Seasonal Spotlight: Blood Oranges
Blood oranges. Their sweet, luscious flavor betrays that violent moniker, making them some of winter’s most coveted ingredients, bringing a splash of color and tang to dishes and drinks. Sure, blood oranges aren’t local, but we have no problem indulging, as we aspire to eat sensibly and seasonally, and blood oranges are a winter essential. From pie to hot chocolate, here are some of the city’s most notable blood orange creations.
Inspired by a recent trip to Istanbul, NAHA pastry chef Craig Harzewski, who along with the rest of the kitchen is a rigorous supporter of seasonal and sustainable ingredients, combined blood oranges with grapefruit and pistachios to create his take on a Turkish-flavored dessert. Having experienced amazing pistachios and light, citrusy dishes while on his travels, Harzewski whipped up a pistachio cake and Greek yogurt panna cotta, which he outfits with mango sorbet, blood oranges, Ruby Red grapefruit, and French meringues scented with finger limes. This dessert is about as citrusy as it gets before it becomes a full-service lemonade stand.
Pie is destination number one for blood oranges these days. Let’s start with the Shaker blood orange pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop, Chicago’s latest cute-as-a-button pie shop, made all the cuter by their ever-changing seasonal pies and propensity for responsible sourcing. Based on Shaker pie traditions, head pie honcho Megan Miller macerates sliced blood oranges in sugar for 12 hours before layering and baking them inside a double-layer crust. The pie is topped off with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and salt, and somewhere a Shaker sheds a tear of pride. Over at Little Goat, the not-so-little farm-to-table diner from Stephanie Izard, pastry chef Mathew Rice serves up miniature blood orange meringue pies (grove-to-table!), which are about the size of a toddler’s head, but you’ll want to eat the whole thing anyway.
Ginger-blood orange hot chocolate is a decadent middle finger to winter, and it can be found at Katherine Anne Confections. This super rich concoction makes Swiss Miss look like gutter water. Owner Katherine Duncan has made a name for herself as Chicago’s Willy Wonka equivalent, but instead of pushing children into chocolate rivers or trash chutes, she satiates them with wholesome goodness. She says this particular hot chocolate was a tough combination to get just right, with fresh squeezed blood oranges and essential oils, plus ground and juiced ginger. Oh and chocolate. It comes with two pillowy marshmallows of your choosing. Allow me to choose for you and suggest cranberry.
In case you want to sip your blood oranges without feeling like you’ve chugged an entire cake, there are more blood orange beverages to be had. DMK Burger Bar makes its own blood orange soda, and Little Market Brasserie features housemade blood orange-cinnamon soda as one of its “charged cocktail” options, wherein guests select which spirit they’d like to mix with. Personally, I feel a little uncomfortable wielding that much power, so it’s fortunate that the restaurant makes liquor suggestions.
Blood and Sand is the quintessential blood orange beverage, what with the similarly macabre names. Henri is currently pouring their version made with Yamazaki 12-year single malt, Cherry Heering, Carpano Antica, blood orange juice, and Angostura bitters. Blood oranges work overtime at Nacional 27, starring in the blood orange caiparinha and the El Corazon, which features Jimador Blanco, pomegranate, passion fruit, blood oranges, and a salt ‘n’ pepper rim. And at Terzo Piano, the blood orange bourbon punch is a wintry medley of Belle Meade bourbon, Koval ginger liqueur, blood orange, and an Armagnac floater.
Special shout out to the chocolate-banana-blood orange jam at Floriole Cafe & Bakery. My favorite seasonally and sustainably focused bakery always has plenty of exciting new addictions waiting to happen throughout the seasons. Considering the alarming rate at which I devoured this stuff last year, I am afraid to get more. But by all means, go for it.