In my family, holidays are usually centered around the food. We spend the Christmas season planning for my favorite holiday, Christmas Eve. The Feast of the Seven Fishes stems from Southern Italy with roots in the Roman Catholic traditions of abstinence of red meat until Christmas Day. Each family has their own traditions and serves different amounts of fish and seafood. My family prepares seven seafood dishes.
As long as I can remember, we have celebrated Christmas Eve with our seafood feast. My Grandmother hosted, my Mom took over when we were young, and now I have hosted a few times myself. I love being able to carry on this tradition, especially now since I have a little girl of my own.
We prepare a huge variety of seafood and invite family and friends to join in our meal. On Christmas eve, we host anywhere between 12 and 30 people. Every burner is going on the stove, as well as both ovens, to make our dinner come together.
Pasta and my Grandmother’s sauce recipe is always served, but the seafood is the star of the show. My Mom keeps joking that every year we are going to scale back, make it small, and not make all seven dishes, but that never happens. We always keep the tradition of serving seven different fishes or seafood.
My favorite dish is my Grandmother’s Stuffed Calamari. Squid is stuffed with a breadcrumb mixture and simmered in her delicious red sauce. We usually have Clams Oreganata and Lobster Ravioli. Antipasto includes shrimp and anchovies, and we always have crab legs. Other dishes vary between mussels, tilapia, lobster bisque, and a new addition of sushi (for friends that don’t like the other seafood).
My mom has hosted quite a few parties and given me some of her favorite party-planning tips. One of the best tips is to label platters and dishes. We gather all the platters, bowls, serving utensils, pots and pans that will be used and label them with sticky notes the day before. By doing that, we aren’t scrambling last minute to figure out what goes where and what pot to use. We also create a timeline of the dishes, how long they take to cook, and what time we need to start them all so they are all ready at the same time. These tips are great when cooking for a crowd!
Another tip is if a family member or friend asks how they can help, see if they want to make a dish. One of our friends always makes the best antipasto platter with cheeses, shrimp, vegetables, and olives. My Aunt makes a delicious dip that everyone raves about. I created a dip, similar to hers and adapted it to use one of my favorite ingredients, Stonyfield Yogurt. It is tangy, garlicky and absolutely delicious with shrimp. I also served my dip with a homemade Chimichurri Sauce and traditional cocktail sauce.
If you aren’t stuffed by the time dinner is finished, then you definitely will be after dessert. My Dad and I usually make our traditional Ricotta Italian Cheesecakes on the 23rd. We also have Sfogliatelle, a shell-shaped filled Italian pastry, as well as lots of Christmas cookies and cakes. The perfect, sweet ending to a delicious meal with family and friends. I hope your holidays are full of love and good food!
Yogurt Shrimp Dip
Yogurt Shrimp Dip Ingredients:
1 cup Stonyfield Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup diced, canned tomatoes, drained
Yogurt Shrimp Dip Directions:
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until completely blended. Refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours before serving. Serve with chilled shrimp.
Chimichurri Dip Ingredients:
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Chimichurri Dip Directions:
- Combine all ingredients, except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Stream olive oil into food processor while pulsing. Scrape down the sides if necessary. Serve immediately with chilled shrimp or refrigerate for up to 2 days.