For Christmas Eve, Tommaso and I made a simple three course Italian meal for my parents.
In Southern Italy, it is tradition on Christmas Eve to have a Feast of the Seven Fishes, Esta dei Sette Pesci, where there are numerous seafood dishes. Some of the most common seafood used for the feast include anchovies, baccalà (dried cod fish), smelts, calamari, octopus, mussels, clams, and eel, just to name a few. Since preparing seven courses of different seafood is a bit excessive especially with just four people eating the dinner, we decided to do our own interpretation of the feast of the seven fishes. We kept our menu quite simple and easy since neither of us wanted to prepare anything too extravagant.
Antipasto: Cauliflower Soup with Prawn and Herb Canederli.
The first course was my responsibility so I decided to make a dish that I had learned at my stage at Da’ Pescatore Casa di Cucina, a seafood restaurant in Florence. Since I didn’t remember the exact recipe, I put my own spin on it. The cauliflower soup was made by just sautéing yellow onions and garlic until soft then adding cauliflower and simmering it with water until tender. When the cauliflower was tender I added a splash of heavy cream and blended the mixture until smooth and to the right consistency that I wanted. I seasoned the soup with salt, white pepper, and a knob of butter. Canederli are traditional bread dumplings seasoned with cheese and speck from the Trentino Alto-Adige region of Italy. This version is mostly made up of chopped prawns with small cubes of bread soaked in fish stock, minced parsley and chives, Meyer lemon zest and buddha’s hand zest and juice, olive oil, a whole egg, and salt and white pepper. The mixture is formed into small dumplings and gently poached in simmering fish stock until cooked.
Primo: Spaghetti with Pistachio Pesto and Sole Fish.
The second course was Tommaso’s responsibility. We had tried a dish similar to this at Gastone, a restaurant in Florence, so he tweaked the recipe to his liking. First, he blanched the pistachios to remove the outer brown skin. Then he made a pesto by blending the pistachios with garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, olive oil, and seasoned it with salt and black pepper. He pan fried the sole fish in butter until browned and broke up the fish into small pieces. Before adding the pesto, he sautéed shallots until soft and then added the cooked fish and pesto. He cooked the spaghetti in seasoned fish stock and then added the pasta to the sauce. He garnished the pasta with lemon and lime zest and chopped pistachios.
Secondo: Whole Grilled Thai Snapper with Salsa Verde.
The last course we did together and was the simplest out of the three. We stuffed the cavity of the Thai snapper with slices of orange, Meyer lemon, lemon, garlic, and fresh dill and grilled the fish until cooked. The salsa verde was just minced shallots and parsley, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. We also roasted sunchokes with thyme and garlic as a side dish (not pictured).
Dolce: Upside Down Apple Cake with Walnuts and Bourbon Whipped Cream.
My dad made the dessert for our dinner since he absolutely loves making dessert!
Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!