Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chrismas Eve Italian Style

(Our friends that make Christmas feel like a family event.)

My husbands family is Italian, so they celebrate Christmas "Italian Style".

This is a tradition that I was more than willing to continue. It is called the "Feast of the 7 fishes" meaning that you eat 7 different types of seafood.

Christmas, oppure (or) Festa Di Natale, begins with la vigilia a feast on Christmas Eve (the vigil). This consists solely of fish dishes and pasta. Of course you end la vigila in time for Midnight Mass. Which I must confess, this year I did not make it.

Why seven? Seven is a very important number. It stands for the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. The seven days of creation. In Biblical numerology, seven is a number of perfection. There is no set menu for this feast. Each family cooks the dishes that are traditional to them.

Here is our menu for this year:

Prima Piatto:
(First Course)

Osriche Fresca (Raw Oysters)
Polipetti alla griglia (Grilled baby octopus)
Insalata di mare (Seafood salad)
Sardine con cipolle camamellate (Sardines with caramelized onions)
Pesche con caponata al forno (Broiled fish with caponata)

Secondo Piatto:
(second Course)

Spaghetti con noci e olive verdi (Spaghetti with walnuts and green olives)
Ripieno di calamari (Stuffed squid)

Docle (Sweet)
Panna Cotta con gelatina di Campari (Panna cotta with Compari jelly)

I did not take photos of everything but here are some to give you an idea of what we ate.

Prima Piatti

One of the dishes that was new on are menu this year was the Sardines with caramelized onions. This was a dish that we had last year in Venice. We were there for "Carnivale" This dish consists of sardines that are lightly dredged in flour and than sauteed. You then remove them from the pan and place your onions to be caramelized in the pan. Once they are the color you want you hit them with some white vinegar. We used Champagne vinegar. This gives the dish something the Italians call "agrodolce" meaning "sweet and sour" you place the onions on top of the sardines and refrigerate over night.

Another dish that we had was the Frutti di Mare (seafood salad)
We cook this to replace the Baccala that my husbands family make. (which is Delish!) Baccala is a dried, salted fish that they soak for 3 days and then season with olive oil, lemon and S&P.

We take shrimp, calamari, and jumbo lump crab meat. I poach the raw seafood, each separately, and them marinade them together in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Italian parsley and S&P.

We also had grilled baby octopus this year that was wonderful. We were able to get cleaned baby octopus. So we just rinsed them well, marinaded them over night in olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, S&P. The the next day we cooked them over a charcoal grill.

Sorry, no picks of the Oysters or the Fish with caponata.

Secondo Piatti

We keep some dishes that are traditional to my husbands family like the Spaghetti and stuffed squid.

This dish is so good. We make a traditional red sauce but we cook anchovies with olive oil in the pot first. You may not like anchovies but with you add it like this to a dish it gives the dish a nice layer of flavor.

My husband than makes a stuffing for the squid. He sautes, shallots, garlic, seasoning, celery, together until tender, then adds bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Next he lets this cool than stuffs the squid.

After the squid is stuffed we place them in a baking dish, where we have layed garbanzo beans down (ceci in Italian)

They are then topped with the red sauce.

While we are eating the second course we place the squid in the oven to bake. We also reheat the red sauce and finish it by adding walnuts and green olives to it.

This is served together with pasta.

For dessert this year, I wanted to keep it light so I made a Panna Cotta with a Campari jelly.
Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert that is made with (depending on the reciepe) milk, half and half or heavy cream, and gelatin.

I also make some short bread cookies to go with. It was Christmas after all.