Monday, November 30, 2009

Czech Thanksgiving

Hi Everyone,
I've been very busy since last writing on November 17th/18th about the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. It's funny how "busyness" come in spurts sometimes.

Directly after the 20th anniversary celebration of the Velvet Revolution my husband, Jiri, and I had one of my Czech friends and her mother over for a Saturday lunch. We all had a great time--and everyone said the food was good--which is a wonderful compliment when considering it was all gluten-free. This meal set off an entire week of cleaning, shopping and cooking--a real whirlwind of activity last week. The next episode of cooking was Wednesday when my husband brought home a couple of colleagues from work. This was my first business entertaining, and I must say that it was a bit intimidating. But we had a wonderful time and everyone enjoyed the meal.

The next big dinner was last Friday when we celebrated the American Thanksgiving (which was really on Thursday). Jiri and I invited two couples for dinner--one Czech couple and one English-speaking couple. You can guess which language we used that evening. I cooked a very traditional Thanksgiving meal--turkey and all. Cooking for this meal really started on Thanksgiving, and again, it was all gluten free--desserts and all.

There were some cooking adventures while making this Thanksgiving meal. The first adventure was picking up the fresh turkey. I ordered a 7 kg turkey (about 15 lbs). This is a good-sized turkey, however, in the US we sometimes have turkeys as big as 25 lbs to feed a huge gathering of family and friends. The fresh turkey I had ordered seemed huge to me, though. When I got it home it was too big for the roaster I had. Ach jo (Czech for, "Oh no, what's to be done now, etc.") I had to make a run to Tesco trying to find a bigger roaster that didn't cost too much. I finally found one, only to find that while it was big enough for the turkey, it was almost too big for my Czech oven. Our ovens here are small compared to the ovens we have in the States. The ovens back home are big--with racks and shelves that are able to accommodate a medium-sized turkey, along with a casserole or two. My Czech oven has one rack and the inside is about 2/3 the size of my oven in the States. Anyway, after moving the rack to the lowest position possible, and turning the roaster at an angle, I was finally able to fit the roaster and turkey into the oven. All was well with the world...until....

The next hurdle to preparing our Thanksgiving dinner was again the turkey--it decided to finish cooking way too early in the day. That was almost a disaster. I had started the oven on the highest temperature possible, put the turkey in the oven for 30 minutes at that temp., and then turned the oven temperature down to around 180 C. That is around 350 F. I was tired and didn't realize what I had done--and that's why the turkey was finished early. The temp should have been set to 140 or 150 C. Now with the turkey done early in the day (supper was to be at 7PM), I had to figure out what to do to save the meat and have it edible for supper in the evening.

This type of problem would usually be resolved by calling my Mom for advice. However, she was sleeping as it was the middle of the night for her. Calling Mom for turkey advice in the middle of the night would be very cruel, indeed. So, I turned to the Internet for help. Trying to think of the proper search term to use, I typed in "turkey emergency," "turkey help," "turkey done too soon," etc. Some very interesting websites were brought up, as you can imagine. Finally, I found one website that had some excellent advice. The advice came from a lady who didn't like the hustle and bustle or the stress of fixing the whole Thanksgiving dinner in one day. Rather, she enjoyed cooking most everything a day ahead--including the turkey. to do this without the turkey tasting like warmed up poultry on Thanksgiving? This wonderful lady makes her turkey and then takes all the meat off the bones. The meat is then put into a roaster. After this, broth (with the same spices used in cooking the turkey and used for the stuffing mixture) is poured over the meat. Then the whole is covered with foil and put into the fridge (refrigerator) till the next day. About an hour and a half before the big meal, this kitchen maven puts her turkey in the oven at a low temperature. She said this would ensure that the the turkey was brought to the proper serving temp without cooking the meat any further. The foil is left to cover the meat as it heats. OK..this seemed like it might work, but I was still worried the meat would taste like it was warmed up--and not fresh.

I must say that this lady's advice was great. I can't remember her website's name--I would surely include it here. But a hearty thank you goes to this cooking maven who saved my traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I did everything she said, and the turkey came out just like it was fresh off a cooked turkey. Thankfully, everything else came out OK, too. Jiri and I and our guests all had a fun time, and everyone said the food was excellent. The highest compliment was that all the food tasted just like a "real" traditional American Thanksgiving feast! My food is definitely "real," but it is all gluten free, and therefore is not "real" in the sense of using wheat, oats or barley.

This was my third Thanksgiving to spend in the Czech Republic, and it was as enjoyable as the second. The main thing I've learned about celebrating the holidays away from home is to be flexible, creative, and adapt the traditions with Czech traditions whenever possible. Everything is very different here compared to my home in the US, but I'm learning how to bring the traditions of my Czech and American family together--everyone benefits--but most of all me. Both my American and Czech families having a wonderful time while celebrating the blend of Czech and American traditions that has come to our lives. This blend is bring life and fun to both sides of the "Pond."

That's all for today--you all have a great day!

God bless,

PS I'm trying to help a friend win a contest called "Oes tsetnoc." This looks like Czech, doesn't it? :0) But it's not! This phrase is really the words "Seo Contest" spelled backwards! You can read more about this contest by visiting Hospitalera's Blog!

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*lynne* said...

While I've not tried my hand at a turkey (for the moment we just show up at my hubby's aunt who hosts every year), I do agree that the internet really has a lot of useful information -- when I was experimenting with cooking whole chicken, a quick search helped hubby and I learn how to properly/easily cut the chicken. And I've experimented with many dishes thanks to recipes available online. :)

Glad your Thanksgiving was saved :)

hospitalera said...

Hi Sher, now there is an idea for a niche blog for you for next year: "Thanksgiving emergencies", "Turkey problems" or even "Thanksgiving problems solved" I run it through my favorite keyword tool for you if you like! Thanks also for the heads up on the contest, I am now on place 6, but to be frank, I want to WIN! ;-) SY
PS The first link is broken some how, but the second works well, thanks again! SY

Chaplain said...

Hi Sher,

Re opening sentence of the second paragraph, I think you mean, "Directly after the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Velvet Revolution", i.e referring to 2009 and not 1989!!!

As one of your English-speaking guests at your Thanksgiving Dinner, may I say what a wonderful meal it was and the turkey was just fine. The company was most enjoyable too!

Sher said...

Hi *lynne*
Yes--the Internet can be a lifesaver, as it was this past Friday for our Thanksgiving celebration! And yes--the Internet is also a wonderful place to find new recipes for free! I am a gluten-free person. The cookbooks for GF diets are pretty expensive, but there are so many high-quality recipes online for free that it's not been necessary to buy a cookbook in 7 years! :0)

Have a great day!
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Chaplain,
Thank you for catching that! I've fixed now it be clearer :0)

And thank you--it was so much fun having you all over on Friday! It's one of the joys of having a bigger place to live--now we can invite friends and relatives over! :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

Sher said...

Hi Hospitalera,
Yes--hadn't thought of that, but you're right! We need to look into that idea--for sure!!! There must have literally been millions of searches for turkey help before and just after Thanksgiving! :0)

Wow...6th place...well, we'll have to make sure you get to 3rd...I'll work on my next post and add your link there, too!!!!

And I think that link is now fixed :0)

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

KZBlog said...

At least you can order turkeys. I wouldn't know where to find one in Kazakhstan. We make do with a couple of chickens.

Ivanhoe said...

That's what I'm trying to do here in Ohio - blend our two oh-so-different culture.
Will be baking Czech Christmas cookies this weekend. Thank goodness I can find the real ingrediences in a Polish store (there's no Czech store around here).

Karen said...

Last year was your first Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic? And I was invited? I'm so honored! It's painful to read you had the Yates' over - I'm jealous - I want to be there!

Sher said...

Hi Karen,
Actually it was my third (I corrected this in the post) Thanksgiving to spend in the Czech Republic! I was really busy when I wrote this post and got things mixed up with the years. So, you were actually invited to our second Thanksgiving! :)

And you know...when you come back to Prague you have a standing invitation for dinner! :0)

Have a great day,

Sher said...

Hi Ivanhoe,
Sorry it's taken me a few days to get back to respond to your comment!

It's great you're also finding a way to blend both traditions into your family there. Czech cookies look so wonderful! I'm trying to find gluten free recipes that will be similar!

Have a very happy and Merry Christmas--to you and your loved ones!


Sher said...

Hi KZBlog,
Yes...we can actually order from an expat store here in Prague. Even so, I've used chicken for Thanksgiving before--there's not a thing wrong with that--and they taste just as good!

Have a great day,