MARCH 2017 – Did you know the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, is March 20? That’s pretty exciting news, even if this winter in Chicago has been fairly mild as far as Chicago winters go. And even though spring is just around the corner, we’re still in the wintry months as far as seasonal ingredients go. And right now, it’s all about winter citrus: pink lemons, blood oranges, all sorts of grapefruit. Cindy’s chef de cuisine, Keith Potter, uses the citrus fruit throughout his menus. At lunch, he supremes oranges (basically removes the membranes to make clean slices) and adds them to the Duck Confit entrée. By doing so, the fresh acid balances the richness of the glazed lentils and lavender honey, Potter told us. The dinner menu features a side dish of Brussels sprouts. Potter prepares an aigre doux of meyer lemon and pink lemon to give it a balance of sweet and sour. He does this by cutting the citrus into sixths and then steeps it in a mixture of wine, wine vinegar and honey, resulting in a softening of the bitterness of the rind.
To further maximize the winter citrus, the kitchen team uses the fruit’s flesh in salads and as an addition to fried items to add fresh acidity and balance to the dishes. To ensure nothing gets wasted, the fruits’ pith and skin get cooked into compotes with dried apricot that’s served alongside cheese. For instance, whole blood orange gets sliced super thin and poached in a simple syrup and added to Cindy’s burrata and chicory salad. The sweet bitter flavor counters the burrata’s richness while mellowing the fresh citrus vinaigrette. But like any good chef, he likes to share his bounty. “What I really enjoy,” Potter said,” is reserving all the juice for staff drink.” And to that, we raise a glass and say, “Cheers!”