Roast chicken really isn’t anything special. It was one of the first things I learned how to make in my culinary education because it’s cheap, easy and packs an impressive punch. Ever hear of “engagement chicken”? Well, if that were true, I’d be married 100x over for the amount of roast chickens I’ve made for people (though mostly female, I suppose). Anyway, there are countless ways to jazz up a bird, and today I’m going to share the German way which, flavor wise, isn’t that much different than the American Thanksgiving palate.
The other reason I’m opting for a roast chicken this week is that the best roast I’ve ever had was in Germany, roasted in a truck and eaten on the side of the road on a picnic bench. Let me explain.
Back in 2010 Tomato, Lettuce and I decided we needed to go back to Oktoberfest for the 200th anniversary after having more fun than expected at Oktoberfest 2009. I suggested spending the week before biking through the Bavarian Alps and to have OKT be our reward upon finishing our trek. Reluctantly (?) they both agreed. I’m actually not sure about Lettuce, but Tomato does not like biking. Or maybe she didn’t realize she didn’t like biking until after this trip. Anyway, it was (in my opinion) a great trip. There’s just something to getting “lost” in the German countryside, tucked in small, picturesque villages amidst the spectacular mountains. It was on that trip that our famous “look where we are!” pose was coined and to date, it’s been my favorite trip.
For all that could have gone wrong, we were pretty lucky by having 4/5 of our days trouble free, with all of the disasters happening on the same day. I guess it’s better to get it all over with, right? Here’s what went wrong:
(1) that day started out slippery, and Lettuce took a hard fall when her bike tire skidded as we were trying to catch the morning train to Austria, leaving her arm tender though, luckily, not broken;
Finally on the train to Austria
(2) once we arrived at the real start of our biking for the day, we ended up riding approximately 45 minutes uphill, so focused on the damn hill that we missed the scenic viewing of the Isar Springs reserve that we were supposed to see. Tomato also lost (but then luckily found) her camera on that hill;
Camera found! She had to drive about 20 minutes back down the hill to get it.
(3) That 45 minute uphill ride ended up being completely unnecessary to get us to our hotel for that night- it was the only out-and-back of the entire trip.
Perhaps the “picture of the trip”. This was not staged- the cow moo’d unexpectedly at the right time, and I just happened to catch the look on Tomato’s face when she turned around.
(4) Tomato fell off her bike going up the hill and landed in the same exact spot on her knee where she had fallen the day before
(5) We were hungry from having not packed sufficient food; and the clincher that made the whole day shot to hell…
(6) when driving down the 45 minute hill, Lettuce’s bike tire popped and none of us knew how to change it. When the ‘emergency taxi’ came to pick up Lettuce and her bike to take to the next town to get it fixed, there was no room for me or Tomato, leaving us separated from Lettuce with barely-working cell phones, no real maps, and no definitive directions to get us back on the trail from that town since it was off of our route.
Tomato, ACTUALLY changing the bike tire
Somehow Tomato and I managed to find Lettuce and her now-fixed bike and with approximately an hours’ ride left to go, we were almost at our hotel for the night. But we were starving. Enter, the chicken truck.
When asking the girls for their memories on this event, Tomato swears I was slow on the uptake and completely missed the big yellow truck in the Aldi parking lot, and the intoxicating smell of rotisserie chicken emitting from it. In any case, we had to eat NOW. Right then and there. We bought a chicken, took it to the nearest park bench and devoured it. If anyone saw us, they’d have thought we hadn’t eaten in two weeks. I was very sad when it was gone.
In homage to that chicken, here’s today’s recipe with a side of bread dumplings, which you’ll find in any German eatery: German Style Roast Chicken with Serviettenknoedel. Serviettenknoedel is also popular in Austria and the Czech Republic, but in Germany it hails from Bavaria.
For the chicken:
1 3-4 pound whole roaster
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
¼ cup walnut halves
¼ cup raisins (I used craisins)
½ tsp dried marjoram or poultry seasoning
½ tsp thyme
¼ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 ounce whisky or brandy, for the gravy
- Preheat the oven to 450F.
- Mix all but the chicken in a bowl. Stuff into the chicken cavity. Sew the skin together with a needle and thread to hold everything in. or, if you are like me and don’t’ have that (I did. I have no idea what happened to it), you can use paperclips like I did here. Just call me MacGyver. Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
Just call me MacGyver.
3. Bake the chicken at 450F for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 325F and bake for an additional 60. Meanwhile, make the dumplings.
4 cups bread, cubed (a bit stale is best)
2 slices of bacon
½ cup milk
¼ tsp nutmeg
Salt, pepper and parsley to taste
1. Fry the bacon in a pan. When cooled, dice.
2. Beat the eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt, pepper and parsley in a bowl. Add in the bacon. Mix together well with your hands. Form into a log and roll tightly in cheesecloth. Set aside for one hour.
3. After the dumpling has set, in a large stock pot, boil enough water to cover the dumpling. Once it’s boiled, set the dumpling in the water and boil for 30 minutes.
4. Cool for five minutes. Slice and serve. For an extra step, you can pay fry these dumplings in some butter in skillet, which I’m sure would make them crispy and delicious, but I just kept them plain.
Once the chicken is done, set aside to rest for approximately 15 minutes. In the meantime, make a pan gravy using the pan drippings from the chicken. My chicken was actually really lean and I didn’t have enough to make any gravy, and if you run into this problem, you can make a simple pan gravy with chicken stock.
1 ½ TB butter or olive oil
1 ½ TB flour
2 oz whisky or brandy (I bet apple brandy would be great)
1 to 1 ½ cups chicken stock
Parsley, salt and pepper
1. Place a saucepan on the stove on medium heat. Melt the butter and sprinkle the flour over it and cook, stirring for a few minutes until the flour is light brown. Add the brandy, and scrape the pan to lift the bits that are stuck to the bottom. Cook for a minute to burn off the alcohol, then, while stirring, pour in the stock. Bring to a simmer, and stir until thickened. Season with salt, pepper and parsley.
I really liked the dumplings, but I thought they could be made more flavorful. Actually, you can use whatever stuffing recipe you would normally use- embellished with craisins, sausage, apples…whatever, and use this method to cook it. I could see myself doing that again. Also, these dumplings slices would be an interesting accompaniment to eggs (like with the Italian Benedict and Emmentaler Rosti). Finally- if you’ve ever watched Friends, you know what a moist-maker is, and this would be a very clean way to get stuffing onto a post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Just some thoughts.