Monthly Archives: December 2009

who you calling Turkey?

Thanksgiving, 1992, San Francisco, CA, my first away from home as a newly minted full-grown adult. I figured I would make the turkey, since of my 3 roommates, 2 were veggie, and one had no interest in taking on the bird. And so, I got us a huge frozen turkey that sat in our fridge for a few days befoere Thanksgiving.
The big day arrived. I went to the fridge and found that the turkey was nowhere near thawed. It was around 8am PST and our party started at 6pm. The phone (which had a very long cord, we for some reason didn’t have a cordless, and no cell phones yet) was dialed and Gran Fran came on the line (it being 3 hours later in NY, her turkey was well on its way. Must also mention here, that Joe was well out of the house, too, since he cannot be in the house with odor of the roasting bird.)
“Well, you’ll need to run cold water on it to get the ice to thaw. And, to make sure it’s ready to cook, you don’t want to give everyone salmonella.” (note: Gran Fran is very wary of all manner of undercooked food for fear of diseases.)
OK, so the turkey is huge, our sink is not. Into the bathroom I go with the turkey, dragging the phone through the length of our flat. The bird is dumped into the bathtub, cold water is run over it for an hour or so, and it is thawed. (Picture my two veggie roommates coming into the bathroom and seeing me wrestling with a gigantic turkey. Needless to say, as soon as it was thawed, I was back in the bathroom armed with bleach and tub cleanser to get all meaty-juices off the surfaces).
The turkey made it into the oven around 10am, plenty of time for it to cook through. I went about my business to make other dishes, and help get the house ready for our guests. We were dressed up and the house lit with candles just in time.
The turkey had a beautifully browned skin, the meat was moist, the side dishes were delicious.
But, I had forgotten one thing. The paper wrapped innards were still in the turkey cavity. Oy, this was a tough one to explain to the guests. Suffice it to say, the turkey had been cooked for so long that the innards had been cooked, too, no danger of salmonella. But, boy, what a discovery was made when that cooked white sack was found!
Luckily, we were mostly a bunch of out-of-towners on our first solo Thanksgivings, so all was ok, as long a the wine and beer kept flowing and the pies made their way to the table.
And so, now 17 years later, that still stands out in my mind as a Thanksgiving to remember. Below is a chutney I’ve made in the recent past that is a great accompaniment to turkey, but could be eaten on it’s own with some brie and bread, too.
Enjoy your holidays!
Cranberry Chutney
from Gourmet Magazine, 2000
  • 5 shallots (6 oz), coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 (12-oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
    2/3 cup sugar
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    1 teaspoon minced garlic
    1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • Cook shallots in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.


  • Stir in remaining ingredients.



  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries just pop, 10 to 12 minutes, then cool.


Posted in first holiday, frozen bird, thanksgiving, thaw, turkey | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

gran fran and her non-reactive pans

Gran Fran got some pots and pans in the early 1960s. She loves them. The Wagner Ware (pictured here) is her favorite, with her Le Creuset pots coming in a close second. News Flash! Wagner Ware is NOT non-reactive!! Only to be used for certain recipes, they are still Gran Fran’s top pick.

I believe Le Creuset came via her love of Julia Child, while the Wagner Ware was more of a day-to-day pot. Each, of course, has its special use.

There are, of course, times when one or the other brands of pots will be always used. While the Wagner Ware is usually used to boil water for pasta, the Le Creuset is its mate for making the sauce (you know, you can’t use the Wagner Ware, it’s reactive, after all…).
There were times when the handles (held on by a single screw) would fall off her favorite Wagner Ware, which would not deter Gran Fran. Instead, she would just grab a potholder and grip it right onto the metal where the handle had been. Joe managed to order some new handles for her, so the pots continued on through the 70s, 80s, 90s and today.

Then, there are the dents and dings that all of the Wagner Ware pots have endured over the years. Gran Fran is a big proponent of shaking her pans whilst cooking. I noticed this on Julia Child’s first episode, which featured omelettes. Julia shook her pan to fold the omelet. Gran Fran shakes her pans to keep things from sticking. But, she is known for her noisy pan shaking. You can’t hear the dishwasher when she is making something that needs a good shake. And, she also likes to clear the kitchen when she is cooking in case ingredients come flying out of the pan.

Just this morning, I found myself frantically shaking a pan of potatoes and realized I am becoming my mother. In many ways this isn’t so bad, but crazy pan-shaking isn’t what I had hoped for as an ever-lasting trait from my mother. To be fair, Gran Fran makes a mean pan of fried potatoes, so it’s not such a bad trait to have inherited.

As you may remember, Gran Fran just has a big birthday. My plan was to get her a new Wagner Ware pot to replace her dented one, but it’s going on eBay for as much as $120 a pop, not including shipping. To me, this seemed excessive for a sentimental gift, to a woman who would less than likely use said new pan when her dented, dinged, handle-less pans have been so good to her.

Fried Potatoes ala Gran Fran

serves 4 as a side dish

*use whatever kind of pan you’d like, non-reactive not 100% necessary here



    • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed


  • Olive Oil to coat the bottom of your pan



  • Salt to taste



    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


  • Heat oil in pan, until hot but not smoking.



  • Add cubed potatoes to pan, over high heat.



  • Turn potatoes every 2 minutes. Alternately, you can shake the heck out of the pan.



  • Lower the heat to medium after 8 minutes. Keep shaking or turning potatoes to keep them from burning. But, make sure you leave them long enough to brown on all sides.



  • Once they are browned on all sides, remove the pan from the flame and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.



  • Remove from oven, salt to taste and enjoy!!!


Posted in breakfast potatoes, fried potatoes, potatoes, side dish | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment