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Brighten up your winter table with grapefruit

By Adam Ried
January 16, 2011

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In winter, though grapefruit are plentiful, cheap, and flavorful, I rarely think of cooking with them. But grapefruit’s balance of sweet and bitter can really perk up a dish. Here it works with shallots and honey as a sauce for chicken; with shrimp, crisp bean sprouts, and coconut in a Southeast Asian-style salad; and with pastry cream and flaky puff pastry in free-form napoleons.

Thai-Style Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 6

3 large, heavy grapefruit

¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

6 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1½ tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1½ tablespoons chili-garlic sauce

1½ pounds large shrimp, cooked and halved lengthwise

2 cups thick bean sprouts

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted and cooled

2 medium serrano chili peppers, cored, seeded, and very thinly sliced

½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Slice peel and pith from grapefruit. Cut each section free of membrane. Reserve sections.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil until it shimmers. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 9 minutes. Remove shallots to paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and chili-garlic sauce to blend. Add shrimp, sprouts, and most of coconut and toss. Add grapefruit sections, chili peppers, and most of mint and toss gently. Place shrimp mixture on a serving platter, sprinkle with shallots and remaining coconut and mint, and serve at once.

Sauteed Chicken with Grapefruit and Honey Pan Sauce

Serves 4

1 large, heavy grapefruit

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, 6 to 8 ounces each, tenderloins removed, frozen until just firm (15 minutes), and sliced in half horizontally to make 8 cutlets

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Grate 1 teaspoon zest from grapefruit and set aside. Slice peel and pith from grapefruit. Working over a bowl to catch juice, cut each section free of membrane. Reserve sections. Squeeze juice from peel and membrane, and reserve 1/3 cup juice.

Dry the cutlets and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons oil until it shimmers. Add half the cutlets and cook, without moving, until bottoms are lightly browned, about 2½ minutes. Turn and cook until second sides turn white and cutlets appear cooked through, about 30 seconds. Transfer to serving platter and tent with foil. Add 2 more teaspoons oil to skillet and cook remaining cutlets; transfer to platter.

Adjust heat to medium, add remaining oil, and heat briefly, swirling skillet to coat bottom. Add shallot and cook, stirring constantly, to soften, about 40 seconds. Add zest, reserved grapefruit juice, and chicken broth, then adjust heat to high and scrape skillet bottom with wooden spoon to dissolve brown bits. Add any accumulated chicken juices and boil vigorously until slightly syrupy and reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Adjust heat to medium-low, then stir in honey and butter. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Off heat, stir in parsley. Top chicken with reserved grapefruit sections and sauce, and serve at once.

Free-Form Grapefruit Napoleons

Serves 6

4 large, heavy pink or red grapefruit

½ cup sugar

1 cup half-and-half


3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

6 2½-by-4½-inch rectangles cut from 1 sheet thawed frozen puff pastry

½ cup heavy cream, softly whipped

1/3 cup chopped pistachios

Grate zest from 1 grapefruit (about 2½ tablespoons). In a small saucepan, stir zest and 3 tablespoons sugar until moist. Add half-and-half and pinch of salt and, over medium heat, bring to simmer, occasionally swirling pan, until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium heat-safe bowl, whisk yolks to break them up. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and the cornstarch and whisk to blend. Trickle in about half the hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. Return saucepan to medium-low heat and, whisking constantly, pour in the yolk mixture. Cook, continuing to whisk, until thickened and 3 or 4 bubbles have broken the surface, about 2½ minutes. Continue to cook and whisk constantly for 1 minute longer. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Set a sieve over a medium bowl and strain the pastry cream, pressing with a flexible spatula. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of cream and refrigerate until cold and set, about 1½ hours.

Set oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick mat and arrange puff pastry pieces with about 1 inch between them. Bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. With a paring knife, carefully split the pieces horizontally to yield 12 very thin rectangles.

Meanwhile, slice peel and pith from grapefruit. Cut each section free of membrane. Reserve sections.

In the empty bowl, gently toss grapefruit with remaining sugar and macerate while the puff pastry cools. Strain grapefruit and set aside.

Remove plastic wrap from pastry cream, add whipped cream, and whisk to combine. On each of 6 serving plates, place a tiny dab of cream mixture and secure a pastry rectangle on top. Spread 3 tablespoons of cream mixture on each rectangle and arrange 4 or 5 grapefruit sections on top. Then add a dab of cream mixture on the grapefruit sections, position a second pastry rectangle on top, and press lightly to adhere. Spread 3 tablespoons more of cream mixture on each rectangle, top with 4 or 5 grapefruit sections, sprinkle with pistachios, and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at

Grapefruit recipes (Globe photo / Ekaterina Smirnova)
  • January 16, 2011 cover
  • January 16, 2011 Magazine cover


Pomelos are large citrus fruits used widely in Southeast Asian and Caribbean cooking – you can use them in place of grapefruit. Thought to be an ancestor to the grapefruit, pomelos are generally less bitter and can be as large as a basketball. The skin is yellowish-green, the pith is very thick, and the membranes separating the segments, which can be white, pink, or red like grapefruit, are tough and best removed.