I’d love to see it as a garnish on a dessert plate.

  3. Great. Will add this to my MUST DO list. Thanks so much!

  4. Sharon Miro

    OMG…I am in the kitchen at 10:30 pm looking lustfully at the Cuties on the table and longing for a mandolin of my own…NFM–I’ll use a knife…now if i could just find that sharpening stone….
    and the only thing that can make this even better is food grade gold dust…i think I have some…

  5. How beautiful! I recently made some “dust” from just the peels, and put them in a dehydrator for a few hours instead of the oven…might have to try this too!
    Check out Ana Sortun’s book “Spice” for more interesting ways with citrus. Cheers!

  6. Becky: Thank you for the idea to begin with. I think I missed the part about using just the peel, so I used the whole fruit. Really delicious, and with a pinch of sugar and salt, it’s not bitter at all.

    Kristina: I love pixie dust, too! And it is kinda like that, only not as sweet. Wonder if I could store the dust in paper straws? ha!

    Sharon: Get yourself a benriner. Not that expensive and saves lots of time. They come in 2 sizes, slim and wide. I have both but prefer the slim.

    Karen: Thanks for the tip on the Spice book. I’ll seek it out. I have a dehydrator. In a box in the garage, ha! I should pull it out and try it.

  7. WOW! I just returned home from my parents’ house with a bag of tangerines – and now I know what to do with them!

  8. Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also.

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  10. matrioskasadventures

    great idea and wonderful photos! have a great weekend!

  11. Wow! I never thought about orange dust! Thanks.

  12. I’m pretty enchanted by this, the pictures, your transfixed state over the dust. And I like your action-doing it. Well dusted!

  13. What a fabulous idea! I usually just zest my citrus fruit but mandarin orange dust sounds so magical that I have to make some.

  14. Sharon

    Uh, it’s Chanukah right now. Is my “dust” in the mail? The possibilities are endless.

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  16. James

    That stuff sounds ace.

    Have you determined how long this stuff will keep before you need to get rid and make a new batch?

    Regardless, I’m definitely gonna make some. I love the original idea of pairing it with something hot on seafood.

    Need to go. Mouth a watery hell and no napkins in sight!

    • James:

      The dust is really best in the first few weeks after grinding it. After a month, it starts to lose some of it’s vibrant fragrance. That’s why it’s best not to make too much at one time.

      Freezing it will help keep beyond a month.

  17. What a practical idea to prepare a citrus powder….
    Thank you!

    Greetings from Germany

  18. Thanks for the wonderful idea. I zested a lime and let the peel dry to use in things, but have not figured out quite what to do with it. The clementine dust sounds wonderful and thanks for the ideas of what to use it for.

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  20. Lan

    thank you so much for this post, i’d been enamored with this concept since dec and FINALLY i was able to do it!

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