Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Burnt Poultry and Other Disasters

Photo of my rotisserie chicken fail



Yes, that's an actual photo of a rotisserie chicken that I'd left out on my Weber grill too long. I was planning on checking in, but got all wrapped up in writing a chapter of my latest manuscript -- I had gotten to a key action scene- and I completely forgot the chicken. I work from a corner of my bedroom with a window to my left and I happened to glance outside and saw the rising smoke. When I ran down to check, I found this. Took a photo and went to a restaurant for dinner, where the professionals who actually can cook work.

News flash: I'm not a great cook. I can bake, yes, but cook? Not so much. That's why I usually work from a recipe book, and why I'll be using some of the great recipes in Karna's last post on this blog. And having seen that chicken above I'll bet you would assume that I never host dinner parties where I cook, but no--you'd be mistaken. Because last New Year's Eve one of my resolutions was to host dinner parties in my home. I was reading Erma Bombeck's touching essay about enjoying life and this line caught me:
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I loved Erma Bombeck's humor and insight, and I decided that she was right. What was I waiting for? I'm a glutton for punishment-or I wish to punish my friends with my cooking, however you'd like to see it, but I decided it would be fun to host a formal sit down dinner. I pulled out my mother's fancy china and crystal (I don't own any) and her silverware. I figured if the food was bad at least the table would look nice. The last thing I needed, though, was a recipe. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine, because my first party would be for moms that I had met through the kids' school or extra curricular activities, and moms so rarely get a night off that I knew we'd all be hitting the wine-- hard.

Since I expected to be drinking and hosting-with no outside catering help, I decided that whatever cookbook I got it had to be written from the perspective of a host who also wanted to enjoy her own party. To that end I got the book, Meals in Heels, by Jennifer Joyce, which I highly recommend. You can buy the book and read Ms. Joyce's wonderful blog about food and hosting here. Many of her recipes are made ahead of the actual event, and so lessen the stress on the day.

Jennifer Joyce
I hit my first snag when she recommended that the bird be "spatchcocked" before cooking. What in the world? I had no idea what this meant, but soon realized that it required cutting the bird at the spine. I was off to get some poultry shears, an item I would never have imagined needing before this little adventure. And tarragon. Never used it.

I'm happy to say that the recipe was divine, the bird perfect, the company funny and smart and the dinner a success! It was a relief to sit with friends and not have a waiter hovering, or being watched by an anxious manager with an eye to turn the table, or to worry about time ticking away as the clock struck midnight.

And while my dining room is small and space limited, I hope to host some more dinners and expand the guest list so that I get a chance to sit down with all of the wonderful people that I've met and who enrich my life now. My writing friends, work friends, neighbors, you name it, and to celebrate them and the spirit of Thanksgiving. And if you have any tips for hosting a party or recipes that you love, please leave them in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Best, Jamie


5 comments:

  1. Oh Jamie, your photo of the charred chicken brought back memories of a few disastrous dinner parties of my own. When "entertaining" a large group, I was browning some chicken on the stove, the pan was way too hot, smoke curled up toward the ceiling, the smoke alarms went off creating a wailing sound throughout the house. No one could figure out how to stop the noise. A fire truck showed up and....well, you get the picture. And yet -- in spite of misgivings, you soldiered on...a great inspiration to us all for the upcoming holiday season. Thanks for your encouraging post!

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  2. The fire truck showed up! So funny. And thanks for the recipes on the earlier post of yours. Will try them!

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  3. Jamie, how wonderful that you hosted a party knowing that your culinary skills aren't perfect! I admire anyone who puts herself out there like that. Also, I love that your solution to completing an unknown task is the same as mine: buy a good book!

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  4. How does one wrangle an invitation to a dinner party? The dinner party sounded so fabulous. PS - I don't think I've ever seen a chicken that well done!

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  5. Thanks Christine and you are always welcome!

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