I’ve been cooking in a home kitchen since I was about five years old, but just last week I got the chance to cook in a restaurant kitchen for the very first time. My cousins Gretchen and Nate Hunter own the restaurant, Brew Ales & Eats, in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. While I was on vacation at the lake, they asked me to be the guest chef for their “Flight Night.” Every Tuesday they do a special food and beer tasting of an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert paired with accompanying beers.
I was beyond thrilled when they asked me to be the guest chef and immediately got to thinking about what dishes I wanted to create. The four dishes for Flight Night needed to feel like an extension of my kitchen – something I would make for friends at a dinner party or recipes I would post on Gourmet Gab. For an appetizer I chose Roasted Piquillo Peppers stuffed with Machego Cheese and served with a cilantro dressing. The rustic Corn and Black Bean salad with mango and a paprika lime vinaigrette felt summery and fresh. For an entree, I marinated shrimp in a roasted jalapeño and basil sauce, skewered them on kabobs and grilled them on the flat top. I wanted dessert to feel light on a hot lake day, so I went with a Bruleed Peach with Homemade Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream.
The four dishes for Flight Night needed to feel like an extension of my kitchen – something I would make for friends at a dinner party or recipes I would post on Gourmet Gab.
My cousin Emily came to help me prep in the kitchen all day. We chopped, roasted, stuffed, blended, skewered and prepped everything for about 6 hours in a teeny tiny kitchen! I have a new appreciation for eating out a restaurants now because prepping and cooking in the kitchen is nonstop, thrilling hard work. After we got all four entrees mostly complete, we got to take them out to the bar to sample the beers to pair with them. Emily was especially helpful with this side of things since she is a beer connoisseur. We had a blast working with Chef David Grimsley in the kitchen and couldn’t have pulled it all off without him.
Once 5:00 pm hit, it was time for Flight Night to begin! After preparing a few of the flights, I got into the rhythm of the timing. To prep, brûlée the peaches, plate the salad and spoon dressing for peppers. Once the order is placed, put the peppers into the oven to warm and cook the shrimp on the flat top. When shrimp is done, pull both from the heat. Plate everything. Add scoop of vanilla ice cream to peach then drizzle with carmel. Wipe plate with towel for presentation. Pass on to servers to deliver. Then, on to the next! We sold out of almost 25 flights and it was non stop all day. The reviews were raving and it was an incredible experience. By far the favorite item on the flight was the stuffed peppers with Manchego cheese, so I’m sharing the recipe below!
My whole family who lives in the area came to support and they took over almost three tables at Brew. Wherever the Birkelands go, you can expect lots of kids, lots of noise and lots of picture. It was incredible to look out the kitchen window and see them all taking seats at the tables, enjoying drinks, catching up and ready to enjoy the food Emily and worked so hard to prepare!
- 1 bag baby bell peppers or jarred roasted piquillo peppers
- 1 block manchego cheese
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus extra for seasoning
- Toss peppers in olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast over an open flame until peppers are soft to the touch and charred.
- Place in a bowl and immediately cover with plastic wrap to keep heat inside. The peppers will sweat making the charred black easy to peel off.
- Gently peel or scrape charred black off peppers. Carefully remove the top of the pepper to create a tiny hole.
- Stuff each pepper with manchego cheese.
- Bake until cheese is melted (approximately 5 minutes).
- Make cilantro dressing: blend olive oil, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper and garlic.
- To plate, spoon dressing to a plate and top with peppers to serve.
Thank you to Gretchen, Emily and David for helping make the Flight Night and Gourmet Gab collaboration happen! It was an incredible experience and I hope to do it again next summer.
Love food. Love self. Love life.