If we’re lucky, at some point in the next six months or so, we might get some summer-like weather (ambitious, we know). Whether we actually see the sun at some point or not, one way to put a little summer in your sauce pan (i.e. your cooking) is to add some bright, tangy citrusy goodness.
Grapefruit, lemon, orange and lime are the real stars of summer (even though we don’t grow them in Canada during any season). If you love cooking with them, there might be a few ways to tweak your technique to make your recipes even better. There are a few common mistakes that could be letting your best citrusy dishes down. Fear not, though. They are super easy to fix.
You’re not using the whole fruit
Lots of people will use the flesh and juice of citrus fruit and completely neglect the zest right there on the outside. Not only is the zest a colourful garnish to add at the end, it can add bursts of flavour throughout a dish where you’ve already added juice. Always zest fresh and don’t worry about only zesting fruit you’re going to use that day. Your orange or lemon will keep just fine in the fridge even with a little zesting wound.
You’re using too much when cooking with dairy
Citrusy flavours pair great with dairy sauces, cutting the creaminess with a little zing, and can add a summery twist to wintery comfort foods. You need to be careful when adding citrus to any kind of dairy product, however, because – as you probably know – acid causes milk to curdle. Adding the perfect amount of citrus juice is crucial in making sure your tangy zing doesn’t turn into a congealed mess. If you’re working from a recipe (particularly for baked goods), only use the amount of citrus juice they call for; don’t get creative and add more for extra flavour. If you’re winging it in the kitchen (go you!) it might take some trial and error to get your perfect balance. Just remember to start with a little juice and add more if you feel you need it.
You’re not marinating for the right amount of time
Like baking, marinating your meat is a science. Any good marinade has acid in it which, through a process called denaturation, causes part of the meat to break down in order to allow the oil and spices to infuse it with flavour. It’s a crucial step in the process of getting flavourful meat, but letting your protein marinate too long will actually start to cook it and make it tough. How long you marinate for is dependent on the type of meat you’re using, but since chicken and seafood are lighter, it’s important to be careful. Chicken and fish should only be marinated for 30 to 60 minutes and shrimp should be allowed even less time to make sure they are at their juicy prime (while also having as much flavour as possible).
You’re adding juices to sauces that are still cooking
If you’re adding citrus to a sauce that requires cooking, it’s best to do it either right at the end or after the cooked ingredients are off the heat. Citrus juices can get bitter and discoloured or even burn when subjected to the intense heat of a pan. Add your citrus flavours to sauces afterwards for the boldest, most authentic flavour.