Monday, February 15, 2010

Gee Thanks, Uncle Sam

I got a care package from the United States of America:

And by care package I mean "even though you don't live here anymore or earn money here or pay taxes here you have to file taxes here or else" package.


Last year I, like the good expatriate I am, filed my taxes in the U.S. For an income earned (and taxed) entirely in Norway. Yeah, you figure that one out. But, I'm a rule follower, so I bucked up and filed.

But - I flinch just writing this - my bottom line was a negative number. Oy vei. I made less than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion of $91,400. Yes, folks, I'm sorry to break your illusions but I make less than $90k. However I did pay student loan interest in the U.S., for the sake of ease let's say $500.

Let's do some math:

$0 (income)
$500 (student loan interest paid)
-$500 (bottom line of tax return)

I'm no mathematician or IRS finger breaker but I do know that having a negative bottom line on your tax return is like riding Osama bin Laden's back through a gay pride parade with a basket of Haitian babies wearing this:

So Uncle Sam has tracked me down and has shown me in 300 easy to read pages how to not screw it up this time.


Friday, February 5, 2010

To Roast a Chicken

Perhaps one of the most perplexing questions of the universe, I have solved the riddle of how to turn this:

Into this:

And how might you ask? The answer is absolutely astounding. The answer is: EASILY!

I never in a bijillion years thought I was grown up enough or had mad enough cooking skillz to roast a chicken. It intimidated the bejesus but it is nothing to be scared of! Here's how you, too, can impress your friends and fam with a big 'ol fancy roast chicken.

Whole chicken
1 lemon
Bottle of lemon juice
Garlic (I use pre-chopped from a jar, sue me)

Disclaimer: I am not a measure-er, I'm an eyeball-er. I eyeball almost everything I cook. So, when roasting your very own chicken use the amount that looks right based on the size of your chicken.

Step 1: Wash chicken
Yes, run that bald, nasty looking thing under the kitchen sink. It felt icky to do so (aren't we going to eat that?!) but, for some reason I don't understand, it must be done. Make sure it's thoroughly thawed first. Pat dry with paper towels.

Step 2: Put stuff on chicken
I used a mix of melted butter, lemon juice from a bottle and a few teaspoons of garlic. Having a basting brush would really come in handy at this point, but I'm not comfortable with that sort of financial commitment so I just spooned the juice over it. Don't forget to baste the cavity, which will from here on be referred to as the a-hole.

Step 3: Put stuff in a-hole of chicken
Roll a lemon around on the counter to get the juices flowing. Slice it in half and shove it into the chicken's a-hole. The a-hole of my chicken could only handle 1 lemon but I suppose if your chicken had a super big a-hole you could fit a few more in there.

Step 4: Cook chicken
A nifty little tip I read online is to let the chicken spend half the cooking time breast side down so the delicious moist-inducing juices run into, not out of, the tasty, tasty breasts. It was a good tip and you should follow it, too. My chicken spent the first 45 minutes of its hour and 45 minute cooking time breast side down.

Cooking time depends on the weight of the bird, but a good rule of thumb is 20-ish minutes per pound plus a little extra. I was expecting my 4 pound bird to cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes but the meat thermometer I inserted wasn't quite up to the chicken symbol at that time so I let it cook another 15 minutes. Thankfully that was sufficient for salmonella prevention, though I remember hearing somewhere that salmonella does not exist in Norway.

Let the bird sit for 10-15 minutes once it comes out of the oven - remember, chicken cooking is all about moisture creation, retention and preservation. If you cut it too soon the juices will run right out and you'll be left with dry meat. This also applies to steak. Rachael Ray taught me that.

Resting time is also a good time to finish whipping up your side dishes. I served my roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and lemon-shallot brussel sprouts. If you said 'eew' to the brussel sprouts I would like to personally punch you in the face. They are so good and have a totally undeserved bad reputation. And they're healthy, too (if you care about that sort of thing)!

If you're an anal Norwegian male who can't cook without a very specific recipe, check out the one I based mine on.

Impress your friends and fam, roast a chicken with these 4 easy steps. Martha will be so proud!