I spatchcocked. And it was fun!
This week has been trying for both of us. Monday dawned full of hope for a new job for me. I had plans to go down to the foreigners office to obtain my work visa so I could start. In the back of my head, I knew that things would not go smoothly, so I had prepared myself by thinking that I would start Thursday, on Thanksgiving with all the irony of me going to work whilst my family back in the States enjoyed the day off and a table full of turkey. So, back to the point. With Monday came an email. The person who had to sign off on my hire was out sick. Thus, the foreigners office could not be contacted and I could not get my visa on Monday.
I moped a bit, but made a fabulous prosciutto and green bean alfredo and called it a day.
Tuesday dawned. I was hopeful. The person yesterday said she hoped to email me that day with another update. By 10 am I was feeling antsy, so I emailed her. And her response? She'd been calling the foreigners office since 9 am every five minutes, but alas, no answer. (Apparently Mr. Boss-Dude was feeling better and had approved my hire) She asked me to wait patiently, and if she hadn't heard anything by 11:00 am, we would assume we could not get an appointment for Tuesday and we'd have to go Wednesday. She finally got in touch with them around 10:45 (yay!), but half the staff at the foreigners office was out sick so they were backed up and we could not get an appointment until Thursday. Thursday... Turkey Day... my dare-not-to-hope-for-Tuesday-so-I'll-hope-for-Thursday-start-work-day (boo!). Did I mention that Jena is swimming in swine flu? Anyway, she told me that she'd contact me Wednesday with more information. By the time I made it to the grocery store to pick out dinner, I was in a bad mood and picked up boxed Chicken Cordon Bleu (and upon closer inspection of the ingredients, found that the ham was made from turkey. what?). The one other American in Jena that we are acquainted with posted on his facebook status: thinks he'll miss having Thanksgiving dinner this year. My response? Me too. Hubby and I had talked about having a Thanksgiving dinner for our friends since we arrived in Jena, but finances and other things go in the way and we decided not to have a Thanksgiving meal. So I said to myself Tuesday, "Self, fudge that! I'm having Thanksgiving!" (thank you Miss Gail for teaching me to censor myself in a yummy fashion) and decided to surprise Jason with a Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, my (hopefully) last day off. Then I started thinking about American Friend and realized I had to invite him too. Thus Hubby needed to be told. I planned out the menu and over dinner told Hubby about my plan. Hubby whole-heartedly agreed, though cut down my menu a bit (we nixed the sweet potato casserole and stuffing... both of which don't rock my world).
Wednesday started out with purpose. Yummy feast that evening. I learned the pros of making Thanksgiving dinner to be served at supper (ample time to make everything) and the pros of making Thanksgiving dinner in a foreign country (grocery stores are open and not packed). But I also learned the cons of making Thanksgiving dinner in my oven (ONE rack only and it's tiny!). One of the first things Hubby and I noticed about our oven was that it wouldn't fit a big turkey. The turkey would be too tall for our tiny oven. And I'd also noticed that they only whole turkeys available were frozen... so no way to thaw them when I'd decided to make dinner less than 24 hours before serving time. So Wednesday morning I went to the grocery to get the items to make The Best Cranberry-Tangerine Chutney, Yeast Rolls, and Holiday Mashed Potato Casserole. Our local grocery store doesn't have the best poultry selection, so I wanted to go into town to Tegut for the chicken (Tegut is similar to Whole Foods).
I got the chutney on and reheated the leftovers from my butternut squash saag paneer, hold the paneer, lunch from the day before. Ran the dishwasher, ate lunch, and prepared the Holiday Mashed Potato Casserole. Off to Tegut. I also knew that I need something to bake the yeast rolls on. At the time, we owned two small pyrex dishes and one auflauf pan (auflauf is somewhat equivalent to casserole, but the pan is metal instead of glass or ceramic). You can see a picture of it with my biscuits here. So I went to Tegut and picked out my perfect chicken, wandered aimlessly through the isles and found corn starch! If you've spent time with me, you've probably heard some of my ravings about corn and how its been forced upon Americans, but since I've mostly been cooking here (and not out of the box, minus the night before), we haven't had much corn so I was willing to give cornstarch a try since I've seen it in many recipes lately, just to link a couple. And there it was sitting pretty on the shelf. A whole box for 39 cents. I bought it. On the way home I stopped by Komma 10 and picked up a baking sheet. Yay!
I arrived back home and spoke with Jason. Dinner needed to be on the table at 8:30 since he had a conference call that might last until 7:30, so I had a bit of extra time to peruse the internet looking for roasted chicken recipes (believe it or not, I had never roasted a chicken before). During that time, I got an email from the woman who was helping me out with my job. She was sick. Swine flu strikes again! So she would not be able to help me out at the foreigners office (did I mention that the staff don't speak English and I speak little to no German?). Fudge! Though in real life, I didn't censor myself that time. There was no way I could handle the foreigners office on my own. So I emailed my (future) boss. HELP! No reply. So I got to kneading the yeast rolls and immersing myself in cooking. That helped... a lot! By this point in time, American Friend had responded to the invited. He was sick. Darn swine flu. (Disclaimer: I don't know that he actually has the swine flu, he just said he wasn't feeling well)
One of the recipes for roasting the chicken involved removing the backbone to so the chicken would be flat in the pan. Perfect for my tiny oven! I recognized the method from Martha Stewart Living via The Bitten Word, and they had even posted a how-to video on Saturday. So, armed with a pair of scissors and knowledge from watching the video, I set out to spatchcock my chicken (the name brought a smile to my face, hence why I was willing to try it. What can I say, sometimes I still act like a teenager!) I found my recipe, and went to work spatchcocking and spicing. I found a fabulous recipe for roasting a chicken, spatchcock style. I did make some changes though... I only had hot paprika instead of sweet, and since we've always put bacon on our roast turkey, I bought bacon that morning so I had to put it on the chicken! (I subbed the bacon for the truffle oil... there was no way I would spend 10 euros on a bottle of truffle oil only to use half a teaspoon!).
Into the refrigerator the chicken went (before adding the bacon and bedding). What you say? Yes, it went into the fridge for a couple hours to help dry out the skin. When it came out, I laid it on a bed of parsley, lemons, garlic, oranges, and thyme. The recipe calls for fresh herbs of course, but today was one of those days I found the herbs looking pathetic and not worth the extra cost, so I went for dried (except the garlic... I went crazy at the grocery this morning and bought three gigantic heads of garlic b/c I assumed I would be stuffing a bird with garlic and lemons rather than spatchcocking it). I have to admit, the spatchcocked bird looked awfully cute... a bit like a sunbather with it's arms behind it's... well, shoulders since it doesn't have a head.
Into and out of the oven with the bird! It only took an hour with a relatively low temperature (check out the recipe for further details). However, since I still haven't figured out my oven yet (it cooks HOT), I spent a bit of time playing with the temperature on the oven (I even turned it completely off for a thirty minute stretch), and the bacon burnt to a crisp. I tasted a bit of the bacon after it came out of the oven and had to spit it out because all of the bacon flavor had been turned to ash. But underneath the bacon was a beautiful, crispy skin covering a lucious, succulent breast. And divine dark meat. Yum!
(I apologize for the picture quality... after the bird comes out of the oven, things got hectic!) And the wing tips were burnt just for our friend Brian who we got to spend Thanksgiving with in 2006 and 2008 and LOVES the burnt parts!
The mashed potatoes were fabulous (plenty chunky just for Hubby), the gravy silky, the chutney flavorful, the rolls good (but not as good as the ones I make with Hubby's mom's recipe), the chicken juicy, and the company wonderful. And if you are wondering, we did have a veggie too... I sauted up some green beans to round things out.
Overall, a satisfying impromptu Thanksgiving feast! How was your week?
PS~ The recipes and pictures for things not included here will come later!