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.


Consumers Getting More of a Taste For Greek Cuisine

You know what a classic Greek diner looks like. Open 24-7. Gleaming silver siding. Bands of neon lighting run along every seam. Tabletop jukeboxes packed with ’50s hits. Autographed photos of debatably famous patrons. And, of course, a sprawling menu that can deliver pancakes at midnight, lobster tail for breakfast, a handful of Grecian specials, and all the many points in-between.

Erase that image from your mind.

Modern Greek restaurants couldn’t be more different. First, there’s not a miniature jukebox or a sheet of silver siding in sight at any of them. The Mediterranean cuisine isn’t an afterthought, either. No longer is it confined to the back of the multipaged laminated menu–now it’s the focus. Whether it’s casual choices like pita sandwiches, kebabs, and Greek salads, or more adventuresome items like grilled octopus and flaming saganaki cheese, Medi-minded restaurants are showcasing their Hellenic heritage to a growing number of American diners.

According to Technomic’s recent Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report, 49 percent of consumers say they have tried Greek cuisine and liked it. An additional 23 percent say they haven’t tried it yet, but would like to give it a go. Even more impressively is the fact that 32 percent of respondents say that they order Greek foods or flavors occasionally (about every 90 days).

Attributed to several factors

This rising interest can be attributed to several factors. Celebrity chefs like Cat Cora, Michael Symon, and Michael Psilakis are celebrating their Greek roots and teaching diners about the cuisine through their restaurants, cookbooks, and television shows. High-profile Greek restaurants like José Andrés’ Zaytinya in Washington, D.C., New York’s Molyvos, Palo Alto, California’s Evvia, and its sister restaurant, San Francisco’s Kokkari, have all earned national attention.

On top of this, the Mediterranean Diet has earned a growing legion of followers in the States since it was introduced in 1993. “The Mediterranean Diet’s not a trend at this point; it’s mainstream,” says Sara Baer-Sinnott, the president of Oldways, which promotes the concept. “Heritage diets are the future, because they’re simple, clean, healthy food.”

This dietary approach–based on traditional dining patterns in the cradle of Western civilization–promotes eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, healthy grains, fish, poultry, and olive oil, as well as small amounts of red wine and dairy. At the same time, it advises cutting back on red meat, sugar, and processed foods.

Pano Karatassos, executive chef of Atlanta’s Kyma and a second generation Greek-American, sees interest in the Mediterranean diet as a reaction to the dining excesses of the past. “The ’90’s was about taking your Tums and having a great dinner made up of decadent foods,” he says. “We knew that beef and butter could put on the pounds, but we didn’t know what it could do to our energy levels.”

Kevin Miles, president and COO of Mediterranean-inspired fast-casual chain Zöes Kitchen, believes that consumers are finally coming around. “They’re realizing, ‘Olive oil is better for me than corn oil. And legumes and grains are better than eating potato chips.’”

This isn’t just a company line. In Technomic’s recent Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report, 32 percent of diners said that they thought of Greek food as healthy and rated it the fourth-healthiest cuisine out of 30 different types. The only cuisines that ranked higher were sushi/Japanese, Chinese, and the larger Mediterranean category.

Finish reading this article on the Restaurant Management website now.

Photo of Street Pitas courtesy of Daphne’s California Greek.


Get You to the Greek: Cava Mezze Grill is a Modern Twist on Mediterranean Eats


Bethesda Row’s eateries offer many convenient, high-calorie temptations — jelly doughnuts, lava fudge cupcakes, double-bacon cheeseburgers. The owners of new kid on the block Cava Mezze Grill (who are also behind the popular Cava Mezze restaurants in Rockville and on Capitol Hill), want pedestrians to indulge in more fresh, nutritious fast food instead. The sit-down or takeaway spot specializes in modern Greek cuisine with an American twist — minus the artificial additives and preservatives.

The Vision
Extra care is given to the ingredients here. Meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free. The feta cheese and Greek yogurt are imported. And dips and spreads are all-natural. “We spent a little more on the best ingredients,” Schulman says. “But you can taste a big difference.”

Finish reading the article by clicking over to the Express website now.