Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, Casa Dwyer style

As a little girl, I remember Christmas Eve as more than just the night Santa came to visit. I remember my mother and Grandma cooking fish; the only suitable Italian dinner for that special evening. There wasn’t much discussion about the whys of having fish, it was more a tradition than anything else. My mother would make Shrimp Scampi; some years there would be fried flounder and on good years, there would be panzerotti. In Grandma’s northern Italian interpretation these were deep fried, hand rolled balls of potato. She pronounced them as if there was an “a” at the end of the word – "panzarotta." This recipe was the closest approximation I could find.

I couldn’t bring myself to make the time consuming panzarotti but I did want to honor Nonna and my Italian heritage by making fish on Christmas Eve. While my Grandma isn’t cooking anymore, I wanted to make a dinner she might enjoy. My other goal was to accomplish this without spending an inordinate amount of time on the meal – there were still presents to wrap! I did all my grocery shopping on Christmas Eve morning, which ensured that it was all as fresh as possible.

Here was the menu for the small crowd who joined us:

Lobster spread with crudite and crackers
Bacon wrapped scallops
Maryland crabcakes
Baked, stuffed clams
Caesar salad
Lobster ravioli with herbed brown butter sauce
Roasted salmon

A very busy life has made me more than once want to throw in the culinary towel entirely but the truth is that I enjoy the tradition of food and the memories they bring up. So even though I'm not trying to recreate the original meal exactly, I hope to recreate the experience of everyone gathering in the kitchen and enjoying food and conversation that is celebratory, symbolic and delicious.
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