Every Christmas Eve my family does its own version of the “Feast of the Seven Fishes”- an Italian tradition that dates back to the Roman Catholic Church, where patrons refrained from meat and dairy on the evening of holy days, thus frying a variety of seven fish dishes.
I’ve looked forward to Christmas Eve each year – fried calamari, fish stew, clams and garlic sauce over spaghetti and a slew of other dishes. The only thing about serving seven courses, is you better be prepared to have your dinner run into the wee hours of the evening.
Last Christmas Eve, we started the dinner at 6, serving each course as it was prepared (given fried fish is served best fresh) and ended up with dessert being served slightly after midnight.
So given, that we all were getting tired of falling asleep between courses, my family made the time-conscious decision to make three fish courses this Christmas Eve. But, by no means do less courses mean less of a menu.
If anything, Christmas Eve this year was that much more enjoyable because we could all savor the three courses, without worry of falling asleep in our plates or needing to make room for 4 more rounds of food.
We started off with our friend Anne’s amazingly perfect Clam Casino (see recipe below), served on the center aisle as we all toasted our prosecco filled glasses to the holiday feast ahead.
Then, it was on to the second course, my father’s crab cake filled jumbo shrimps that he served with a sauce made of fresh fish stock, wine and butter (clearly where we started to venture off the course of the Catholic Church…dairy). It went perfectly with a side dish of Anne’s flavorful broccoli rabe with sausage.
And as if to leave the best for last (clearly bias here), my turn was up. I decided to deconstruct one of my favorite dishes, lobster ravioli, by making a fettuccine with lobster in a tomato based sauce with asparagus, red pepper and a touch of half and half for a creamy effect that wasn’t overpowering the dish.
The meal was everything I yearn for each year at this time – good food and lively conversation amongst family and friends at the holidays.
Give the entire menu a try, or take it apart and try individual dishes, making the meal your own, as my family did. You’ll notice from some of the recipes that there may not be exact measuring amounts as many of my family and friends tend to , as I, “eye the recipe”. Taste for flavor as you go, but as always if any questions feel free to shoot me a message!
Happy New Year !
Clams Casino (courtesy of Anne Boyton)
Raw Clams – little necks
Roasted red peppers
Sliced provolone cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper.
Open the clams. Do not lose all of the juice. Mix chopped garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Top each clam with the mixture.
Place a strip of red pepper, then a piece of cheese, then a piece of bacon on each clam. Put the clams on an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet and broil in the oven until the cheese and bacon are brown and bubbly. Serve.
Crab Stuffed Shrimp (courtesy of Gregory Benedetto)
Large raw shrimp – 10 count (10 shrimp per pound) *figure 2 shrimp/person
Uncooked crab cakes (1/3 crab cake per shrimp) *my dad likes whole foods version
Salt and pepper
Clean the shrimp – peel the shrimp, then slice down the top from front to back, cleaning inside and then spread the shrimp out (butterfly).
Spread 1/3 crab cake on top of each shrimp, pressing lightly into shrimp. Put a small piece of butter on top of each breaded shrimp.
Place stuffed shrimp on a cookie sheet that has been hit with cooking spray. Cook shrimp in 350 degree fahrenheit* oven for 20 minutes, until the shrimp look like they’ve slightly shrunk and the crab cake topping is crisp.
*The oven temperature is an estimate, so please be sure to keep your own tab on the cooking time as well.
** For a sauce my dad started with Whole Foods Foundation Sauce – All-natural White wine sauce. He then added a couple ladles of homemade fish stock (place shrimp shells, a quartered onion, celery stalk, bay leaf and pepper corns in a saucepan, filled with water to cover and boil), about 1/4 cup white wine, couple tablespoons butter and about a tablespoon of chopped sage. Let the sauce sit on medium-high, boiling slightly for a bit of time to allow flavors to come together. Taste test as you go !
Broccoli Rabe with Sausage – courtesy of Anne Boyton
hot pepper seeds
fresh lemon juice
Brown the sausage in a pan over medium heat. Add in the chopped garlic and damp broccoli rate. Stir around, then put a top over the pan and turn to low-medium heat.
Cook 10 minutes on the stove, until broccoli rabe is tender. Then take off the top, add some hot pepper seeds, touch of olive oil and some fresh lemon juice. Stir and let cook a minute longer, then serve.
Lobster Fettuccine – courtesy of yours truly 🙂
1 lb. cooked lobster meat
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
bundle of asparagus
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 sage leaves chopped
2 tablespoons each of fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese plus more for topping
salt and pepper
1 lb fettuccine, cooked al dente
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-heat and add in the garlic, cook for a minute. Then add in the asparagus and peppers and cook until softened slightly.
Add in the spices and salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 2 more minutes, then turn the heat up to high and add in the wine (deglazing the pan), scraping up bits from the pan as the wine reduces.
Open the can of tomatoes and take out the tomatoes (carefully not to drip) and chop each roughly with your knife and throw into the sauce. Then add in the juice from the tomato can, stirring the sauce to combine everything. Let it cook for a minute and then taste to see if more salt, pepper or spices necessary.
*Note – at this point I did realize I needed a touch more wine to my taste liking and some more dried thyme, but be your own judge on this*
Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the half and half and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Put the cooked fettuccine in a large serving bowl, top with the lobster sauce and sprinkle more cheese. Toss the pasta and serve.