By Jarrett A. Rogers
December 17, 2019
Grapefruit may be considered a winter citrus, but that hasn’t stopped chefs from featuring it as a unique year-round restaurant offering. Most who experience the thick-skinned citrus do so as an at-home breakfast item, with two halves, a spoon, and some sprinkled sugar to contrast its trademark tang. Now, the classic halved grapefruit is being transformed by chefs in surprising ways as a standout offering. Here, three chefs share their culinary takes on grapefruit.
Amy Brandwein serves wood-fired grapefruit halves with an olive oil drizzle, finished with a salt and basil leaf garnish at Piccolina in Washington, D.C., where she is chef/owner. She says her customers are “extremely surprised” to see a wood-roasted grapefruit on the menu, but it’s a well-received menu item, served all day, year-round. “I am still surprised how sweet it becomes when wood-roasted,” Brandwein says, noting that roasting knocks down the bitterness. At Piccolina, the inspirations do not end with the conventional grapefruit half: For a winter special, she features a fruit salad composed of grapefruit and other citruses, drizzled with honey, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil.
Brûléed grapefruit is a popular brunch menu item at C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar in Roswell, Ga. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Jon Schwenk serves the halved grapefruit coated with sugar and caramelized with a torch. For a signature twist, he then tops it with organic ginger-mint yogurt. Schwenk’s appreciation for the citrus—coming from fond memories of sharing a morning grapefruit with his grandfather—inspires creative menu ideas. “I like to use grapefruit in butter sauces and salads,” he says, “but my favorite is pairing it with raw fish, such as in carpaccio, crudo and tartares. It’s well balanced with the acid, but not too sweet.”
For another take on brûléed grapefruit, C.J. Jacobson, chef/partner at Ēma in Chicago, starts by cutting the ends of the fruit so that the halves do not roll around on the plate and sectioning it to ensure that all sections will easily release. Jacobson covers the grapefruit edge to edge with turbinado sugar, then caramelizes with a blowtorch until it’s left with a glassy texture. The plated grapefruit is garnished with mint, grated Ceylon cinnamon and sprinkles of allspice and sea salt. “Finally, I hit it with a little lime zest,” he adds.
Being able to source quality citrus allows Jacobson to serve grapefruit year-round. When asked what inspired the creation of this dish, Jacobson tells a story of the special place grapefruit has in his heart. “Before I even wanted to be a chef, I ate at the Slanted Door in San Francisco. I had a lemongrass grapefruit salad that blew my mind,” he says. “Since then, I’ve made deep explorations into the world of grapefruit.” Jacobson highly recommends one of his favorite combinations—grapefruit and sage—for a memorable flavor experience.