Harvest of the Season Series – Fall Dinner | Zehnder's of Frankenmuth

Harvest of the Season Series – Fall Dinner

By Executive Chef John Zehnder, CEC, AAC, HGT

I’m a little unconventional when it comes to demonstrating culinary arts in front of an audience. My approach is to prepare a great meal using ingredients and cooking techniques you may not be familiar with and explaining how and why as we go from course to course. Folks seem to enjoy my approach and better retain what they learn. We always have plenty of time for questions and hand-out recipes are always available.

Barely October and the woods in Northern Michigan are already painted with vivid brushstrokes of crimson and gold. The early arrival of autumn signals it’s time to think about bountiful fall food delicacies that are part of the season.
On November 9th, I’ll be hosting a very special dinner and you’re invited.
If you’ve never attended one of my dinners and consider yourself a “foodie”, it’s a dinner you won’t want to miss!

Fall is a time for tradition and the menu I crafted speaks of times past, when folks would eat seasonally, and gather for an evening of great food, good wine and interesting company.

The five course dinner begins with a soup inspired by a good friend, Executive Chef Clark Braun who oversees the kitchen at the Alpine Inn in Hill City, South Dakota, just a few miles down the road from Mount Rushmore. Black Hills Sioux Buffalo Hump and Heirloom Root Vegetable Soup. In Sioux folklore, meat of the buffalo hump had mystical and spiritual significance. It was always reserved for tribal elders.  Heirloom carrots, turnips and potatoes add an authentic touch.

Our second course is Foie Gras on Baby Arugula with Fig Balsamic and Whole Grain Toast Points. Geese and ducks have the unique ability to store reserve fat in their livers, providing extra energy for long migratory flights. Over two thousand years ago Roman cooks improvised a way to take full advantage and created buttery smooth foie gras. A course fit for a king!

The third course is our cheese course. Cheese courses used to be part of every banquet service. Still popular in Europe, it’s making a comeback in the U.S. The artisan goat cheese dairy I initially talked to about providing some unusual cheeses unfortunately has closed. But…I’ve come up with some outstanding cheeses to replace them. From the Beehive Dairy in Utah comes a cheese called “Barely Buzzed”; mild cheddar aged with French lavender and ground espresso. The second cheese, “Lil’ Moo”, comes from Thomasville, Georgia and is a sweet grass cow’s milk cheese similar to boursin. Yes, the sweet grass diet makes a real difference in the flavor of this cheese. Our third cheese, Humbolt Fog, is an ash wrapped goat cheese from the San Francisco Bay area. We’ll drizzle the Humbolt Fog cheese with Tupelo honey – if you come to the dinner, I’ll explain to you why Tupelo honey is so different from the honey you buy in grocery stores.

The main entrée is a true combination of autumn’s best! Airline Breast of Pheasant Stuffed with Apple Bits and Stone Ground Cornbread finished with Hard Apple Cider Sauce. I’ve chosen to use South Dakota golden pheasants for this dish. They’re plumper and meatier than most varieties of pheasant.

Also on the menu will be Minnesota Hand Harvested Wild Rice Cakes and Glazed Butternut Squash.

Finally, for dessert we have Black Walnut Cream Torte created by our own newly Certified Pastry Chefs Brandon Reeve and Jen Lannin. I’ll talk about the difficult task of becoming an ACF Certified Pastry Chef.

Seems no one but the Amish have the patience nowadays to shell black walnuts.
There’s an old Amish couple down in Shipshewana, Indiana I go to when I need black walnuts.

Going to be a wonderful dinner! Hope you can make it!

Executive Chef John Zehnder, CEC, AAC, HGT, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth