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And the Winner is…

November 27, 2015

I’m still recovering from a week of food preparation and a day of serious hostessing. The heavens smiled on me and food magic happened, which means all my food turned out great, except for the gravy, which was a little iffy.  From now on, it’s only flour, no cornstarch in my gravy. My guests were wonderful, there were no awkward pauses in conversation, and my kid’s friends turned up too, which was great because I think of them all as my kids.

And, I did something different with my turkey this year.

It involves salt, bacon and a good massage.

Oh stop it, I know what you’re thinking.

And, it’s not Thanksgiving without minor pandemonium and a little bit of insanity in one of the Tunno households.  Plus,  this year we had an upset victory in the Annual Cutthroat Tunno Pumpkin Pie Contest!

At my brother Bernie’s house in Ohio, apparently, the electricity went out, leaving an oven or two not working for a while. People were leaving food willy nilly, in the upstairs kitchen, instead of the downstairs one (two kitchens are mandatory in Italian households to promote more eating) so, hostess Donna was left in a tizzy trying to prepare a meal upstairs while being crowded out by everyone’s casseroles.

Bernie was busy deep-frying a turkey in the garage and was blissfully unaware of some of the commotion, but said afterward, “It was kind of cool, like it used to be at Grandpa’s house when everyone converged at once.”

Controlled chaos is something you get used to in big Italian families. Our family simply increases our decibel level, – we learned that from my mom. We could host a convention of profoundly deaf people and they probably wouldn’t miss a thing.

Bernie throwing football

Bernie tossing a nice spiral – you still have it Bern!

Overall, it was a beautiful day, with sunny, blue skies and temperatures in the 60s on the east coast and the west. The Ohio kids, and their elders,  got to toss the football around outside and life was pretty dang good.

edited Pie Winners

Nate Tunno relishing his victory in the pie competition, the youngest winner ever! Chris, on the left, in second place and Elissa came in third.

But the big news was the first upset in five years in the Annual Cutthroat Tunno Pumpkin Pie Competition.

This year a new champion was crowned and the winner is the indomitable Nate (I’ll Make My Own Stinking Trophy) Tunno. Nate came in first, Chris Tunno, the winner of the last four years, came in second, and Elissa, Nate’s mom came in third.

Nate signs trophy

Nate signs the object of his affection.

As you may recall, Nate was so distraught over not winning last year, that he hand-crafted his own trophy.  That tenacity paid off because this year he got to go home with that big beautiful? trophy each of us covets.

My grand-niece Julie, was the distraught one this year when she didn’t win, but some years are like that. Take heart Julie, I’ve never won either! One of these days, maybe we’ll both get lucky enough to win it, but for now, it’s in good hands.

Trophy close up- note Elissa clutching glory.

As you can see, we spare no expense and use a new stick-on label each year.


As for my turkey, it was awesome! I dry brined it (got the recipe from the L.A. Times) and not only put a combination of chopped fresh rosemary and butter under the skin when I roasted it, but I also slipped a few slices of bacon under the skin. In addition, this recipe calls for massaging the turkey as it sits in the refrigerator. (As long as no one sees, I think you’ll be OK, but I would draw the line at buying it lingerie.) It was my most moist turkey ever and the slight bacony flavor was a cool addition. I highly recommend this recipe!

Fran’s Dry Brined Turkey with Rosemary and Bacon

1 12 to 16 lb turkey, or larger (mine was 23 lbs.)

Kosher Salt, plus 4 1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary (for the dry brine)

(This rosemary is for the butter under the skin) 1 1/2 Tbsp. Finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup butter softened

1 package of cheesecloth

6 slices raw bacon

Aluminum foil

The Monday before Thanksgiving or three days before roasting day, wash the turkey inside and out and pat it dry.  For every five pounds,, measure out 1 Tbsp. salt. If you want to add flavoring (I added finely chopped rosemary to the salt) you can.

Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with the salt, then salt the front of the turkey on the breasts, the sides and back.  It should look well seasoned, but not oversalted.

Place the turkey in a 2 1/2 gallon sealable bag, press out the air and seal it tightly. Put it in the refrigerator , breast-side up. Chill for three days, leaving it in the bag, but massaging the salt into the skin every day.

Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface and the skin should be moist but not wet. Wipe the turkey with a paper towel, put it breast side up on a plate, uncovered,  in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. (This will make the skin nice and crispy when you cook it!)

Mix your softened butter with the additional   1 1/2 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary.

When you’re ready to roast it, remove it from the refrigerator.  Put it in a large roasting pan. Carefully, slip your hand under the skin of the breast and separate the skin from the meat.  Once it’s fully separated, take a quarter  of the butter-rosemary mixture and put it under the skin of one breast.  Then do the same with the other.  Then take two to three slices of raw bacon and tuck them under the turkey skin of each breast. so the breast is covered. Then take the rest of the butter mixture and rub it all over the outside of the turkey.

Take the cheesecloth and cut it into strips about the length of your turkey.  Wet it liberally and just squeeze excess water out. Then drape the cheesecloth over the turkey. (Let the turkey sit for one hour at room temperature before cooking it.)Place the turkey in the oven and place a meat thermometer in the breast or in the thickest part of the thigh.

Remove the turkey from the oven each hour of cooking and, with a spray bottle, spray the cheesecloth with water liberally so it’s wet, then put the turkey back in. If the breast is browning too soon, cover the turkey lightly with a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.  Bake until thermometer reaches a temperature of 165. But check thigh and if juices are running and look bloody, let it cook longer.

Remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 1/2 hour to let the juices redistribute before slicing it. Enjoy!



  • Reply
    Bob Erbeck
    November 29, 2015 at 12:08 am


    Your turkey sounds delicious! I missed out on having turkey this Thanksgiving; I was invited to join a friend from my church and her family in Canyon Country. They usually serve turkey, but this year they had ham instead. Don’t get me wrong, the ham was very good. The only turkey at our gathering was the veggie tray I made to look like a turkey for the group. I saw a picture of it on Facebook a week before and thought, “Hey, I could do that.” I was delighted how nice it turned out. I’d post a picture of it on here, but I imagine your blog doesn’t allow any uploads. I guess you could see it if you went to my Facebook page. I took a picture of each stage of the prep. 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving Sunday to you and yours.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      November 29, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks Bob, I will definitely go check out your turkey. Thank you for the Thanksgiving weekend wishes. Enjoy today and the rest of the holidays to come and thanks, as always for reading and taking the time to write!

  • Reply
    November 28, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Nice article! From: At Fran’s Table To: Sent: Friday, November 27, 2015 9:48 PM Subject: [New post] And the Winner is… #yiv9430077091 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9430077091 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9430077091 a.yiv9430077091primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9430077091 a.yiv9430077091primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9430077091 a.yiv9430077091primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9430077091 a.yiv9430077091primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9430077091 | Fran Tunno posted: “I am still recovering from a week of food preparation and a day of serious hostessing. The heavens smiled on me and food magic happened, which means all my food turned out great. My guests were wonderful, there were no awkward pauses in conversation, and ” | |

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      November 28, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks big brother! I am sure women from all over the country will be writing to me asking to meet that stud throwing the football. You are looking good!

  • Reply
    Matilda Novak
    November 27, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    i just love you, Franzie….i’m so glad to know you. i love your big, loud Italian food-loving family too! (and deep down, i’m certain Hungarians and Italians are related).
    That trophy Rocks — go Nate!
    Thank you again for a read that made my heart smile…..

  • Reply
    Mandy Gustafsen
    November 27, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    HI Fran,

    Sounds like it was totally yummy!!

    So darling – I’m frantic – decided to drop everything and go visit my mom (despite my better judgment – the guilt took over) and then a quick visit to Melbourne and see friends there….. leave on Tuesday 1st Dec. and comeback on the 14th early in the morning. Now or never with the cheap airfare that runs out at the end of the year.

    Talk soon,



    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      November 28, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Right back at ya Matilda. If you lived here, I’d invite you over for leftovers, I have enough of them! Thanks for being such a good friend and always reading and taking the time to respond. I wish you a year of love and thankfulness with your wonderful Hungarian family. We are all related, of that I have no doubt!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      November 28, 2015 at 8:51 am

      Wow Mandy, that’s fast! Safe travels! We’ll talk soon.

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