Instagram did not return a 200.

Follow Me!

Family Traditions Random Thoughts

A Man And His Crabs

December 31, 2015
Bernie crabs

Bernie, with a crab leg the day after gallbladder surgery.

What makes a man recover from gallbladder surgery almost instantly?

a. The promise of a waiting platter of king crab legs and shrimp

b. The promise of pasta with crab sauce

c. The promise of scallop pasta with cream sauce

d. The promise of an adoring family

e. Leftover novenas prayed by his mother.

f. All of the above

If you answered f, you’re right. When seafood and family are on the line on Christmas Eve, who has time to toy with a defective gallbladder? Apparently not my brother, Bernie. He’s the guy we nearly lost two years ago when his heart decided to stop beating. Luckily, he came back from that episode, like Lazarus, to hang out with us — hopefully a good while longer.


Sister-in-law Donna dressed as Heidi of the Mountains for our annual trip to the Strip District.

However, a day or two before Christmas Eve, he was feeling awful and on the 23rd had to have his gallbladder removed. No one could believe the timing. Bernie was missing our Annual Tunno family pilgrimage to Pittsburgh’s wholesale Strip District to buy fish and eat sandwiches at Wholey Brothers. And worse, there was a chance he might miss All Squid’s Eve (commonly referred to as Christmas Eve) the day we wait for all year long!

But, he did what any Tunno would do. In the midst of gallbladder pain, he made sure he told his son, Chris, how to make the crab sauce for our Christmas Eve pasta.

Crab sauce

Christmas Eve Crab Sauce

Priorities are priorities.

I did the same when I was in labor with my daughter. I was on the phone with our nanny, between labor pains, explaining how to knead the raisins into the Easter bread I was making when I felt my first contraction. It must be genetic.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Bernie made sure he was checked out of the hospital. None of us believed he would actually make it.

But, underestimating a man with crab on his mind is a big mistake and a couple of hours late, but in excellent spirits, Lazarus stepped out of the car in the driveway, ready to eat, looking like nothing had happened. (Check with your doctor before trying this recovery method yourself.)

everyone at table

Some of the family on Christmas Eve – hey, it’s a big table, I couldn’t get us all in. (Note Bernie giving Bob horns – some things never change.)

We all went out to greet him, gushed over his amazing recovery  (I even shed a few tears of joy because I’m a big wuss) then we got down to business eating: Steamed King Crab Legs and Shrimp with Lemon Butter Garlic Dip, Homemade Ravioli with Shrimp, Ricotta and Parmigiano in Pesto Sauce– created by nephew Patrick and me, Tomato Crab Sauce – flawlessly executed by Chris, Utterly Delicious Pasta with Scallop-Mushroom Curry Sauce by Bob,  Pasta with Tomato Shrimp Sauce by Bob, Marinated Ahi Tuna by Bob, perfectly grilled by my nephew Marc, a delicious, Creamy Swiss and Bacon Dip and Spinach Ball appetizers by Elissa, salad and more.

Matt and Nate

My nephew, Matt and his son Nate in matching ties.

It was food heaven and I’m sure my mom and dad were smiling over us all. And, I am proud to note that the families of my two best friends, Carolyn and Dawn, have now incorporated seafood into their Christmas Eve menus too.

Mom and Dad at Christmas

Dad with Mom on Christmas.

I think all those novenas Mom made years ago must have been saved in the ether for moments like this. Thanks Ma for a wonderful, delicious Christmas Eve. We couldn’t be more thankful to you and dad for teaching us the love of family and food all those years ago.

Bob’s Scallop Mushroom Curry Cream Sauce Recipe (I will get a photo of this soon, I promise!)

4 Tbsp olive oil

pat testing Bob's sauce

Bob looking a little worried as Patrick tests his sauce. It’s the same look my mom used to have.

1/8 cup butter

1 eschallot finely chopped

1 cup of sliced mushrooms

8 to 10 large sea scallops

1-2 Tbsp. fresh parsley

1 shot of vermouth

1/2 tsp of curry powder or less

1 shot of Maker’s Mark Whiskey

1 cup light cream (you could use heavy cream for a little richer sauce)

1/2 lb of farfalle pasta (you may have some sauce left over, but better to have more sauce than not enough and have dry pasta)

Sauté the eschallots in the butter/oil mixture  in a large skillet and add mushrooms. Saute until mushroom juice is evaporated.

Pat the scallops dry and sauté them in the oil butter mixture,  so they release some of their juices, then remove them and place them in a separate very hot skillet with peanut oil (it doesn’t burn at high temps). Let them sear on each side (One to two minutes per side) then remove them from the pan immediately and set them aside to add to the sauce later.

Add 1 cup of light cream to the oil butter mixture and stir and add the curry powder. Add one shot of Maker’s Mark Whiskey and stir to combine, cooking for a minute or two more.  When the pasta is cooked al dente, add the scallops back to the cream sauce and immediately add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss it to combine – about 30 seconds. Serve the pasta immediately.




  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    January 7, 2016 at 10:46 am

    This story sounds vaguely familiar. I think I might know that guy. I swear, one of these Christmas Eves, I am going to disguise myself as one of your distant cousins and crash the party. You guys sure know how to do Christmas Eve. PS – Thanks for the hospital call – I really appreciated it.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      Chas, I think you would be more than welcome at any Christmas Eve we celebrate! Just come! I’m glad to hear you are back up and at ’em.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Bernie, The Christmas miracle! Nothing would have kept me from that meal either. Glad the family was together for a special time (and now I get to have you back for a while).

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 2, 2016 at 10:07 am

      If I’m around next Christmas Eve, we will make the meal! Or I’ll drag you to Pennsylvania as an honorary Tunno!

  • Reply
    George A. Maupin
    December 31, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Correction: Errata = ‘You never saw such a thing’ — should read ‘You never sausage a tragic thing.’ HAPPY 2016!

  • Reply
    George A. Maupin
    December 31, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    So glad to hear your brother Bernie survived. Here is a F-B post you both may enjoy. – –
    George Maupin Alert – This Post might give Fran Tunno a laugh =

    Did you hear about the Italian chef that died?
    He pasta way. We cannoli do so much. His legacy will be pizza history. Here today, gone tomato. How sad he ran out of thyme. Sending olive my prayers to the family. His wife is really upset. Cheese still not over it. You never saw such a tragic thing. It’s such a shame good people have to die fusilli reasons.
    It was a farfalle from grace. 😉

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      December 31, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      You’re right George, I did laugh! Pretty cute.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Wonderful post, Fran. Reminds me of all those Christmas Eve repasts with my step-family the Ferrara’s — although your pescatarian table sound far more gourmet. Thank goodness for Bernie’s continued defiance and stamina! Happy New Year!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 2, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Thank you Linda. Love you and miss you. We must chat soon!

  • Reply
    Fran Tunno
    December 31, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you Bob, same to you! I wish you all the best and thanks for always reading and taking the time to comment!

  • Reply
    Bob Erbeck
    December 31, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I’m about to have a few baby shrimp with cocktail sauce. Yum!

    Happy New Year, Fran, to you and yours.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: