Thursday, January 13, 2011

Will They Eat This?



The table was set and ready for the Feast of the Seven Fish, a Sicilian Tradition that we have kept in our family for a very long time, although we don't always reach the number seven on fish samplings. This year we did, because most of the seafood ended up in the pasta sauce.The meal is meant to be penitential, a means of preparing for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. The other part of this tradition (that we no longer keep) is taking the entire family to midnight Mass and then coming home to open presents and have sausage & peppers. We have opted for the more American tradition of rising on Christmas morning to do the gifts and then, we proceed to Mass. But, the Christmas Eve link to our Sicilian Catholic ancestors remains unchanged.

the china, crystal and silver that only come out for special occasions
The best part of putting together this meal was the team effort put forth by my husband and my oldest son to find calamari rings. We used to purchase them already breaded and ready to fry from Trader Joes, but they stopped carrying them. I couldn't find them at Giant either, and then I just ran out of time and energy. We were going to have to pass on the fried calamari. But, my son would have none of that. He and my husband went to a local Asian market and came home with flash frozen calamari rings for me to thaw, dredge in seasoned flour and fry.

The coveted fried calamari
The calamari couldn't be the only star appetizer at this Christmas Eve Feast. Although it contained no fish, the Ricotta stuffed mushrooms were a tasty meatless addition to the fare.


Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms
Once we had finished our appetizers, we took a 3 hr. nap. No really, we proceeded to the main course for the evening which was Linguini with Seafood Sauce. It is a marvelous, light tomato sauce that is very easy to make -- seriously.

Liguini with Seafood Sauce Plated

Seafood Sauce contained: lobster, scallops, clams, crab & shrimp
So, if you've been keeping track you'll notice that I said we had seven fish, but I've only listed six types of seafood. Well, I'm not cruel, and some of the kids balk at the idea of eating these types of food. I always provide a substitute for the squeamish: Breaded Tilapia (a more wholesome fishstick) was the seventh fish on the table. I won't bother to show you a picture! I'm sure you can envision that culinary delight on your own.

Fried Calamari

1 16oz pkg of flash frozen calamari rings (thawed under cool running water)
2 cups of flour
1 tbs garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 eggs beaten
1 tbs water
1/2 cup of olive oil

Heat the olive oil over med/high heat in a large skillet, it should look generously coated on the bottom of the pan. (keep extra oil on hand, you may need to change it during the frying process if excess flour bits linger in the pan and begin to burn) The oil is ready to fry when a drop of water is added and it makes the oil sputter. While the oil is heating, mix all the dry ingredients in a shallow plate or bowl; in a separate bowl beat eggs and water together; on a paper towel, blot the calamari dry to prepare the for dredging; dip dried calamari into the flour mixture, then into the egg wash, then again into the flour mixture; when you have done 6-8 of these, place them into the pan to fry; they should take about 1-2 min./side -- or until they are golden brown; place them in a shallow bowl lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve with cocktail sauce and enjoy.

Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

2 pkg of Large White Mushrooms, cleaned, with stems reserved
1 lb of part skim Ricotta Cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup of Romano Cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup of shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 tsp paprika
Olive Oil spray

Preheat oven to 350degrees; wipe off the mushrooms to remove residue and pop out the stems (reserve stems to use in filling); spray baking pan with oil and line the pan with mushrooms caps ready to fill; finely chop several of the mushroom stems -- approx. 1/4 cup); in a large bowl, combine ricotta, chopped mushroom stems, Romano Cheese, garlic powder, salt, egg, & Mozzarella Cheese; fill each cap liberally with ricotta mixture; sprinkle the tops of the filled mushrooms with paprika to give them some color; bake for 40 min. -- the mushrooms should be tender, and the filling should be slightly browned.

Seafood Sauce (basic recipe)

2 tbs olive oil
1 lrg clove garlic, minced
1 32oz Box of Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 can Tomato Paste
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of black pepper
3 green onions sliced
Whatever seafood you'd like to add
1 lb of Linguini Pasta cooked according to pkg directions

In a large sauce pan, heat oil of med heat and add garlic (do not allow garlic to brown) -- allow to cook for 1 min.; add the Chicken broth and tomato paste; stir until combined; add basil, salt & black pepper, allow to cook for about 15 min., Just before you are ready to serve, add the seafood, it only takes a couple of minutes for shrimp, scallops, clams, lobster & crab meat to cook, if you over cook them, they will taste like rubber. So, give them just a couple of minutes to cook through. The lobster, shrimp and scallops should appear an opaque white color. Add your sliced onions and serve over cooked pasta.

The Stats:

Everyone -- all 6 of the kids and the adults -- ate the calamari. Oh my, it was just delicious!

3 out of 6 kids ate the seafood sauce -- 5 out of 6 ate the Tilapia with buttered pasta on the side

4-6 ate the mushrooms

The Verdict:

We'll be eating this meal for years to come. And hopefully, the kids will come to love the fish as much as I do now. I'm sympathetic to their moans and groans. I did it when I was a child, too. But now, I can't imagine a Christmas Eve without this meal and all it represents as a family tradition passed down for generations.


Please leave a comment and tell me about you Christmas Recipe Traditions.


Remember: Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. (Lk 6:21)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kathy,
I am spoiled. My father still buys the calamari, cleans them and prepares them for me. We stuff the squid with bread crumbs and make a sauce. My father is from the Adriatic region of Italy. Our Zuppa di Paece or "fish soup" is similar to your sauce except we add balsamic vinegar and no broth. We keep the tradition of seven fishes as well. It is a wonderful tradition. Thanks for posting. Nora

Kathy said...

Nora,

I cleaned and sliced the calamari for a long time, then I found them already breaded. It was just so much easier. The frozen rings weren't bad this year, and just as easy, too. I don't mind dredging and frying, I just don't like cleaning. :o) Glad you also keep the tradition.