01 December 2011

Thanksgiving in the tropics

Complete with oven roasted chicken, in lieu of a turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and good company, last weekend we celebrated American Thanksgiving in the Philippines.  The iconic stuffing and cranberry sauce came in a gracious package sent state-side, while the rest of it, potatoes, veggies, 2 chickens, plenty of beer and rum, we found around the island.

There are no ovens to speak of in the Philippines, cooking is done on charcoal stoves, so preparing the bird was set to be the culinary adventure of the holiday.  We devised and successfully carried out our plan to roast our chicken in a beach oven.  None of us had done it before, but we figured it couldn't be all that hard.

Our setting was an abandoned beach front resort.  We had a charcoal grill, a table to eat at, plenty of room for our tents, and no one to speak of but ourselves.

 Here's how it went:

Dig a big, deep hole

Line the hole with rocks and dried coconut husks, they make great coals. Collect plenty of wood preferably not bamboo, but it will suffice.  Build a big fire.
Prepare the chicken(s) with salt, pepper, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and a bit of the brine.  Use a pot that doesn't have any plastic on it.

Cover the pot with aluminum foil and then the lid (to keep sand out) and place on a hot bed of coals and rocks.

Build up the fire again, bamboo burns quickly so you have to keep it going.

Make sure the pot is surrounded by hot coals, then partly cover it with sand.  Do not completely smother the fire.

At this point we settle down on the beach with a half dozen San Miguels a piece, a bottle of rhum, and some red wine to watch the sun set.

After three hours, carefully remove as much wood and coals as possible.  Be careful of the sand, and remove the pot from the beach oven.

Let it sit for a few minutes, then peal back the foil to reveal the most wonderful, fall-off-the-bone chicken you'll ever eat.

Behold, Thanksgiving dinner...

and the company to share it with.

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