Saturday, December 20

cooking without the box

We're staying home for Christmas. Just the four of us, nice and cozy. We've decorated a tree and things are very festive and comfortable here and none of us really wants to move out of this zone for Christmas.

So, to complete the homey Christmas memory package, I've decided to cook a big Christmas dinner. A bird of some sort. Punk and I took a look at the poultry section today and I remembered how much I hate preparing whole birds. Blaaaaaah... The case was full of bird carouses with feet and heads and beaks. Excuse me sir, I need my bird to look a little less bird-like, please. Not wanting to show what a chicken I was (
badumpbump) I picked a smaller one that was decapitated and claw-less under the guise of our small oven and us being only four. Maybe it is not as fresh as the others but I just couldn't imagine dealing with all those parts. It's bad enough that the thing flaps it's wings all over the place when you're washing it.
Now that we've got the bird, I need to figure out how to cook everything that goes with it. Here. Away from my friendly Safeway. Or Wholefoods (it is a special occasion). I'm used to stuffing it with good ole Stove Top, or in recent years, some yuppie/hippy variety of stuffing that nonetheless still comes in a box. How do you actually make stuffing? Do I use stale bread or toast it? This just smacks of smoke choking up the kitchen.

And cranberry sauce. No Oceanspray here. I hunted down some dried cranberries... maybe I could soak them and use them in the stuffing... hmm. This could be dangerous, I'm using my creativity. I'm thinking of a long grain rice stuffing with some kind of nut (almonds?) and cranberries. This would also circumvent the bread dilemma.

Jeeze! I just remembered! GRAVY! I have always cheated and used cans of gravy or at the very best used those powder packets mixed in with the cooked bird juices. What do you do? I think I saw my grandma once using flour. It's hard to remember as I was mostly just drooling all over the place and dying for dinner to be ready. Are there any spices in there? The powder packet stuff sure didn't look like flour... the must be something else to it.

Here's the part where I start cursing the Kraft Demons for the dependency they've caused.
At least I'll be able to get the mashed potatoes right, but the rest of this feast is in grave danger of coming out really, really bad. I never realized how much I relied on all that packaged crap you can find in the US. I always thought of myself as a sprout chewing health nut. Curse you Kraft! (and you too Nestle)


  1. Visit some cooking sites like Do you have any cookbooks? Classics liek Joy of Cooking will be able to walk you through everything from removing the giblets to carving and pan gravy.

    Do you have a meat thermometer? Because you'll need to check the internal temperature of the bird to check when its done.

  2. I have made homemade stuffing and I never think it's as good as Stove Top's.

    Go to for gravy making lessons--it's not hard.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. ahh, the joys of christmas abroad. i remember buying my first roaster chicken in brasil and sticking my hand in and getting stabbed with a beak and claws. so glad i didn't have to chop it off myself though. in china i haven't been brave enough yet as i do not relish removing the head.

    the book how to cook everything is great. you are going to do wonderful, though. i go to fine cooking and southern living often for recipes online.

  4. Whats your internet bandwith ? Can you send some here..?

    Sounds ymmy already !

  5. Thanks for your encouragement. I have decided to think out of the box and go ahead and get creative this Christmas. I've got my meat thermometer, Mrs. G's inspiration (I can't believe I got a comment from Mrs. G), lizzy-loo's empathy and Kavi's faith. Woo hoo! (Come new year's, we're all going vegetarian)

  6. Hahahaha... my verification code for the above comment was


    must be a sign.

  7. I'm sure will pull it off with grace and ease! ;) Do the rice stuffing and put your dried cranberries in it. Yum!!! And for the gravy.... totally easy. Add equal parts flour to the fat from your bird (in the pan you baked it in with all the drippings (about two tbsp. of fat is plenty for four people) cook the flour and fat for a few minutes until it just starts to brown then add canned chicken broth. Simmer for however long you need. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper, or more broth. Buon appetito! Is that right?

  8. Bread is usually stale for stuffing - you can make it stale if need be by leaving it out for a couple of days...

    I say this like I know, but I have never attempted to cook an entire turkey dinner - I have too many accomplished female relatives to have ever been put in charge and since 2001 I haven't been home for a single holiday. Well, okay, I attempted it once in Scotland, but it was the only holiday of any kind where my mom, nana and two aunts were present and they totally took over all the cooking. I can do the shopping for a turkey dinner, though they did bring their own cans of cranberry sauce, pumpkin filler and spices. You would not believe how hard it was to buy pie plates rather than torte plates in Edinburgh.

    Here in Korea, we cheat. We either order from the American army base, go to a restaurant catering to foreigners who need turkey, or buy chickens from trucks, already roasted, and just make the sides. I do some mean mashed potatoes, when I manage to not slice my fingers open and bleed in them (true story - the potatoes were saved when a friend just scooped out the bloody bit while I went off for some holiday stiches...) Granted, we have the additional help of living in a country with a black market of goods from off the army base and now that I live right next to it, it merely takes determination and about three times the money to find most things I could get back home. Convienently, I have forgotten how much things cost in North America, so I am less troubled than the newbies!

  9. Thanks again for the tips... I'm trying out Amy's approach to gravy right now ;)

    Merry Christmas!


...and you may ask yourself, did I get here?