This recipe is inspired by one of the best in-room breakfasts I've ever had. It happened not so long ago, in a far away land I call Atlantic City.
The breakfast was designed by Geoffrey Zakarian, the meticulous New York chef in charge of the food at the Water Club, a sophisticated new non-gaming annex property to the 2,000 room Borgata in Atlantic City.
We ordered the ruby-red grapefruit on the side -- it turned out to be a ritzed up take on the sugared grapefruit halves of my youth. And sure, I've had other grapfruit halves bruleed in recent times (haven't we all?), but this was different. These had been segmented, chilled, sprinkled with sugar and then torched so that the crunchy bruleed topping was paper thin, its toasty finish melting on my tongue like burnt snowflakes.
I needed more. But rather than spend my Atlantic City winnings on room service citrus, I instead decided to spend them on a sack of grapefruit when I got home.
And then I set to work segmenting pink grapefruit.
In case you're a newbie to the wonderful world of citrus segmentation, I did this by cutting a deep slice off the top and bottom of the grapefruit so that some juicy flesh was exposed. Then, from top to bottom, I carved off the outer peel, removing the bitter pith and membrane until all that was left was a wet orb of blushing grapefruit.
To extract the segments I cut as close to the fine inner membranes as possible, section after section; with two deft slices with the paring knife the segments were released into the bowl below.
I ate as I worked: One juicy piece of grapefruit for the bowl, one for the cook.
Next step: Flame-throwing.
I took all the remaining segments, patted them dry and lay them snugly in a bowl. I chilled them in the fridge for a few minutes, uncovered (the hope here was to dry them out further.) Then I took a heaping teaspoon or two of sugar and evenly coated the grapefruit segments -- you can use more if you want a thicker brulee crust, less if you want less.
Then I got out my propane torch. Mine's a handy little sucker called the Fox Run Craftsmen Creme Brulee Torch. I got it on sale at Cayne's for $29.99 but you can always find them at kitchen shops like Williams-Sonoma for about $60, or an industrial version at hardware stores.
I sparked the torch and flamed the sugar until it melted then turned golden, then dark brown.
I waited a few seconds, then picked up my spoon and cracked away.
It was crunchy, cool, juicy, sweet and sour.
A little bite of magic.