CHICAGO (WLS) --Even though we are technically in spring now, there are several chefs in town still relying on "winter" citrus for their menus. These bright, acidic fruits offer a range of new flavors, and at one restaurant, they play a fairly large role.
From the cocktails to the main dishes, citrus is everywhere this time of the year at The Dawson, which hugs the corner of Halsted and Grand in the city's West Town neighborhood.
"Citrus is one of those ingredients that brings us into spring and summer and using different types of citrus really can help liven up your food and brighten up your palate," said Chef Shaun King.
King calls upon all sorts of these seasonal fruits for his current menu.
"Tons of cara cara orange, kumquat, loquats, mandarinquats, clamonden, uglifruit," he said.
Marsh white grapefruit is added to raw ahi tuna, along with its juice, but then in a glass, he adds some avocado and grapefruit curd, even garnishing with pink grapefruit, puffed rice and fennel.
A delicate crab salad is topped with grapefruit, which brings acidity, since there's also a sheet of cured lardo on top. Even pan-roasted fluke gets some preserved calamondins with honey tangerines. King says it's important to taste along the way.
"Just practicing, slicing those oranges up and citrus up and biting into them to see where you get that bitterness from or sweet or sour," said King.
A fried head of cauliflower is tossed with citrus tahini, then plated and garnished with cara cara and blood oranges. Those same cara caras are added to Aperol and citrus vodka, making a bright, refreshing drink that, like the food, maintains the delicate balance between bitter and sweet.
"It's a balancing act. Citrus by itself sometimes can be so strong and you have to have other flavors that kind of mute it or accentuate it," he said.
Even though winter is hopefully coming to an end very soon, that doesn't mean the winter citrus is completely gone from The Dawson's menu because they love to preserve the winter citrus and serve it well into the summer.
730 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
EXTRA COURSE VIDEO: Steve Dolinsky and Chef King talk about winter citruses available in Chicago