Note: while most of my recipes can be made quite easily on a graduate student budget, the holidays are a time to splurge.
My family, despite being neither Italian nor Catholic, practices the southern Italian Christmas tradition of the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” Hands-down, this has always been my favorite meal of the year. This would also be one of the few times relatives from both sides of my family would be in the same room at the same time; and, since I played piano when I was growing up, we would have some “flair” to the meal–as I would play Christmas carols in-between courses and the family would sing-along.
In some ways, this meal has become much smaller over the years. Many of the relatives and friends who used to attend are now dead or live too far away or cannot eat seafood anymore. I no longer play piano with the frequency I once did, and my parents no longer have a piano. At the same time, the meal has become more special; my father and I love to cook, and we have slowly but surely taken over more and more of the courses. We’ve also been “mixing it up,” trying at least one new dish a year.
This year we wanted to try yet another new trick: not getting full. We decided to eat when we were hungry. No pressure on making sure this course follows that, etc. Consequently, we only got through three courses on Christmas Eve (oops!). Here was the original lineup:
- Lox and cream cheese flatbread
- Shrimp-stuffed squid (this counts as TWO fish, mind you!)
- Grilled lobster tails
- Oyster stew
- Scallops with a spinach and walnut sauce
- Crab cakes
We only made it through the first three. But, here are the recipes, for those interested!
Note: This will be a series of three blog posts so that things don’t get too long, and so recipes are easier to search!
Shrimp-stuffed Squid (adapted from a Jacques Pepin recipe)
- Green onions–two, finely diced
- Carrot–about a cup, finely diced.
- White wine
- 4 squid “rings”/”shells”
- Squid tentacles, finely diced
- Approximately 6 ounces of uncooked, deveined, de-shelled shrimp
- 1 egg
- White onion, less than a cup, very finely diced.
- Heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
- First, you have to make the stuffing. Finely chop the carrots, green onion and the tentacles. Take about a tablespoon of butter, put it in a pan, and start cooking the three ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. After about five minutes (or once things are no longer “crunchy”), place the mixture in a bowl, and put it in the refrigerator until it is cold.
- As the above mixture is cooling, do the prep-work for your shrimp. Once you have them de-shelled and de-veined, put them in a blender or similar object (I used my parents’ ‘Magic Bullet’) for about 10 seconds. Then, add the egg and continue to blend until the entire thing has the consistency of a paste. Fold it into the refrigerated veggie/tentacle mixture.
- Stuff the squid rings with the shrimp/egg/etc. mixture.
- Take another tablespoon of butter and put it in a skillet. Throw in the white onion and start cooking. Once the onions are soft, place the stuffed squid rings into the skillet. Pour white wine into the skillet–enough so that the squid rings are immersed but not totally covered. Season. Bring whole thing to a boil. Then, turn the heat down to simmer, cover the skillet, and let the squid cook for around 15-20, or until it is white and not tough.
- Remove the squid. Bring the white wine and onion mixture back to a boil and reduce the liquid. Once it has reduced enough that you’re happy, turn down the heat and add some cream. Continue to season.
- Plate. Squid (my father liked his sliced into rings first, but whatever), with cream-sauce on top.