Dining | Everybody loves Judy
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; I know. What does a photo of woman sitting on a big fish have to do with the recipe for chicken cacciatora featured below? Well, I’ll tell you. This column is a tribute to that fisherwoman, my mother, Judy Grandmain, who passed away on Dec. 23, 2011. For those of you who knew my mom, you are probably thinking this is a bad fit: Judy and recipes or Judy having anything to do with the kitchen. True, her culinary skills were mostly devoted to eating my father’s excellent cooking or leafing through magazines for recipes to encourage my father’s excellent cooking, but she had her moments. My mom could cook three things expertly: Scrambled eggs (really should be called scrambled butter, a favorite staple in her diet) coffee (which she didn’t even drink) and chicken cacciatora. Judy gained her freedom from the hot stove early in her married life by cleverly serving tuna casserole to her new husband, Paul, for their first meal together as husband and wife. My father (French you know) has been preparing breakfast and dinner ever since. Note I left out lunch. My mom could make a killer sandwich, but that’s not cooking.
Despite the fact my mother traveled and lived abroad and even had a couple of cooks in her employ here and there who brought in flavors from around the world, my mom remained an American girl at heart. She was the first to buy the short-lived green colored ketchup and was undaunted when the oldest grandkids, August and Lyla, refused to eat it. Pre-mixed peanut butter and jelly? Judy fell for that one too. Her only hit in the miracle product category was and#8220;Instant Shelland#8221; an ice cream topping you pour on your sundaes and watch harden into a candy coating within minutes. (Pretty good stuff really.) This is not to say my mother didn’t appreciate beautiful food. I remember once traveling from Tokyo (where my parents were living) to Bali (where they often vacationed) with my mom and being upset with her because she insisted on filling her carry-on with these impeccable, pricey Japanese strawberries. When I asked her why she just couldn’t give her Balinese friends cash like other Americans she said, and#8220;They still wouldn’t be able to buy these strawberries.and#8221; That was so Judy.
Anyone who knew my mom didn’t care about her culinary shortcomings because in the end, the beginning and the middle, she was all about love. She loved to fish, she loved football, she loved her family and, above all, she loved my father. Since her passing I have received dozens of e-mails and phone calls saying and#8220;I loved your Mom!and#8221; and when I relayed this to my father he said simply, and#8220;Everybody loves Judy.and#8221;
And she gave it all back, unconditionally (lucky break for me!). Her biggest bragging rights in recent months was the newest grandchild, Gineau’s son Landon, and#8220;couldn’t get enough of herand#8221; when she saw him in Boston six months ago. She loved to tell the story of Gigi’s son Forrest saying and#8220;I just call you old ladyand#8221; in response to her asking him if he preferred the endearment and#8220;Grannyand#8221; or and#8220;Tutu.and#8221; She wasn’t old when she died and#8211; only 70 or 71, I think (she never could give me a straight answer) but she had lead an amazing and full life, blessed with so many joyful moments I would have to dedicate a recipe column a week to her for the next 10 years to scratch the surface.
And that is not going to happen because, seriously, the woman didn’t cook. Suffice to say, she has three children (the other two married really well! My number is: 530-414-8850) who will sing her praises and cherish her memory until their dying days and a husband who called her his best friend. Judy died at the home she built in Hawaii, looking out at her fish pond and waterfall, holding the hand of the man she had loved since she was 15 and he was 17, my father, Paul Grandmain. My parents’ marriage remains a great love story and I am so incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.
There will be one less place setting at the table now, but you are there, sweet mommy, youand#8217;re there. Now, letand#8217;s eat.
Judy’s Chicken Cacciatora
4 pounds chicken thighs
flour, salt and pepper
1 1/2 ounces butter
2 1/2 ounces olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
2 small green peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cups canned whole tomatoes
1 Tbls. tomato paste
2 Tbls. chopped parsley
1 small fistful of fresh thyme, chopped
1 small fistful of fresh oregano, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups sliced mushrooms
Place chicken thighs in bag with flour, salt and pepper. Shake to coat, set aside. Heat butter, olive oil and garlic in a heavy skillet. Add chicken, onions, green peppers and saute until chicken is golden brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste, parsley, thyme, oregano and a cup of red wine. Cover and simmer for an hour. Add mushrooms, continue to simmer, covered another 30 minutes. Serve over pasta, preferably linguine.