7 Tips from Kapnos’ George Pagonis for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Feast

Stressed out about pulling off the perfect Thanksgiving dinner? The once-a-year, mess-it-up-and-everyone-hates you epic gobblefest instills fear in the hearts of cooks across the country, but it shouldn’t. George Pagonis, executive chef and partner of the modern-minded Greek restaurant Kapnos in Washington, D.C., knows how to do it and has been kind enough to share his tricks and techniques to ensure your feast goes flawlessly.

1. Think about the time and space required to store, prep, refrigerate, and cook every item on your menu. It helps to create a master shopping list and a timeline. That let’s you know what you need to do and when and don’t get caught with your proverbial pants down on the big day.

2. Make anything you can in advance. A lot of items, such as cranberry sauce, pies, and mac ‘n’ cheese, taste just as good if you make them a day or two beforehand and simply warm them up right before you serve them. Other dishes, like salads, can be prepped the day before by chopping all the vegetables and assembled just before the meal.

3. Only do recipes you know and have made before. If you screw up, you screw up on a large scale. You don’t want to ruin anyone’s Thanksgiving. If you do want to try something new, do a test run beforehand so you can figure out any issues and troubleshoot when there isn’t a table full of hungry people watching your every move.

4. Clean as you go. As soon as you’re done with something, wash it. Not only will your sink fill up quickly, but you’ll find that as the day goes on you’ll need a pot or a piece of equipment and not have one because it’s dirty. Also, it’s easier to clean pots when they’re still warm, because food will come off them easily.

5. Let the turkey sit for at least half an hour after it comes out of the oven before you carve it. Cut into it too soon and all the liquids inside will just come gushing out, which will dry out the meat.

6. Stuff your turkey with aromatics, such as fresh thyme, fresh bay leaves, and fresh oregano. Fresh herbs make all the difference. Don’t settle for dried ones. Halved oranges – or other citrus – or pomegranates also work well as aromatics.

7. Don’t overlook the “oysters,” the tastiest and most tender parts of the turkey. The pair of succulent morsels is located in the small hollows on either side of the backbone. Dig them out with your fingers and enjoy them as a treat for all your hard work.


Beer: The latest cash crop for Maryland farmers

Tom Barse’s 47-acre Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy, Maryland looks like an average agricultural operation. Its fields are rich with crops, while sheep and horses graze in the pastures. However, Barse’s most lucrative crop is actually beer.

In the summer of 2012, Barse opened the small-scale Milkhouse Brewery on a small hill near his house. Over the next six months, the longtime home brewer produced 80 barrels of beer using hops, wheat, barley, and other products grown on the farm. Just three years into the micro brewing operation, he expects to produce nearly 350 barrels – which are distributed in six counties and Baltimore – and he employs two full-time staff members and four part-timers. His tiny farmhouse brewery now accounts for 90% of his earnings. “It’s much bigger than I thought it would be,” he says. “It just exploded.”

Finish reading this story on the Fortune website now.


8 New Places To Eat Incredibly Well In The Washington, D.C., Area

Washington, D.C.’s vibrant restaurant scene has been growing at a dizzying pace for the past few years — and it shows no signs of slowing down, as big-name chefs and promising up-and-comers alike have unveiled a flurry of high-profile projects this spring. Here are eight notable new spots to check out in and around the nation’s capital.

1. Peter Chang
After being chased for years by chowhounds from restaurant to restaurant, and then opening eateries in southern Virginia and Atlanta, Peter Chang finally sets up shop in the D.C. area. Diners can feast on the specialties that made the once-elusive Szechuan chef a celebrated figure in contemporary Chinese cooking. Puffy scallion bubble pancakes, dry fried eggplant, mapo tofu and steamed pork buns all make an appearance. The dishes are often spicy, if not volcanic. So heed the chili-pepper icons on the menu, because the chef – thankfully! – doesn’t downgrade intense flavors for American palates. Chang fans have more to look forward to in the coming months, as he is set to open another casual restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, later this year, and there is also talk of a fine-dining restaurant in D.C.’s Navy Yard. 2503 N. Harrison St., Arlington, VA; peterchangarlington.com 

Finish reading this story on the Food Republic website now.


Are You Gonna Eat That? BLT Steak’s Foieffogato

The Dish: Foieffogato

Where to Get It: BLT Steak; 1625 I St. NW; (202) 689-8999; e2hospitality.com/blt-steak-washington-dc

Price: $13

What It Is: Perhaps the most decadent and unconventional affogato of all time. The ice cream mimics the flavor of buttery movie-style popcorn, while the silky, froth-topped coffee component combines reduced espresso, cream, milk, and caramelized foie gras accented with fresh thyme, allspice, mace, and nutmeg. “You have to find a delicate balance between the ingredients,” says executive chef Will Artley. “You want to taste the foie and have the mouthfeel from it, but it can’t be overwhelming. If it lingers on your palate, it’s not great, especially since you’re not following it with another course.”

Finish reading this story on the Washington City Paper website now.


How to buy a little slice of a bakery, and get more than crumbs if it’s a hit

Tom Wellings brushes rectangles of pizza dough with olive oil. On the other side of the counter, his wife, Camila Arango, pipes cream between layers of pastry for the classic French dessert Paris-Brest. The air is rich with butter, yeast and just-baked croissants. Trays of pistachio and gianduja macarons and glistening kouign-amann the color of maple syrup fill racks, ready to be shuttled downstairs.

At a pop-up space called Prequel, the pastry chefs are doing a test run of Bluebird Bakery, a boulangerie-patisserie they hope to open late this summer or in early fall. Almost everything is in order. They’ve put down a letter of intent for a first-floor space in the Holm apartment building in Logan Circle, on the corner of 11th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, which is still under construction. During more than a decade, they’ve honed their techniques while working for high-profile establishments in the city — she for Alain Ducasse’s now-shuttered Adour and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, he for Restaurant EveFabio Trabocchi’s various enterprises and Equinox. The recipes have been developed.

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post website now.


Fastnacht Day: In Pennsylvania Dutch country, there’s only one way to celebrate Fat Tuesday

It took me years to work up the courage to tackle one of my grandmother’s most memorable and well-loved creations: fastnachts. Every year, the night before Shrove Tuesday—also known as Fat Tuesday—she would stay up late prepping big batches of the potato-based doughnuts. The next morning, she would rise before dawn to fry the puffy orbs to a deep mahogany, then shower them in confectioners’ sugar while they were still hot.

I made a point of getting up early those days, too, so I could gorge myself on the yeasty treats. By the time my parents joined us, splashes of sugar spotted my pajamas and my fingers were sticky.

Finish reading the story on the Saveur website now.


Are You Gonna Eat That? Thip Khao’s Tree Ant Egg Laab Salad

The Dish: Tree Ant Egg Laab Salad

Price: $15

Where to Get It: Thip Khao; 3462 14th St. NW; (202) 387-5426; thipkhao.com

What It Is: “I call it Laos caviar,” says chef Seng Luangrath. The white pill-shaped pods don’t come from the sea though. Known as kai mod daeng in Laotian, they’re actually tree ant eggs. A commonly eaten protein in the Southeast Asian country and neighboring Thailand, the ova are hand-harvested from nests often built on the leaves of mango trees. One method of obtaining them is to shake the nests over a bucket of water. The eggs sink to the bottom, while the insects either drown or crawl out. It’s tough work, because the fierce bugs will bite. Though Luangrath remembers painfully procuring the eggs as a child, she now imports frozen eggs when they’re available from January through March. You may not find them on the menu every day.

Finish reading this story on the Washington City Paper website now.


Could Matchbox become the next Cheesecake Factory?

There’s no sign outside Matchbox restaurant’s test kitchen. It’s tucked away in a stretch of personality-free warehouses in Silver Spring. The compact room features everything you’d find in the full-scale kitchens of the popular D.C.-based chain best known for its pizzas and mini burgers. There’s a brick pizza oven, glass door refrigerator, deep-fryer, flattop stove, grill, range, a pair of counters and a sink. A window on the far end looks into the Matchbox man cave — well, conference room — outfitted with a small artificial-turf putting green and an impressive flat-screen TV mounted on a wall of reclaimed barn wood.

Stephen Lyons, vice president of culinary operations for Matchbox Food Group, is moving around the tight kitchen space with a quick, studied efficiency. He’s preparing a selection of new dishes for a tasting, but he has more than Washington on his mind. Matchbox Food Group is about to launch a national expansion.

Finish reading the story on The Washington Post website now.