James Freeman's Thanksgiving Essential: Wonky Turkey Roasting, Lots of Coffee

Categories: Holiday Meals

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SFoodie's series asking some of our favorite San Francisco food people about the dish they just can't celebrate Thanksgiving without.

Perhaps the wonkiest of S.F. coffee geeks, Blue Bottle's James Freeman does Thanksgiving with the aid of gadgets, key elements sourced from Ferry Plaza, and no lack of caffeine. His wife, Caitlin Williams Freeman, was a founder of Miette, and he has a 7-year-old son, Dashiell, named for San Francisco's iconic hard-boiled author.

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The very porny-looking turkey cannon.
Freeman: Caitlin and I both had the same recollections, our first Thanksgiving together maybe 6 years ago, literally our first day off that year. It felt so relaxed ― we finally had a chance to sit down and not rush off. Those heritage birds that Prather sells? We got one of those and it was a little one, very gamy: It had really dark meat and was just ... more pungent in a pleasant, meaty way. It was a tightrope to roast it because it was so lean. We've cooked one ever since.

Last year we cooked it on one of those big Weber barbecues. We used a turkey cannon, which looks like something you might find at Good Vibrations, a big tube on a stand. You fill it with the liquid of your choice ― I put sake in last year and gave the turkey a spice rub. It steamed with the sake, and was really sweet, the best our turkey ever turned out.

Do you know Stuart Brioza, the chef? He's a good friend of ours. This year we made a clay oven outside ― squashed up the clay with the sand, with our feet ― on an 8-foot-wide cement strip with a clothes line. I want to roast the turkey outside again, but in our oven. I haven't figured out how yet. It'll be a challenge not to dry it out since the oven gets so hot. There's one other dish we do really well: It's really nice carrots, usually from Howard McGinnis or Dirty Girl, and roast them, this year them in the clay oven with a little butter and lavender salt from Nigel at Eatwell. They're spectacularly good and simple.

We make coffee all day. The San Marco lever [espresso machine] I have at Mint Plaza? I have an old one at home that we use throughout the day. And we buy a barrel of Jamaican Blue Mountain every year, roast it the week before Thanksgiving. I make a Chemex of that. Or two. Or three.

Other Thanksgiving essentials in this series:
-Jonathan Kauffman's Brussels sprouts with prosciutto
-Jun Belen's stuffing balls
-John Birdsall's braised turkey legs with polenta
-Roger Feely's relleno negro


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