Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Eve Prep, Italian Style - 2 of 7 Fishes

Dobby stays COOL during the holidays, Photo: NK
Ohhhh, by gosh, by golly. 
The Holidays.
A time for joy, a time for family, and if you're not careful, a time for PANIC! 

With gifts to wrap, parties to attend, and dinners to plan, it is all too easy to lose your cool during a season meant for anything but

First, a little meditation; let's remember that holidays are supposed to be a reminder of what's important - family, friends, and helping others. Everything else is just window dressing. My advice is ground yourself in the knowledge that you are doing your best! 

For me, serving a great meal is like putting my love on a plate. And truth be told, I try to get it as close to perfect as possible. What's the key? Some advanced planning and careful thought - both of which I am happy to share with you.This year's challenge, as last year, is Christmas Eve Dinner - my most favorite holiday meal. Now you may have noticed that I am Italian, so naturally, we'll be serving Fish. Italians often serve the Traditional Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, but this year, we are shooting for six - perhaps working our way up to seven soon. This reminds me of another tip I follow; set realistic goals for yourself this season, and always take baby steps! 

To learn more about the traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal and check out last year's post click HERE. This year my strategy is no different- Plan, Plan, Plan. To get you started, we're sharing two dishes to add to your own fish feast that can be (largely) prepared and prepped in advance of your guests arrival.  We hope you enjoy our Chilled Calamari, Tomato and Caper Salad, and our favorite Shrimp Arrabiata Over Pasta. They are both tried, tested, and utterly tasty. 
Tune in in the next few weeks for the full results of our Christmas Eve Feast!

Calamari, Tomato, and Caper Salad 
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 6 as an appetizer  
Make Ahead ~You can prepare this the evening before and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  

Salad Ingredients: 
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
6 Cloves of minced Garlic
10 whole, peeled Tomatoes from can, chopped, sauce & seeds rinsed away in colander
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes 
Sea Salt and freshly Ground Pepper to taste
2 pounds Calamari (mostly tubes and some tentacles), cleaned, and sliced into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices

Caper and Lemon Dressing Ingredients, Photo: NK 
Dressing Ingredients:
5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Capers, rinsed and drained
2 whole Lemons, zested
Sea Salt and freshly Ground Pepper
5-6 Tablespoons chopped Italian Parsley
2 Tablespoon White Wine (optional) 

In a very large skillet, warm the 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Add the Garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. 

Next, add the chopped Tomatoes and Red Pepper Flakes and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Sauteing the Tomatoes, Photo: NK

Season the Calamari liberally with Salt and Pepper, then add to the skillet. 

Cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. 

Drain the mixture into a colander and discard juices.

To prepare the dressing, combine Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Oil, Capers and optional Wine. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste. 

Place the Calamari into the a bowl and pour the dressing over it. Toss gently until all is incorporated. 

Chill Mixture for at least an hour. Allow to rest outside fridge for a minutes prior to serving in case the oils have solidified. The salad should be slightly chilled. 

When ready to serve, garnish with Parsley. Mangia! 

Calamari, Tomato, and Caper Salad, Photo: NK

Shrimp Arrabiata Over Linguine 
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Mario Batali 
Serves 6 as an Appetizer
Make Ahead ~You can prepare the Arrabiata sauce up to 3 days in advance but leave out the Shrimp. To serve, bring sauce to a boil over medium high heat, lower to medium, and toss in the uncooked Shrimp and allow to cook until opaque and firm. This should take 4-5 minutes.
Dried Chile De Arbol, Photo: NK
Sauce Ingredients: 
1.5 Cups (12 oz) Basic Tomato Sauce -see recipe below* or use a quality jarred Marinara

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
5 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped

5 Dried Chiles, finely minced and seeds reserved. (or 1/25 teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes)

48 Ounces (or 1.5 28 ounce cans) of Whole Peeled Tomatoes in Juice, cut into chunks

Chopped Dried Chilis and Lots of Garlic! Photo: NK
3/4 Cup Dry White Wine

Pasta Ingredients: 
1 Lb Shrimp, cleaned, deveined, tail off
1 Lb Dry Linguine

Optional Garnishes: 
Basil chiffonade 
(Get the How To HERE
Chopped Italian Parsley  

Bring a large pasta pot of salted water to a boil.

In a very large skillet, warm oil over medium high heat. 

Add Garlic and dried Chiles. 

Cook, stirring occasionally, until Garlic becomes fragrant and slightly browning - about 1 minute.     

Next, add the Tomatoes with their Juice, the Basic Tomato Sauce, and Wine. 
Allow to simmer over medium heat, stirring periodically, until mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add Salt if needed or extra Crushed Red Pepper. I also like to finish it with a bit of Black Pepper.
Turn off heat.

Prepare Pasta according to package directions. When it is just a few minutes away from being done, bring the Sauce back to a gentle boil and toss in the Shrimp. Lower the heat to Medium and continue to cook several minutes (about 4 to 5), stirring occasionally,until the Shrimp are opaque and firm. 

When ready to plate, portion out your Pasta in each bowl, spoon Sauce over each, and pluck out several Shrimp to arrange on top. Optionally garnish with Basil or chopped Italian Parsley. 

*Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce
Yield - 4 Cups
Make Ahead ~This will keep up to a week in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer. 
Cook's Note - when I make this I omit the carrot and add a pinch of sugar instead

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil  
1 Yellow Onion cut into a small dice
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and sliced thinly 
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh Thyme, or 1 Tablespoon dried Thyme
1/2 a medium Carrot, peeled and finely grated
Photo: NK 
2 - 28 oz cans Peeled Whole Tomatoes from the can (San Marzano preferred), crushed by hand and juices reserved. 

In a large saucepan heat the Olive Oil over medium heat. Add the Onion and Garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become a light golden brown. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.  

Add Thyme and Carrot and continue to cook roughly 5 minutes more. Carrot should become quite soft. 

Now, add the juice of the Tomatoes and the Tomatoes. 
Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. 

Lower heat to a simmer and allow the mixture to thicken significantly. This should take about 30 minutes. Season with Salt to taste and serve or store. 


Shrimp Arrabiata Over Linguine, Photo: NK

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