On Christmas Eve afish head reared its ugly head, until I became of age to make a dish to pass atthe family party. Historically, in a traditional Italian family, young women donot receive heirlooms until they marry and recipes are handed to themgradually.
Being an independentsignorina, I’ve never felt comfortable with the former and because of myprofession and constant entertaining; family recipes have gradually been turnedover to me throughout the years.
Besides thetraditional sauce recipe that did not need to be touched, the Feast of theSeven Fishes required some tweaking. Below is the Americanized, thirdgeneration version of my family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner (or at leastone piece of it).
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb,thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp salt
4 large garliccloves, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon driedIndian crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup tomato paste
1 (28-z) can dicedtomatoes in juice
1-½ cups dry whitewine
32 oz fish stock
1 bay leaf
1 lb Little Neckclams, scrubbed
1 lb mussels,scrubbed, debearded
1 lb uncooked largeshrimp, peeled and deveined
1-½ lbs assortedfirm-fleshed fish fillets of halibut and salmon, cut into 2 -inch chunks
Old Bay seasoning
Heat the oil in alarge pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and sautéuntil the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ¾ teaspoonof red pepper flakes, and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Addtomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to asimmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend,about 30 minutes.
It may smell a little too alcoholic but the wine will burn off.
Add the clams andmussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels beginto open, about 5 minutes. De veining shrimp can be a bit of a process. With one foot on the garbage bin and the other maneuvering a paring knife (debatable, but works for me) over the sink as you remove the veins. Season theshrimp with the Old Bay and remove the skin from the fish. Add the seafood.Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clamsare completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any ofthe shell fish that did no open). Season the soup, to taste, with salt.
At a recent meetingof the Cooka Nostra of Western New York (a well known cookbook club) memberJulia Lavarnway brought her Southern Baked Corn, a dish that’s a favorite ather family’s table (and now her Buffalo, NY friends).
8.5 oz Jiffy corn muffinmix
17 oz can of cream corn
17 oz can of whole corn(undrained)
2 eggs beaten
8 oz sour cream (fatfree)
1 cup of melted butter
Mix everything in a 9×13(a 10×10 also works) lightly greased pan. Bake on 350 for 1 hr 15 min. or untilgolden brown on top.