My Italian heritage dates back only to 1990 when I first went to Italy. Yes, my family came over on the boat, but that boat was the Mayflower. So the traditional Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes was completely foreign to me before I went to Italy. Many are horrified to learn that our family orders pizza for Christmas Eve. This tradition came about when I was very young. My parents let us choose where to go after the children's church service. We ended up at Pizza Hut and there was no messing with tradition after that. It's convenient these days because family members are arriving at my parents at different times of the day, some go to early services, some go at midnight, some don't go at all. Take out pizza makes it all really easy and no one has to fuss over another feast. My husband tried to explain this to his mother the first time we spent Christmas with them. She found it unfathomable, thought we were only saying that to make it easier on her, but it is the God's honest truth.
Now, I certainly love a good slice of pizza but I have to say that the Feast of Seven Fishes is much more civilized.
Here are 7 recipes that I think would grace my Christmas Eve table were I a bonified Italian! The dishes are simple and many are make-ahead which is not always easy with seafood. They also are less "sit down" and more cocktail party style. Those Italians have big families - you might not have chairs for everyone!
Crabmeat Appetizers - this is an old family recipe that can be made ahead and frozen. Pull them out of the freezer, broil and serve
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 jar Old English Cheese spread
2 tsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp garlic powder , 1/2 tsp salt
7 oz crabmeat
6 English muffins
Blend 1st six ingredients together well. Spread on English muffins. Freeze on cookie sheet and transfer to storage bags. When you want to serve, cut into 6 wedges. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes and broil to finish.
Roasted Shrimp Cocktail (courtesy of Ina Garten)
Scallops wrapped in bacon
Seafood Salad (courtesy of Food Network)
Baccalà Mantecato - if you REALLY want to go traditional, try this incredible dish from Venice. It is quite unique. The recipe was given to me by my friend and colleague Monica.
Pasta alle Vongole - 8 ingredient, super simple and perfection. (courtesy of Bon Appetit)
Whole Poached Salmon with cucumber sauce - this is a showstopper. I worked for a caterer for some time and this was one of our most requested items. The fish was skinned and poached in wine, lemon and water. Then we cut VERY thin slices of cucumbers and laid them on the poached fish to look like the scales. Serve with a bowl of cucumber sauce on the side.