Hello my Foodie Friends! Our most relished Christmas treasures come with the decorations, the scents of pine, the sounds of music and jingles, and for many, what happens in the kitchen! As I reflect on the Christmas traditions of mine and Paula’s Italian families, the Christmas Eve Feast cannot be overlooked. Coming together to celebrate the holidays becomes a time of giving. It is a time to be with your family and show your gratitude and appreciation of what you have. Cultures all over the world celebrate holiday seasons.
In meeting my wife over several decades ago, our first Christmas Eve together was spent at her parents’ home celebrating the Feast of Seven Fishes with all of the fish dishes presented that evening. Paula’s family was more traditional than mine, probably because my Dad was Irish so we had a little of each. I watched with a calm expression as my wife ate and relished the marinated fresh anchovies as part of the antipasto. Jumbo shrimp, baked clams, and fried calamari were also part of the first course, which, I ate too much of. Next an array of dishes began to come out of the kitchen. These included: the seafood salad, which is a combination of crab, shrimp, calamari, and lobster with celery, olive, and parsley in citronette, the Baccala salad with salted cod tossed with sweet cherry peppers, capers, and olives in a lemon dressing, and then the octopus salad, also known as Inslata di Polipi. This is where I stopped and stared at the cut up octopus tentacles sitting in front of me and I loudly proclaimed that, well, “I love Fried Baccala” and politely said I must have some.
Christmas Eve is about getting together and having a good time. Meanwhile, back at my house, my Mom was cooking an Irish feast for my Dad of Roast turkey and stuffing, clove-studded baked ham, crispy goose fat potatoes, steamed Brussels sprouts, buttery sweet carrots, crispy parsnips, cranberry sauce, bread sauce and gravy. It is about enjoying yourself and the people you are with. Cooking for the people you love is a gift in itself. Enjoy your holiday season and we would like to thank all of our Foodie Friends for sticking with us on the store’s latest move to 33 Railroad Place. We hope that 2018 brings many blessings, laughter, health, and happiness to you and your families. Remember my Foodie Friends; “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”
Take Care & Merry Christmas,
- John and Paula
• Serves: 6 - 8
• 1¼ ounce packet dry yeast
• 1 cup warm water
• 4 jumbo eggs
• 2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• 1¾ pounds prepared baccalà
• Pure Olive Oil, for frying
NOTE: Prepare and soak your baccalà at least three days prior.
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs
together with yeast and water. Add the flour and mix the batter with a fork by hand until it looks like the consistency of a thick pancake batter. If needed, add a couple more tablespoons of flour, one at a time. The batter should be thick enough to coat the fish.
2. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 to 2 hours, or until small air bubbles form on the top of the batter. This batter takes longer to rise than most recipes that use dry active yeast because of the addition of the eggs, which weighs the batter down.
3. Rinse the cod for a last time; dry it well and cut into small pieces. The batter will expand and puff up when fried, so keep the baccalà pieces small, about ¾ inch.
4. In a deep frying pan filled with Pure Olive Oil, heat oil to 375˚F.
5. Drop a handful at a time of baccalà pieces into the batter, allowing the excess to drip off just slightly remove them from the batter and gently drop the pieces in the oil and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
6. Remove the fish from the oil; briefly drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with warmed marinara sauce, lemon wedges, or cocktail sauce.