From traditional choices like apples and pears to tart and tangy pomegranates and cranberries, a cornucopia of fruits are seasonal celebrities.
When it comes to serving fruit in the fall, menus often veer to the usual suspects: apples, pears, and cranberries—especially during the holidays. But with more chefs cooking seasonally, fruits like grapes, mangoes, pomegranates, and figs have entered the autumn repertoire.
Here’s a look at what chefs around the country are doing with these fall fruits:
U.S.–grown pears are most abundant from August through December, with 84 percent of the crop grown in Washington and Oregon. While D’Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, and Comice pears reign among the most-popular varieties, according to USA Pears, some chefs are discovering lesser-known varieties like Concorde, a crunchy, vanilla-flavored pear; Forelle, a freckled and refreshingly sweet pear available later in the season; Seckel, a bite-sized, ultra-sweet pear; and Starkrimson, an aromatic and floral variety available in August.
At Giovanni’s Ristorante in Cleveland, Chef Zach Ladner has added Seckel pear slices to an heirloom spinach salad with duck confit, chestnuts, a four-year-aged Quebec Cheddar, mushrooms, dried cherries, and warm mustard vinaigrette. He has also paired the dessert-like pear with butternut squash, maitake mushrooms, sage, a fig-based balsamic glaze, and porcini butter in a creative topping for his roasted Ohio pork chop.
In Delray Beach, Florida, at Cut432, Chef Jarod Higgins poaches Seckel pears as a topping for baked Brie with maple-glazed walnuts and cinnamon raisin toast.
Purchasing tip: USA Pears reminds chefs that Seckel pears don’t change color when ripening; feel around the stem of the pear and when it’s soft, it’s ripe.
While pie might be the go-to traditional application for apples, Isaac Beard, owner of the five-year-old Pepperfire Hot Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee, uses apple pie filling as a topping for his famous fried chicken, noting that it balances out the heat and spice. The apple pie filling also makes a showing “to cut the richness” in his Tender Royale sandwich, a deep-fried grilled cheese topped with hot-and-spicy fried chicken tenders. The dish recently made a television appearance on The Travel Channel’s Man V. Food. To make the filling, June apples are simmered in water, sugar, and cinnamon, and thickened with modified cornstarch.
At Max’s Wine Dive in Dallas, Chef Patrick Russell stuffs miniature Washington State Pink Lady apples with homemade venison sausage rather than sugar and cinnamon, which is the more traditional, sweet streusel version. “We roast them slow at 250 degrees for 4 or 5 hours so the fat renders and the flavors meld together,” he says. The apples are topped with a citrus mustard and balsamic reduction for extra acid and sweetness.