Citrus is winter’s most revivifying bright spot, and right now, produce shelves are teeming with the stuff. At their best and sweetest, mandarins (a category that includes clementines and satsumas) are irresistible eaten out of hand. But they also work well in more elaborate compositions, like Txikito’s thinly sliced fruit served over a deep caramel flavored with citrus peel. Chef-partner Alex Raij is a devotee of kishu mandarins, a Superball-size Chinese variety she gets mail-ordered from Ojai, California. But clementines work just as well, their sweet-tart flavor balanced by a garnish of floral olive oil and crunchy sea salt.
Txikito’s Clementine Carpaccio With Citrus Caramel, Sea Salt, and Olive Oil
12 seedless clementines (or 4 times as many kishus), plus 4–6 more to yield 1 cup juice
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup fresh Spanish olive oil (preferably Navarran Arbequina)
Crunchy sea salt
(1) Peel 12 clementines by hand, reserving peel from three. Chill fruit. Combine fruit juices and strain. (2) Julienne the peels and place in a small pot, along with sugar. Cover with 2/3 cup water. Stir once and heat on medium-high flame. Boil until the caramel turns dark chestnut, then add citrus juices very carefully. Whisk the mixture and stir in salt. Let cool slightly or entirely at room temperature, but do not chill. To serve: Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caramel on each of 4 plates. (3) Using a very sharp knife and no pressure, thinly slice the peeled fruit crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick wheels. Arrange in a petal pattern over the caramel without overlapping. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle a tiny amount of sea salt on each slice.