In high school, up, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing Mother who woke up early to have breakfast in the works while I was still grumbling and battling my second snooze cycle. As it is in most homes, in the twenty harried minutes that exist from the moment a teenager begrudgingly rolls out of bed to the moment their newly licensed selves bolt out the door, it’s a feat to get anything into their mouths, let alone a balanced breakfast. Somehow I always had something tasty in my hand, even though I was consistently 10 minutes behind schedule and searching high and low for my swim cap, my car keys, or my powder-puff football t-shirt.
This gesture of course I can only fully appreciate now; back then, I didn’t realize just how nice it was to have buttered cinnamon raisin toast, fresh orange juice, bagels with cream cheese, yogurt and fruit, and the occasional fluffy waffle ready waiting for me to grab and go. It was only after settling into the corporate world and trading in Mom’s simple yet sturdy breakfasts for the less nutritionally sound street-cart coffee with skim milk – twice in as many hours – that it sunk in just how good I had it. A proper breakfast at home before heading off to the office? Not a chance! Not when skipping it means an extra fifteen minutes of desperately needed shut-eye, my friends.
One thing that consistently graced our breakfast table on weekdays or otherwise, were juicy halves of pink grapefruit. This in itself might not sound that special, but you see in these grapefruits, the cuts were already made between the peel and the membranes. It takes a special person to have the patience to properly cut a grapefruit, because let’s face it – it’s a total pain in the ass. You must first dig out that funny little crooked knife, and then have the willingness to endure squirts of acidic juice assailing your eyeballs as you carefully and painstakingly separate the flesh from the membranes, all while taking care not to puncture the slippery peel. Serenity now!!
I love grapefruits, but never view them in the same ‘quick and easy’ category as their other citrus counterparts for this very reason. I realize too that grapefruits can elicit all sorts of negative reactions from people – they have that either you love’em or hate’em thing going on. Although one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is straight up (and, ahem, preferably already cut – thanks Mom!) I’ve been making this slightly fancier version for myself, and think not only does justify the extra few minutes of prep time, but also that it could just be the thing to convert non-lovers into fanatics.
Grapefruit brulee is deceptively simple – you’ll need a chilled grapefruit, some brown sugar, and a hot broiler (or kitchen torch, if you are really well appointed in that arena). After sprinkling said sugar and a bit of cinnamon atop the scored and prepped grapefruit halves, you place them under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar has melted and caramelized slightly, the fruit is warm, and the edges of the grapefruit are just slightly singed.
Before you shrug this off as disgusting – and I know that hot grapefruit doesn’t exactly sound appealing – just try it first. It’s a perfect way to turn a cool Summertime breakfast into something decidedly wintery, and, at least for me, anything warm to start a frigid single-digit morning off is a welcomed thing. The chilled grapefruit stands up to the heat, with the top layer becoming warm, sweet, and juicy and the bottom retaining that refreshing aspect. The sugar melts into a caramelly layer, and though you aren’t using much the heat helps it to spread and permeate into the separated fruit. I suspect even grapefruit skeptics would give this a whirl, and I’d be shocked if they too weren’t pleasantly surprised.
It’s simplicity belies that it truly is something special, and would be perfect for a fancy brunch or even as a very light dessert, with a scoop of citrus sorbet perched atop. Of course there is nothing to stop you from waking up just a few minutes early and making your weekday feel like something a bit more exciting; a little goes a long way in that regard, and on a chilly morning grapefruit brulee and a mug of hot chai is not to be underestimated.
Serves 1, or 2 with 1/2 each
If you like, you can dot the top of each grapefruit with a bit of butter before you broil, to yield a richer result. For me, the brown sugar and cinnamon, once warmed and bubbly, are plenty enough.
For easier cleanup, slip a piece of parchment under the grapefruits before passing them under the heat. I of course did not do this, and spent a good few minutes scrubbing melted sugar out of my pan. Don’t be like me.
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch flaky sea salt (preferably Maldon)
Preheat the broiler to high. Cut a small layer off of the bottom of each end of the grapefruit, being careful not to cut through the peel and into the fruit, so it will sit flat in a pan. Cut the grapefruit in half horizontally, and using a grapefruit knife (or regular serrated knife) cut around the edges of the grapefruit and between the membrane to loosen the segments of fruit.
Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly between the two halves, placing a half a tablespoon on each half. Spread the sugar around into an even layer, and sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon over each. Place the grapefruits in a small pan, and place underneath the broiler for 2-4 minutes, keeping a watchful eye, until the sugar is melted and light brown in spots.
Sprinkle a tiny pinch of sea salt on each grapefruit half, and serve immediately, while still warm.