Sarah McClellan-Brandt: Winter citrus to cure what ails us

🕐 6 min read

Texans are not cold-weather lovers. Oh, we complain about the heat, but once temps get below 50 we act like pioneers forced to brave the cold, bracing winds of the prairie.

But the one bright spot we can all agree on in the desolate winter wasteland is how good the citrus is. Anytime produce is in season it’s infinitely better, but there is something truly special about a perfectly ripe orange in all of its varieties. A mimosa becomes a fancy cocktail with a squirt of fresh-squeezed blood orange and a meringue pie becomes a true marvel when made with luscious pink grapefruit. Even a plain glass of Topo Chico becomes a special mocktail with a squeeze of Cara Cara orange.

And Fort Worth’s local citrus scene is just as good as its steak scene if you know where to look.

If dessert is how you like to get your sour sated, a pie from Sweet Lucy’s Pies is an absolute must. Owner Lindsey Lawing keeps her menus up to date with what is locally available year-round, which means it always tastes as fresh as possible.

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“The late winter months yield lots of fresh Texas grapefruit, which are featured in our famous grapefruit meringue pies,” she told me. The grapefruit pie is her favorite because it is the company’s signature flavor – “one of those whimsical ideas that turned out to be one of our most popular flavors.”

The creative and surprising citrus menu also includes a blood orange and vanilla custard creation, lemon custard thyme, and a dark chocolate ganache key lime.

If a dinner menu is more your taste, Central Market Cooking School is hosting a Seafood and Citrus series during February. Participants will learn how to sear scallops in a citrus chile sauce or make roasted red snapper with citrus pistachios. Find classes on Central Market’s website.

If you’re looking to go the salad route, Piatello Italian Kitchen makes a frisee salad with Cara Cara oranges, grapefruit, red onion, avocado, almond and mint. It also has ricotta cheese and – please excuse me while I place my lunch order for tomorrow.

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Ok, I’m back.

And last but not least, if we are talking about citrus we have to talk about a cocktail (or several).

Making cocktails with citrus in the winter is not a new idea. Legend (or history, actually) has it that the caipirinha – a drink with a lot of lime and the Brazilian liquor Cachaca – was used to help cure the Spanish Flu epidemic in the early 20th century. So, there’s some context here. Plus it’s good.

If cooking at home is more your speed these days, I’ve got you covered. I make no secret of my love for different orange varieties on my blog, and recently re-purposed a Madeline cookie recipe into an Orange Upside-Down Cake that showcased both Cara Cara’s (my absolute favorite) and blood oranges along with a lemon curd recipe I found from fellow food blogger and Instagrammer Kitchen Confidante. This cake is similar to its pineapple cousin but the sweetness is cut by the tartness of the oranges and the bitterness of the peel. Yes, you eat the peel. Go ahead, be brave and do it. The caramel in the pan basically candies the peels and they are delightful.

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Local distillery Firestone & Robertson lists a Paloma recipe made with whiskey rather than the traditional tequila on its website. It doesn’t get more Fort Worth than that. While this one is a year-round favorite, the grapefruit classic packs a particularly satisfying dose of vitamin C to counteract the effects of the booze during the winter months. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Blood oranges are harder to get during the rest of the year, which is why I whipped up this one to be a special treat until store shelves no longer carry them. It’s similar to a French 75, but the Lillet and the orange juice give it a little more sweetness and the bitters give it some depth. I don’t have a name for this, I just call it perfection.

Here’s the recipe:

• 1 oz Hendricks gin or other gin of choice (Empress or Botanist would also be great)
• 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc or a sweet vermouth
• Dash or two of Angostura bitters
• Juice of half a lemon
• Juice of half a blood orange

Stir all ingredients in a glass over ice. Strain into a coupe champagne or cocktail glass (It tastes better in your prettiest glass)

Top with champagne. Garnish with a slice of blood orange. Here’s a how-to video.

If you make any of these recipes or try something great with winter citrus at a local hang out, be sure to take a picture and tag us on Instagram at @ModernHippieKitchen and @FWBusinessPress. We want to see what you find or make!

About the cook

Sarah McClellan-Brandt

Sarah McClellan-Brandt first wrote for the Business Press in 2003-2006 as her first job out of TCU, and it only took her a decade and a half to figure out that food writing might be her calling. She created the recipe blog Modern Hippie Kitchen in 2020 for the same reason many new food bloggers did – to quell pandemic boredom and share the cooking lessons she’d been teaching herself and learning from poring over dozens of cookbooks. Sarah has lived in Fort Worth since becoming a Horned Frog in 1999 and lives with her husband, a martial arts school owner in Aledo, and two “cooking assistants” who go to Lily B. Clayton Elementary. When she’s not doing her full-time job as a social media specialist for a hospital system, she’s either cooking or growing things to cook, or thinking about what to cook next.

Sarah McClellan-Brandt
Sarah McClellan-Brandt first wrote for the Business Press in 2003-2006 as her first job out of TCU, and it only took her a decade and a half to figure out that food writing might be her calling. She created the recipe blog Modern Hippie Kitchen in 2020 for the same reason many new food bloggers did – to quell pandemic boredom and share the cooking lessons she’d been teaching herself and learning from poring over dozens of cookbooks.

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