Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Exotic Ataulfo Mangoes

Tommy Atkins and Ataulfo Mangoes
There are hundreds of mango varieties but only about 4 or 5 varieties are common in our local marketplace. My hands down favorite is the 'Ataulfo Mango'. Primarily grown in Mexico with peak season being mid-March to early June. Usually smaller than most varieties and sometimes more expensive but the only mango that consistently impresses me with their texture and flavor.

Ataulfos are small with an oval, flattened shape and are fully ripe when the skin turns a deep golden color with small wrinkles.
Note size of seed @ bottom; Tommy Atkins left ~ Ataulfo right

The flesh is vibrant yellow and has a creamy, sweet flavor. They have a very small seed so there is a high flesh to seed ratio. The flesh is smooth and firm with no fibers which makes them my first choice. Besides the color and wrinkles, another test of ripeness of the Ataulfo is that it will give slightly to a gentle squeeze. Use your experience with peaches and avocados which also become softer as they ripen. 
NOTE: the red color on some mango varieties is not an indicator of ripeness. Always judge by feel.

For the past few weeks, Thrifty Foods has featured Ataulfo Mangoes on sale at a great price. I took the opportunity to stock up, purchasing different degrees of ripeness. Unripe mangoes should be stored at room temperature. This way they will continue to ripen becoming softer and sweeter over several days. To speed up ripening, place in a paper bag at room temperature. Purchasing a few ripe, ready to eat and some still green, extends your eating enjoyment.
Ataulfo Mangoes at different degrees of ripeness
Once ripe, move to the fridge (if they last that long!) to slow down the ripening process. Whole, ripe mangoes can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. They can be peeled, cubed and placed in an airtight container in the fridge for several days or frozen for up to 6 months.

Mangoes have one long, flat seed in the center of the fruit. Once you learn how to work around the seed the rest is easy. Always wash mangoes before cutting. Stand the mango, stem end down on a cutting board and hold. Place your knife about 1/4" from the widest center line and cut down. Flip the mango and repeat for the other side. The resulting ovals of flesh are called 'cheeks' and what is left in the middle is mostly the mango seed. 

To slice; cut parallel slices into the mango flesh being careful not to cut through the skin. Then 'scoop' the sliced flesh out of the skin with a large spoon. Slices can be cut thick or thin as desired.

To dice; cut parallel slices into the mango flesh being careful not to cut through the skin, as for slicing. Turn the mango cheek 1/4 rotation and cut another set of parallel slices to make a checkerboard pattern. 

Now you have two choices; either 'scoop' the diced flesh out of the skin with a large spoon or turn the scored mango cheek 'inside out' by pushing the skin up from underneath and scrape the chunks off the skin with a knife or spoon.

Chef's Tip: if your recipe calls for diced mango, make your parallel slices closer together. The result is small pieces of diced mango and no need to further cut up on your board.

There is a gadget available called a Mango Slicer. The instructions read, '...simply place mango in the holder and press cutter to remove the pit.' Like many other kitchen gadgets, I have never tried these... I am more comfortable with the control of a knife and cutting board. It is a matter of comfort and preference.

Mangoes are a healthy snack for any time of day. Add frozen, diced mango to your morning smoothie or stir fresh mango cubes into plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey. Make ice pops by freezing mango puree in ice cube trays with a popsicle stick. Toss chunks into a fruit salad or add to a green salad. Elevate desserts, use fresh slices to decorate and garnish exotic 'Coconut Panna Cotta', check out my May 2015 recipe and post  'Simple, Sexy Panna Cotta'.

These methods can be used for all varieties of mangoes. Although in my opinion, the Ataulfo Mango is far superior in texture and flavor to other varieties I have tried. Therefore the Ataulfo wins as my hands down favorite!

Till next time... Bon App├ętit! 

Photos and demo by Sally Rae   

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