Today I held a honey manila mango in my hand and brought it close to my face so I could smell it. The aroma grabbed me by the collar, dragged me out of winter and threw me into spring. We’re all still waiting for ramps, spring onions and herbs; but in the meantime, we have honey manilas.
Honey manilas, like all mangoes, are made for warmer weather. They’re sweet and have a cooling effect, which is why they’re rarely cooked (why cook something that’s already perfect?). And right now, honey manilas (which are available from March through May) are at their sweetest, which is why this morning in the test kitchen we turned a few into a limey, sweet-tart mango ice.
More on that in a second. First, let’s talk about how to prep these things.
Honey manilas have a thin skin that can be removed with a vegetable peeler or a knife. Rick uses a knife, and he wields it in such a way that the skin comes off with almost no flesh attached. Here in the test kitchen? We use a peeler.
Now: slicing the mango. There’s a thin pit in the center of mangos, and the flesh closest to the pit is tough and fibrous. The goal in slicing a mango is to slice around the pit, removing as much of the juicy flesh as you can. Do this in four sections. You’ll get two big slabs from the wide sides of the mango:
And two smaller slabs from the thinner sides:
Now you can slice the slabs into whatever sort of strips you want, maybe for an Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. Or a Grilled Steak Salad with Mango and Arugula.
But if you do that, try reserve a few for dessert:
MANGO LIME ICE
Mango is the perfect fruit to choose when making an ice by the still-set (rather than an ice-cream machine) method, since its dense flesh turns out an almost creamy textured ice that’s tangy from the lime and just sweet enough to soothe a tongue that has enjoyed a lot of spiciness. My thanks goes to Harold McGee in The Curious Cook for explaining the intricacies of making fruit ice. Using this method, you’ll want to start the night before serving, or at least early in the day of your dinner.
In a food processor, combine the mangoes, orange zest, sugar, lime juice and 1 cup of water. Process to a smooth puree, then press through a strainer into a stainless steel bowl or 9x9-inch pan. Freeze until the mixture is firm 2 inches in from the sides, about 2 hours. Whip with an immersion blender or scrape into a food processor and process until slushy. Repeat the freezing and beating 2 more times, then freeze at least 1 hour before serving.
It is best to eat the ice within a day, because it will become progressively more icy. If the finished ice has been in the freezer for several hours, soften it in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving.
Variations and Improvisations
This same process works well with 2 heaping cups of coarsely chopped, not-too-watery tropical fruits like mamey, guanabana, chirimoya, black zapote and chico zapote; they may not need as much lime juice to bring out their flavor. Guava is best cooked with the sugar until tender, then strained; it will need less lime juice. Juicier fruits like papaya, nectarine and peach should be used in larger proportions (2 1/2 heaping cups) with less water (about 2/3 cup). Sugar on all these versions can be varied, depending on the sweetness of the fruit, though if you eliminate too much, the ice will be icy.