Thanksgiving Comes Early. Demo Dinner and Beer Tasting from Fresh Fork Market

Is it possible to be so full, and yet still hungry?  If so, that’s what I am, after the Fresh Fork Market Thanksgiving Beer Dinner.  It was a demo/dinner/sampling of the company’s Thanksgiving offerings this season.  And my appetite is piqued.

thanksgiving dinner winter squash soup

When we sat down at the communal tables in Market Garden Brewery (which served as the night’s event space), there was freshly baked bread, butternut squash and bacon biscuits, with creamy guernsey butter and belly-warming winter squash soup to start….a good start indeed.

thanksgiving bread and butter

While we sampled one of three beers offered for the evening, Chef Adam Lambert demonstrated several different ways to prepare, break down, and carve a Thanksgiving turkey.

thanksgiving dinner turkey demo

Brining is a must, according to Lambert.  Noted.  Trussing you can do without.  Excellent.  Always intimidated by that part anyway.  To stuff, or not to stuff?  He says for safety reasons (and to not overcook the bird) cook the stuffing separately.  Grill it, smoke it, roast it, or…a new one for me… “spatchcock” it (method of removing the backbone then cooking it flat, thus making for a more even thickness).

thanksgiving turkey spatchcocked

Chef Lambert answered questions throughout the demo, everything from where to place the thermometer, to what kind of knife to use for these various methods.  By then, the smells coming from the kitchen had made their way to the back of the event space and it was time to feast.

thanksgiving turkey roasted

The buffet had everything you look for in a Thanksgiving dinner, plus some things you’ve probably been meaning to try.

thanksgiving dinner buffet

There was turkey two ways, (traditionally roasted and spatchcocked/smoked/grilled) mashed potatoes with turnips, cauliflower risotto, braised carrots and greens, sweet potato casserole, creamed cabbage, roasted Brussels sprouts, two kinds of stuffing, root vegetable hash, cornbread, shaved raw vegetable salad, home fries with cabbage and jowl bacon, Harvard beets.  And these are just the ones I can recall.

thanksgiving dinner my plate

After seconds, and thirds, and finally take out containers were offered…it was time for apple pie.  Since I limited myself to one trip to the buffet line (and one to-go container 🙂  )  I saved just enough room to sample the Amish baked pie.  Sorrynotsorry on that one.

fresh fork market turkeys

Those who sat at my table were discussing which Thanksgiving package they were ordering and already dreaming about the pasture-raised turkey that had their name on it.  (Click here for info on Fresh Fork Market Thanksgiving Orders) Guests walked away with an extensive instructional book, about 45 pages long, that covers everything from planning, to prepping and execution.  A new “bible for Thanksgiving hosts” if you will.  A great takeaway!

I left the evening stuffed, satisfied and stimulated…ready to be adventurous and ambitious in the kitchen this Thanksgiving (stay tuned for a “Friendsgiving” post very soon!)  I’m also convinced that this year, the turkey MUST be brined.  So mom, I’ll be over early in the week to take care of that for us!  Thanks, Chef Lambert and Chef Bosley for the great recipes and inspiration!  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dinner Lab: Beer! Please! Drunk Food Redefined

Who doesn’t have a favorite food to chow on when you’ve been drinking a couple of beers?  Now imagine a five course menu of elevated versions of all those favorite foods.  Good, right?!  That’s what Chef Brooks Hart offered to Dinner Lab diners at their second Cleveland event.

Dinner-Lab2-welcome card

When I read the menu sent to members in the weeks leading up to the dinner, it wasn’t a hard sell for me.  Billed as drunk food redefined, it also boasted beer pairings from two increasingly popular local breweries.  Sold.

Dinner-Lab2-view

As is always the case, the venue isn’t revealed until about 24 hours before the event.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the second venue would be at the penthouse space of Skylight Financial Group, offering a unique and unforgettable view of the city.  We drank in the scenery and the cocktail hour special, named for the chef in honor of his 30th birthday.

Dinner-Lab2-ceviche

After the 30 minute cocktail hour, I was ready to dig in to course #1, a deconstructed fish taco with halibut ceviche, marinated in coconut milk and thai chili and crispy tortilla strips.  The fish was the perfect temperature and texture.  I could’ve done without so much lime juice.  But still a great start!  This was paired with Platform Black Eagle from Platform Beer Co.

Dinner-Lab2-poutine

The second course was a nod to all the Canadians and gravy fans in the dining room…poutine with crispy fingerling potatoes, a tempura cheese curd (my favorite element of this dish) and some lemon rind confit, (which was a surprise when I took the first bite, but I loved it too)

Dinner-Lab2-beer

The beer offering for this one was a smooth and refreshing compliment to the food, Platform Symon Says Saison from Platform Beer Co. It’s brewed exclusively for Iron Chef Michael Symon’s “B Spot”, (their website describes it as a citrus driven peppery saison utilizing a specialty yeast blend specific for this beer)

Dinner-Lab2-Pizza and braised bacon

Our third course was a tale of two dishes, for me.  It was listed as a pizza, but you could hardly eat it that way  The raclette flatbread with butter roasted mushrooms that served as the base was tasty, but a little tough.  And it was impossible to pick it up, or slice into the braised bacon and eat all of it as one bite as it was likely intended.  When I gave up and ate the elements separately, I was happy again.

Dinner-Lab2-commet card

As we ate and chatted with our guests, some friends who also enjoy food and these kinds of experiences as much as we do, I made sure to jot down a few notes on my comment card.  No, I’m not one of those people who does this at every restaurant I go…this is a huge part of the process for Dinner Lab and its chefs.  They take the feedback back to “the lab” and make changes (or not) according to the comments from their diners.

Dinner-Lab2-pretzel croissant

Course number four was the crowd favorite by far.  It was a pretzel croissant with marinated gouda and blueberry mustard.  I know…sounds a little crazy.  But I wanted a whole box of those pretzels and a vat of the blueberry mustard to take home!!

Dinner-Lab2-Chef Brooks Hart.Dinner-Lab2-preztel prep

One diner even stood up and whistled to get the crowd’s attention so he could shout “That preztel was the bomb!”  The chef told us he was relieved to hear it, as he put a lot of muscle power into rolling out enough of those for two seatings.  The beer pairing for that course was also my favorite, the Albino Stout from Butcher and the Brewer.  I order it every time I go there.  Great choice!

Dinner-Lab2-dessert

For dessert we had another helping of culinary imagination…a chocolate brownie topped with pickled peanuts (in a caramel sauce) creme fraiche and ganache.  I loved the bravery and spirit of adventure that this process fosters among its chefs.  Who pickles peanuts?!

Dinner-Lab2-dinning room view

We had mixed feelings about the dining room.  I loved the view of downtown, especially at sunset.  But once dinner began, the fluorescent lights of the business space took over.  To be honest, it wasn’t a distraction or something that hindered the experience…just an observation.

Dinner-Lab2-prep

We also got a chance to chat with both the chef and event manager by the end of the evening.  I was pleased to hear that a lot of what we ate was sourced from the iconic West Side Market and I am excited about the next venue (got the inside scoop…stay tuned…and hungry!)

Five better things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

Don’t default to tired turkey salad or slap together a boring turkey sandwich in the days after your Thanksgiving feast.  Try mixing it up with these Cheftovers  ideas for your holiday leftovers: Baked Brie with cranberry sauce, Turkey Tetrazzini, Pilgrim Pockets, Mini turkey pot pies, and Thanksgiving casserole.

This year I made home made cranberry sauce for Friendsgiving.  I’ll never buy it canned again.  It was easy, bright and beautiful…and too good to toss.  So I took a semi circle of Brie (inexplicably leftover from a cheese plate one of our guests brought…that stuff usually goes quick in a crowd!) and topped it with about half a cup of the leftover cranberry sauce.  I then wrapped the Brie/cranberry sauce in a sheet of puff pastry I defrosted and brushed it with melted butter and baked it at 375 until it was golden brown.  Spread that melty, sweet, tart, creamy goodness on a buttery cracker and you’ve got a spectacular holiday appetizer.

Brie with cranberry sauce

I like to try to find some way to incorporate pasta when I’m dreaming up leftovers ideas.  Turkey tetrazzini is a savory way to include the flavors and excess from Thanksgiving dinner, but not have a carbon copy dinner on Black Friday.

turkey tetrazzini

I looked up a couple of turkey tetrazzini recipes online and married a handful of them based on what I had and what I was trying to use up.  I used two cups of chopped leftover turkey, and added that to a sauce I made with sauteed onions and garlic, cream of mushroom soup (a Cheftovers pantry must-have) turkey stock (which I made with the turkey carcass…a mindless task you’ll be happy you did) some canned mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and season salt.  I tossed that combo with some al dente linguine, put it in a casserole dish, topped it with some more cheese and baked it (covered with foil) until bubbly.  Toward the end I topped it with chopped parsley (leftover from my herb rubbed turkey recipe) and some red peppers that were lingering from a veggie tray.

pilgrim pocket

The Pilgrim Pocket is simple…make a Thanksgiving leftovers calzone.  Just use leftover stuffing, turkey, and veggies (like green bean casserole, carrots or corn) and stuff that into a pie crust (cut in half, then folded over once filled) I used gravy and/or cream of chicken/cream of mushroom soup to bind the insides and keep it moist on day two.  Pinch the sides to seal in all the goodness and brush the outside with an egg wash, and cut slits before baking. (400* for about 25 min)

pilgrim pocket sliced

If you have some extra Pillsbury biscuits in the fridge you didn’t bake, try some mini turkey pot pies.  I placed the biscuits in a cupcake tin, and filled each with the same kind of filling from the Pilgrim pocket.

making mini thanksgiving pot pies

I suppose you could also incorporate a little mashed potatoes, although I think those freeze pretty well.  I topped them with a dollop of cream of chicken soup, and some french fried onions (in the cupboard from the green bean casserole recipe) and baked them at 350 for 23-25 min.

mini turkey pot pie

Now…if you don’t have biscuits, or pie crust…or you have already used them and STILL have leftovers, like I did…I also made a Thanksgiving casserole of sorts.  I cooked some egg noodles, and place those in the bottom of a baking dish.  Then I took roughly the same combo from above, or whatever you’ve got left, in my case…a few cups of turkey, the last of the green bean casserole, or whatever veggies you have…and I poured in the last of my gravy and mixed everything up.  I topped the noodles with that mixture and sprinkled the remainder of my french fried onions on to finish.  It’s a comforting, easy combo that should reheat pretty well too.

thanksgiving casserole

I’m always looking for inventive ways to use what’s around.  Please share your creative Thanksgiving leftover dishes.  

The Pilgrim Pocket: Post-Friendsgiving

Half the fun of Thanksgiving dinner is thinking about the leftovers.  There’s hardly another meal on the planet that reheats and tastes just as good in the days after as this original, American feast.  But this year, I wanted to think beyond turkey sandwiches, turkey salad and turkey soup.  And I had an idea…the Pilgrim Pocket.

Friendsgiving guests

This weekend I hosted a “Friendsgiving” to celebrate the bountiful blessings and the company of my family and of a couple others.  We watched football, snacked while enticing smells filled the house, then sat down and piled our plates high with turkey and all the traditional trimmings.  The Cabernet and the gravy flowed.  It was a warm, fun evening.

Friendsgiving dinner plate

I took a quick assessment after the table was cleared and the guests had left.   About four portions of the 13 lb turkey, one helping of stuffing, LOTS of mashed potatoes and gravy, half a casserole dish of green beans, a few cups each of corn and fresh cranberry sauce and a couple items in the fridge (a pie crust, and crescent rolls) that I never used.

Since we only get to eat this combination of delectable dishes once a year, I didn’t think it was wise to completely change the flavor profile…best to just repackage it into something a little more exciting than luke warm leftovers.  Enter the Pilgrim Pocket, a thanksgiving calzone of sorts.

pilgrim pocket crust

I pulled out the remaining pie crust I had in the fridge (from the two pack I bought for the pumpkin pie I made) and unrolled it, then sliced in half.  I took a cup full of turkey (chopped) a cup full of green bean casserole and the rest of the stuffing and mixed it all together.  I added some gravy to keep it moist on day two.  I put the Thanksgiving mixture on one half of each of the semi-circles then folded the other half over, and pinched the sides to seal it in.

pilgrim pocket egg wash

I brushed the outside with egg wash and cut a couple of slits in the top to vent.  Then I popped my Pilgrim Pockets in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.  The result was a Thanksgiving redux that would have made the pilgrims proud!

pilgrim pocket sliced

Stay tuned…I have plans for that cranberry sauce.  What have you done with leftovers from Thanksgiving?