The Product: Satsumas, a Gulf Coast Tradition
Satsuma StatsCost: $1.50 to $1.70 per pound Season: Mid-October to mid-December Prep: With a sharp pairing knife, peel away the rind and pith and divide into supremes Substitutes: Mandarin orange or clementine
There’s precious little time left to savor satsuma season in Louisiana (and in other cities who rely on the state’s generous exports), but if you visit New Orleans in late October, menus are ripe with the petite mandarin relative. From savory accents and a sweet, boozy satsuma cello to an elegant satsuma panna cotta, we saw the range and potential of this easy-to-peel and easy-to-love citrus.
Satsumas arrived in Louisiana via Jesuits, who spread both the word and the citrus seed from Japan to Spain and eventually to Plaquemines Parish, where priests started groves in the late 18th century. The original groves remain—although a portion was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina—and a tradition of cooking and eating satsumas on the Gulf Coast was born.
"I am originally from California and have never seen a community so in love with a fruit like the satsuma," says Pastry Chef Lisa White of Domenica, John Besh and Alon Shaya's high-style Italian restaurant.
|» Click images to enlarge|
Shaya finishes an octopus carpaccio (inspired by dinners on the Italian coast with his fiancé) with a salad of fennel, arugula, and satsuma supremes, neatly tying together both the plate’s composition and the fruit’s historical voyage from Italy to Louisiana. And across Lake Pontchartrain at La Provence (another Besh locale), Chef Erick Loos, gives calabaza squash ravioli a hint of sweetness and acidity with satsuma juice and segments to offset the richness of brown butter sauce and crispy shards of house-cured Mangalitsa jowl.
On the sweeter side of the menu, Pastry Chef Beth Biundo of Lilette prepares a masterful panna cotta, where the rich, mild dairy element yields the flavor spotlight to bright, in-season satsumas and a bracing herbal swipe of basil purée. White, who’s in charge of Domenica’s bread, pastry, and liqueur programs, infuses neutral spirits with satsuma oil by hanging the whole fruits in cheesecloth over a liquor for more than a month. (Hanging ensures only the most concentrated satsuma flavor drips into the liquor.) By the time her first batch is ready 75 to 90 days later, satsuma season is drawing to a close, and Domenica patrons can toast another year of citrus bounty in Louisiana.