Flavors of Fall: 21 Autumnal Dishes

By Sarah Freeman  |  September 9, 2013
Credit: Lettuce Entertain You

As Chicago serves the last few scorching days of summer, the time has come to retire tomatoes and look ahead to the bounty of fall. We asked several chefs which fall flavors most inspire them and how these seasonal ingredients will make an appearance on upcoming menus. So don't cry because summer is over: rejoice at all the delicious dishes we have to look forward to.

  • Squash

    "Fall is the best season for squash. The sweet and creamy texture of the dish, the Amaretto cookies inside the ravioli, and the perfectly roasted squash scream that Thanksgiving will be here soon." -Fabio Viviani, Siena Tavern

    Siena Tavern
    For the Butternut squash tortellacci, the tender noodles are filled with roasted squash, orange juice, brown sugar and spices, and served in a sweet brown-butter sauce. The dish gets an added bit of fall flavor via fried sage.

    J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar
    Chef Steve Chiappetti serves onion-crusted sturgeon with creamy acorn squash purée. The squash is roasted before it is puréed to bring out the sweet and savory flavor of the popular fall ingredient.

    The rich flavors of late summer can still be utilized in a light salad. The one on the menu at this casual French bistro uses baby spinach salad, roasted butternut squash, candied walnuts and Parmesan with balsamic vinaigrette.

  • Mushrooms

    "Mushroom season is always the first sign that fall is right around the corner. This dish matches the earthiness of a great woodland mushroom with the richness of a poached egg and a touch of sweet acidity from sherry vinegar." -Michael Dean Reynolds, Bread & Wine

    The hearty and earthy dish reminds chef Joseph Rose of a cool fall evening. It is a forest mushroom risotto topped with escargot and garlic chips then served with savory truffle jus.

    Bread & Wine
    A delicate poached organic hen egg is the centerpiece of an autumnal landcape created out of woodland mushrooms. The dish is served with tomato relish on toast with sherry gastrique.

    Brasserie by LM
    Cider-braised chicken is served with mushrooms, pearl onions and honey crisp apple. The cider and spices infiltrate the chicken, while the honey crisp apples and mushrooms add additional layers of rich flavor.

  • Saffron

    "The roasted cauliflower, olives, saffron, and almonds add richness and depth without needing a meat element, while the mint lightens the dish with freshness to cut through the deeper fall flavors." -Chris Pandel, Balena

    This hearty and vegetarian pasta dish tosses fazzoletti, a wide rectangular or square housemade noodle, with almonds, roasted cauliflower, olives and strands of bright red saffron.

    Atwood Café
    Chef Derek Simcik channels Spain with a Spanish clambake filled with butternut squash, bell pepper, chorizo, clams, saffron fish fume, cornmeal oysters and saffron aïoli.

    The Dawson
    Another Spanish-inspired dish is on the queue for chef Rene Deleon at this soon-to-open restaurant. Grilled squid is served with chickpea, Spanish chorizo, fish and saffron fume, and pan tomaquet.

  • Pumpkin

    "We focus on using the freshest and finest seasonal ingredients that can also be found locally. This fall, I'm incorporating some of my favorite harvest ingredients into my dishes such as pumpkin squash, Brussels sprouts and kale, as well as root veggies such as turnips and rutabaga. I also love to use pecans and walnuts to really emphasize seasonal flavors." -Troy Graves, Red Door

    RPM Italian
    Rich imported burrata takes on an autumnal twist with black-pepper roasted pumpkin. The combination is made even more decadent with a drizzle of honey.

    Red Door
    This over-the-top dish is a favorite of Graves, who stuffs a baby pumpkin with lobster, chanterelles and kale. As if that is not satisfying enough, the creation is covered in cognac cream.

    Slow-roasted Berkshire pork neck is served in its own jus that has been finished with apple peels, seeds, housemade apple cider and quince vinegar imported from Italy. The flavorful piece of meat is served with kohlrabi escarole and toasted pumpkin seeds.

  • Corn

    "I love corn! Corn to me represents fall in the Midwest. The weather gets a little colder, and the fall vegetables start to come around. But for me, corn is the most versatile ingredient of the season." -Ryan Poli, Little Market Brasserie

    Little Market
    Chef Ryan Poli makes one of his favorite fall flavors pop by serving sweet corn agnolotti with earthy mushrooms and smoky chorizo. A big of brightness is added with a hint of lime.

    Storefront Company
    Cold weather means the transition from lean proteins to hearty game meat. Chef Bryan Moscatello embraces the shift by featuring his duck with corn, popcorn, huckleberries, ginger and cardamom.

    Big Jones
    Crunchy corn bread croutons sit on top of creamy sweet potato bisque. The dish is accented with spicy apple chutney, fried sage and wood-grilled pepper crema, and uses local produce from Genesis Growers, Seedling, Three Sisters Garden, Kilgus Farmstead and Spence Farm.

  • Apple

    "For me, apples evoke memories of going to the orchards with my family in the fall. We'd pick bags and bags that turned into pies and, my personal favorite, apple butter!" -Jessica Ellington, Epic

    Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse
    Spit-roasted Berkshire pork chop is served with the finest fall produce as selected by executive chef James O'Donnell. The meat is served with caramelized Seedling Fruit apple hock chutney that gets a sweet and sour punch from Burton's maple syrup and apple cider vinegar.

    Pastry chef Jessica Ellington pays homage to her nostalgic appreciation of apples with apple pie cream puffs. The puffs are served with calvados cream and honey fromage blanc.

    Hot Chocolate
    It doesn’t get more autumnal that warm apple pie, but leave it to pastry chef Mindy Segal to take things to another seasonal levler. Her heirloom apple confit pie is baked in pork-fat pie dough.

  • Maple

    "I love the flavor of maple because it coincides with the warm flavors of fall such as squash, apple spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The warm sweet flavor lends itself nicely to the season, granted that maple syrup is harvested during spring, but the nostalgia of maple trees changing colors during fall preludes to the holiday season." -Thomas Raquel, Acadia

    Pasty chef Thomas Raquel translated his love of fall into a seasonal masterpiece: armagnac roasted apples with cannele ice cream, spiced arlette and maple custard.

    The Gage
    Two of the season’s sweetest treats appear on one plate in the form of glazed apple cider doughnuts with maple ice cream. The dish is accented by nectarine crostata with honey lavender ice cream.

    Chef Timothy Cottini's signature autumn dish is a kale salad with champagne-ginger vinaigrette, gingerbread croutons and a pumpkin seed brittle. The centerpiece of the salad is maple roasted butternut squash.