Foragers Dinner Club

On the last day of May the Foragers Dinner Club gathered once more for a feast of found food. The Foragers Dinner Club kicked off in the spring of 2011 -- a group of friends excited to share a meal together. From the first email thread that got us all going:

The idea would be to convene as a group... to prepare a menu of foods we have grown, hunted, milked, gleaned or foraged. Whatever's in season, on the end of our hooks, weighing our nets, buckets or trash bags down. We'll eat what we pick. pluck, dig and dive for. What we squeeze out, pull in, or hang up. What we dehydrate, can, soak, and smoke.

Since then we have gathered seasonally to make a feast. The meal never disappoints, and over the years it's really highlighted how many different ways food can come to our table -- from the garden, salvaged from dumpsters, traded, homebrewed, hunted, or foraged. And each seasonal meal has reflected its season -- fresh greens in the spring, garden bounty in the summer, foraged game and mushrooms in the fall, preserved foods in the winter.

May was a good foraging month for me: a goodly stockpile of dried morels, an abundance of honey, and a wild turkey in the freezer.

I prepared a morel risotto to show of the mushrooms. I used an embarrassment of morels. One of the luxuries of a meal like this is lavishing on the wild ingredients, which are typically very carefully metered in a restaurant setting.

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For the turkey I wanted to do something really special, so I turned for inspiration to my tried and true wild food recipe resource, Hank Shaw. Hank is the author of a couple of fine books on foraging and cooking (Hunt, Gather, Cook and Duck, Duck, Goose) and his website, honest-food.net, is truly a treasure trove of incredible recipes. He did not disappoint -- I found this recipe for a honey-glazed smoked wild turkey, which lined up really well with the ingredients I had in hand.

The turkey needed to spend some time in a brine, so I cut it up into breasts, legs, thighs, and wings, all of which went into a simple brine. The rest of the carcass went into the stockpot -- a hearty turkey stock would come in handy for the morel risotto.

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After two days in the brine, the pieces came out. I trussed the breasts, then, after a rest to develop a dry surface, all went into the smoker. I was liberal with the application of honey throughout the four hours of smoking.

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With lots of smoked turkey in hand, I decided to serve it in two dishes. The breast was sliced thin as cold cuts. Smoky, tender, and flavorful -- entirely delicious. The thighs I cut into pieces and added to a frisee salad. I also harvested some fennel greens from an urban roadside bloom, figuring the licorice flavor would stand up to the smoked turkey flavors, and dressed it all with a mustard vinaigrette.

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The other FDC members excelled in their contributions, as usual. Pheasant, received from a hunting friend, made its way into a hearty stew, surrounded by garden greens and sunchokes. Wok-braised greens with peanuts, pork and beef dolmas, wrapped in grape leaves picked on a neighborhood walk, and the morel risotto all crowded onto plates, washed down with homebrewed hard cider, mead, and even a little nettle sun tea. Dutch ovens were heaped with coals, and after dinner revealed contents of bread pudding and an upside-down cake for dessert.

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The meal is always amazing. Not only is there care, effort, and thoughtfulness in all of the contributions, but the company of friends around a table for a shared meal is truly one of life's easy pleasures.

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After dinner, we gathered in our host's living room for a bit of old timey entertainment. Charlie and Charmaine performed their cranky -- an old media involving a scrolling tapestry, backlit in a frame, illustrating a story and accompanied by music. It was a great way to end the evening.

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