With the New Year comes new menus, and just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of interesting flavors and ingredients to work with. Chef CJ Jacobson and the team at Ema in Chicago’s River North introduced a brand new winter menu that’s stocked full of the unexpected, from ingredients and cooking methods to flavors and presentations.

Unexpected Ingredient: Pomegranate Molasses

“The molasses is super acidic and sweet, which makes the ingredient more dynamic, and can be used in many different ways. In the Grilled Pork Belly, it’s used as an element of sweet and sour to the rich broth,” says Chef CJ.

Apples + Pork = Love. Watch how Ema’s Grilled Pork Belly dish comes together utilizing the pomegranate molasses.

Grilled Pork Belly with pomegranate molasses glaze, radishes and apples

Do you have more of a sweet tooth? Chef CJ is also using the pomegranate molasses in a brunch favorite.

“We are also using pomegranate molasses in the House Yogurt. Here we use it as you would honey for a sweet finish,” says Chef CJ.

Ema's House Yogurt & Granola with rolled oats, pistachios, dried fruit and molasses sauce
Ema’s House Yogurt & Granola with rolled oats, pistachios, dried fruit and molasses sauce

Been to brunch at Ema yet? If not, here’s why you probably should go check it out ASAP.

Unexpected Methods:

Juiced butternut squash for the new risotto dish.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Parmesan, crispy sage, squash vinaigrette
Butternut Squash Risotto with Parmesan, crispy sage, squash vinaigrette

“For this butternut squash risotto we don’t make a puree, we use juice. First, I juice the butternut squash, then salt and ferment it. After cooking the other half of the butternut squash, I combine it to form a squash vinaigrette,” Chef CJ explains.

The second unexpected method shows up on the cocktail menu in the Oaxacan Peach Pipe using Lebanese 7 Spice as a key ingredient.

“What’s cool about using the Lebanese 7 Spice in a cocktail is that these spices are typically just used for baking. I was using it for a dish that was on the menu and we decided to turn it into a simple syrup for this drink.” 

 

Oaxacan Peach Pipe with Rittenhouse rye, mescal, Lebanese 7 spice, dandelion and burdock bitters
Oaxacan Peach Pipe with Rittenhouse rye, mescal, Lebanese 7 spice, dandelion and burdock bitters

 

Unexpected Pairings: These ingredients are the perfect savory + sweet match. 

Frozen Greek Yogurt with Olive Oil 

Cup of greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil
Ema’s Signature Greek Yogurt with Olive Oil

Ema’s Frozen Greek Yogurt with Olive Oil and sea salt has become a staple at the restaurant. While unusual to some, yogurt and olive oil complement each other in that olive oil is a buttery oil, and adds a different dimension to the acidic yogurt.

Avocado and Grapefruit.

“Mango and avocado sounds good; grapefruit and avocado sounds good; but to most, all three together could sound strange. One is bitter, and the other is sweet and tangy, but they are all bridged by sweetness! This new dish comes together with the freshness of cucumber and the nuttiness of crispy quinoa.”

Avocado & Grapefruit with mango, cucumbers, fresnos, dill, sage and crispy quinoa
Avocado & Grapefruit with mango, cucumbers, fresnos, dill, sage and crispy quinoa

Stop by Ema and check out Chef CJ’s new winter menu.

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup
Vegan Sweet Potato Soup

Highlights include Grilled Pork Belly with pomegranate molasses glaze, radishes and apples, Avocado & Grapefruit with mango, cucumbers, Fresno chili, dill, sage and crispy quinoa, Garlic Hummus, Vegan Sweet Potato Soup, Winter Vegetable Tabbouleh, Chicken Milanese Sandwich (for lunch) and more. To make your reservation click here. Check out the new menu by visiting emachicago.com.