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My 3 days of Christmas - Day 2 Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve in Southern Italian tradition, calls for at least thirteen different dishes, many of them seafood based. We've never fallen short of this prescription. It was indeed a bit of work, but well worth it. This year Mother took care of the Baccala' dishes, and they were the stars of the meal. I took care of the rest.



Christmas Eve's Menu

Antipasto 
"Cuddruriddri" - Potato Doughnut - with and w/o sugar (see yesterday's post)
Knotted Mozzarella Bruschetta on Baguette Strips
Heart of Palms Salad

Pasta 
Linguine alle Vongole (white clam sauce)

Seafood Dishes 
Grilled Baccala' salad in lemon juice
Fried Cornmeal-Crusted Baccala' strips with Fried Peppers
Lemon marinated Swordfish cubes sauteed with Italian Eggplant and Italian Peppers
Bay Scallops in a spicy curry-tumeric sauce
Black Chickpeas with Shrimp (chickpeas from The Tarry Market)

Breads 
Provolone bread  (provisioned at the Kneaded Bread)
Toasted Olive Fogasse

Salad
Hearts of Escarole and Split Kumquats in a Mandarin Vinaigrette

Desserts
Torroncini Siciliani - mini Torrone from Sicily (Cosmo & Alex Pisanos Bros)
Panettone al Cioccolato

And now some secrets to my success. Let's start with the pasta. When making the clam sauce cook the vegetable base before adding the claims and fresh chopped clams.   My based included 1/2 head of fennel , 1 yellow pepper, 10 grape tomatoes, 1 red 1 potato, thyme and oregano, 1 small shallot, 5 cloves of garlic (cut in half)  and 1 1/2 cups of white wine. Seasoning and water to cook the veggies down .  The add the clams. I used three dozen clams, and a I also added a pint of fresh chopped clams which I was able to find at my fish monger. If you can't find fresh ones , never ever use ones in cans or sitting on the grocery shelf. Remember you are not cooking for crowds at Denny's.


Linguine alle Vongole



The grilled baccala' was actually grilled outdoors on the BBQ grill and given a light char.  Then coarsely shredded and tossed with a lemon and caper based vinaigrette. Prepare this hours in advance as it must be chilled and most absorb the flavors.  Garnish is some coarsely chopped Italian Parsley.

Grilled Baccala'

 One secret that I learned in Italy was that frying a handful of green peppers (sweet and hot) alongside pieces of fish , flavor slightly the fish and are a treat in their right.  We used to do this in a 80 year old sooth blacken cooking over a chestnut fire in our kitchen fireplace.  What's memories. I can still smell the combination of aromas olive oil, seafood , peppers and wood burning. A simple seasoned cornmeal crust was used to cover the small pieces of cod fish,

Corn crusted Fried Baccala' with Fried Peppers


I was told, that my Indian inspired Bay Scallops  was the best of the evening. I was surprised given that everyone at the table was hardcore Italian. Still  Mother did not however go for it. She just won't step foot on the Indian subcontinent. Her Italian culinary roots must go a bit deeper than ours.



Bay Scallops in curry sauce, Black Chickpeas with Shrimp


I personally enjoyed the black chickpeas and shrimp. I have always found them exotic and rich in flavors. I got to sample both dishes while cooking , and must say , that the unexpectedly tawny Port wine I was sipping, went well with both.  Did I have just a bit too much before the feast? Nothing  a few glasses of crisp Spanish white wine can't adjust.

The Spread


Time to head to midnight mass and be thankful for these gifts of family , friends and food that we have received.

Merry Christmas and God bless !

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