Thursday, December 03, 2009

Family Vacation: Turkey Day

Yes it is possible to cook a full Thanksgiving Dinner in a hotel. Ok, so the hotel room had a kitchen. No oven, but the place had a dishwasher and three times the counter space of our first apartment (not that that's saying much...). I thought I had a photo of the kitchen, but can't find it. From peeks at some of the other rooms, I gather that ours had one of the larger kitchens for a one-bedroom suite (the 2-bedrooms got ovens).

This was the most pre-packaged Thanksgiving meal I've cooked in over a decade. Stuffing from a box, cranberry sauce from a can, powdered mashed potatoes, and gravy from a jar. It turned out really well. I am a total food snob.

There are things I don't like about our countertop oven. One, it takes up counter space. Two, its not a toaster oven (it takes like 20 minutes to toast bread). And three, it is not a full-sized oven. But it is a convection oven that heats up some foods (like leftovers or frozen chicken nuggets) really fast, and it has a built-in rotisserie.

You guessed it. We rotisseried our turkey. With some basic spices, plus butter under the skin. It was good. Very good.

Ok, so I also burned a pumpkin pie in our nifty little oven. In my defense, the oven
was still heating up, and I know that the temperature is flaky when it starts going. And putting in two pies (it has two racks and can hold two full-size frozen pizzas at once) puts the top one really close to the heating element. We caught the charring crust early and wrapped the edges of both pies in foil. And the insides were tasty, even if the top was blackened.

I also had a small adjustment period in making pancakes. On the stove top. On a burner that heats super-fast, with a not non-stick pan that heats unevenly. With pancakes from a mix. Luckily, the box of mix was plenty big, so we could afford to throw away about the first 5 or 6 blackened flapjacks. The very first one actually smoked. Oops.

Besides the oven, we did bring a few things from home. Grill tools (which we didn't need--no grills on the property). Silicone oven mitts (I was thankful for those--the two tiny potholders provided were not sufficient). Oatmeal and brown sugar (breakfast basics that could also be part of an apple pie crumb top). Cinnamon, "poultry spice" (a freebie from my last trip to Penzeys, and we used it on the poultry!), kosher salt, pepper grinder. Two jars of home-canned apple pie filling, that we didn't end up using (the pumpkin pie took two crusts so we skipped the apple). A couple of knives and a sharpener, though the room turned out to have OK knives. Dishwasher safe kitchen shears (invaluable).

Once we got there, we bought nonstick foil, which was also invaluable in the kitchen all week, and a set of flexible plastic cutting mats. They provided a cutting board about the size of a greeting card, and I didn't think we could carve even a turkey breast on one of the dinner plates. And our set at home was getting kind of beaten up, so we brought them home with us.

I wish I'd packed a small bottle of olive oil--I sauteed shrimp in butter one night. It worked, but not as well as a real oil might have. And I wish I'd brought nutmeg and ginger for the pumpkin pie. Since I didn't have the right spices, I bought "pumpkin pie mix" which was pumpkin + spices + sugar and was a total rip-off over just pumpkin. Otherwise, we ate just fine with the convenience foods I avoid at home: jarred stir-fry sauce, boil-in-bag rice, "complete" pancake mix, etc.

But cooking-wise, it was a fun trip. I felt like I was camping every time I cooked a meal. No, I don't camp. Though hubby reminded me that we could run the mini-oven through the power adapter on the car, should we feel like trying it. I can see me now, baking a birthday cake from scratch to eat with our grilled steaks and fire-bake sweet potatoes. Maybe I should take up camping after all.

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