Traditional recipes

Christmas for the fishmonger

Christmas for the fishmonger

Christmas is a torrid time for the humble fishmonger. Turkeys are easy; pre-order from your butcher or your local supermarket, tell them the size and the day you want to collect, and Bob’s your uncle, dinner is served.

Of course the difference between the turkey and the turbot, the rump and the red mullet, or the ham and the hake is that the formers are all strolling around a field waiting to be herded or in a pen waiting to be gathered and the latters are all swimming in 106,400,000 km² of Atlantic Ocean! This is consistent across the year for fish availability with weather, seasons, quotas, transport all affecting availability of wild caught species, but at Christmas it is worse. This year, for example, the country’s most important auctions throughout the Southwest close on Monday 23rd December. Sounds fine as the fish, one would think, will find their way around the country for the 24th. Many vessels will actually use Saturday 21st as their last auction day as export trade will cease from then; exports to the continent make up a huge volume of fish sold on our Southwest auctions and are commonly a driver for the price the fisherman gain. Additionally the next wholesale auction is on Monday 30th but these are very limited with fish and there is usually no transport to move the catch to other parts of the UK. Normal service then resumes on Friday 3rd January.

So, with all this in mind, your sudden urge to have a 3kg wild sea bass or a 2kg brill for Christmas dinner may not be as easy as you hoped. Now I was lucky enough to be the manager of London’s finest fishmonger for nearly 6 years. It’s a thankless period of huge sales and 20 hour days on the run up to Christmas Eve. Sounds profitable but then one has to close for 2 weeks until fish are again available so in reality it’s the least profitable time of the year. At The Chelsea Fishmonger Rex Goldsmith and I spent many a Christmas telling customers we couldn’t guarantee anything wild for Christmas and they would have to just take pot luck. To be fair most customers were understanding but of course there is always the odd one who refuses to accept this scenario. It is slightly easier in my current occupation as many restaurants will set their Christmas menus in November and seek advice prior to doing so.

My tips are: always order early, be realistic with your requests and always give your fishmonger an alternative. If you prefer to ignore these tips then be sure you have some cranberry jelly in the cupboard.


This Fishmonger Will Ship Michelin-Quality Seafood to Your Doorstep

E-Fish delivers sustainably caught seafood straight from the dock to your house.

Matthew Henderson, who goes by the moniker Dead Fish Guy, has been supplying Michelin-starred restaurants like Alinea, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Jean Georges, Masa, and The French Laundry with just-plucked-from-the-ocean seafood for a decade. He nabbed that gig by staking out chefs and then sneaking into kitchens armed with samples offloaded that morning from docks in Cape Cod.

His ballsiness paid off. Henderson&aposs ability to avoid time-sucking supply chains allowed him to deliver his haul within hours. Big commercial enterprises often leave fresh fish on ice for days he works exclusively with specialty fishermen and boutique harvesters. The pristine product combined with Henderson&aposs passion (see his energetic Instagram), and the fact that the catch was sourced using traditional hooks and line traps, made him somewhat of a pesca-celebrity in the fine-dining community. 

When the pandemic forced restaurant closures, Henderson needed to find another way to support the indie fishermen and women who rely on him to get their product into the world. Since chefs like Dave Pasternak and Jean-Georges Vongerichten had routinely put in personal orders with their restaurant purchases, he reasoned that regular folks with a penchant for top drawer food might treat themselves to, say Gulf of Maine Sea Scallops (the very ones served as sashimi at Manhattan&aposs 3 three-Michelin-star MASA) while stuck at home. 

E-Fish was born on February 26 with a simple mission: superior, sustainably caught fish straight from the dock to your door. No chemicals—grocery store seafood is often shot up with sodium tripolyphosphate to extend its shelf life. No mystery about where, when, and how the fish was harvested. Briny-bright Lovepoint oysters (Ben Hamilton and Cameron Barner&aposs farm in Harpswell, Maine, uses floating oyster bags that naturally tumble in the Casco Bay). Day Boat Sea Scallops plucked from Cape Cod Bay by septuagenarian scalloper Philip Michaud and a particularly juicy black sea bass trapped by Jamie Sullivan in Nantucket Sound arrive on food-safe gel packs with a card spotlighting the producer as well as a QR code specifying the harvest date and location. The connection forged between supplier and customer delivers a feel-good warmth a la interacting with the folks sourcing your food at a local green market. The site also features a small but mighty selection of flavorful accompaniments from Rare Tea Cellar, a Chicago-based purveyor of esoteric pantry items. To wit: Emperor&aposs Genmai, a Japanese roasted brown rice, Belazu Chermoula paste, Kanzuri paste, and Golden Kaluga Caviar which is known for its dramatic pop. In the coming weeks, E-fish will continue to build out its roster of recipes from  chefs (the site now includes some from Boulud alum Travis Swickard, and Coppa&aposs Jamie Bissonnette) and develop interactive chef-led video content. As for the cost, it&aposs surprisingly reasonable, on par with what you might pay at Whole Foods for lesser quality seafood. Two pounds of Gulf of Maine Pollock and Mussels goes for $76.49, two pounds of Day Boat Fresh Sea Scallops is $82, and 50 Lovepoint oysters is $100.

Almost a year into this pandemic, it&aposs essential to find joy where you can. For many, that has meant kicking predictability and lackluster to-go meals to the curb and elevating at-home dining with standout ingredients. The recent evening that I spent slurping Lovepoint oysters from their craggy grey shells (no condiments necessary) took me to a happy place of flavor and coastal memories. Fresh fish can do that to a gal. 


How the World Eats Christmas

This holiday season, take inspiration from around the world with these global Christmas recipes from around the world, from sugar-dusted Polish bow tie fritters and the Puerto Rican Christmas staple pernil asado (roast pork shoulder) to ptarmigan, an Icelandic wild grouse with a sweet-tart sauce. Danish cookie tin cookies, christmas goose recipes, and warming hot chocolate—these worldly Christmas recipes will bring a taste of different lands to your table. For even more Christmas inspiration, check out our Ultimate Holiday Guide.

Spotted Dick with Custard Sauce

Thick dreamy custard is spooned over dense currant-laden steamed pudding in this classic English dessert.

Salmon Rillettes

Leaf Bread (Laufabrauð)

Made of a thin, waferlike dough, this crisp flatbread is a holiday tradition in Iceland. Many families make it together a few days before Christmas some Icelanders joke that it’s the only time of year the men will help in the kitchen. It’s first cut into intricate geometric patterns, then deep-fried and saved to be eaten as an accompaniment to Christmas dinner. Traditionally, a special tool called a leaf bread iron is used to cut the patterns, but we found a paring knife works just as well. See the recipe for Leaf Bread »

Mint Hot Chocolate

Adding a mint tea bag is the perfect way to flavor hot chocolate. For a stronger mint flavor, steep the tea bag for longer, but you only need a couple minutes so the mint doesn’t get too grassy. A couple fresh mint leaves don’t hurt, either. Get the recipe for Mint Hot Chocolate »

Christmas Grouse with Berry Sauce (Jólarjúpa með Berjasósu)

Icelandic home cook Þorgerður Gunnarsdóttir serves ptarmigan, or wild grouse, with a sweet-tart sauce made with thyme and bilberries. Here, we substitute blueberries, a slightly sweeter cousin of bilberries. See the recipe for Icelandic Christmas Grouse with Berry Sauce »

Almond Sugar Cookies

These glittering almond squares make a fantastic Christmas cookie on their own, but sandwiched with raspberry jam, they’re even better. Get the recipe for Almond Sugar Cookies »

Honey-and-Butter-Baked Pears with Cold Cream

These sticky, caramelized pears get served warm with a glug of fresh chilled cream for a richly-flavored variation on poached pears. Get the recipe for Honey-and-Butter-Baked Pears with Cold Cream »

Icelandic Langoustine Soup

Icelandic Langoustine Soup

Filipino Roast Pork Belly with “Lechon” Sauce

Slow-roasted belly stands in for the classic whole suckling pig that graces virtually every special occasion in the Philippines. Chef Dale Talde also swaps out the sauce’s pungent pork liver for more mellow and easier to source chicken livers. Don’t worry, though. It still tastes, as Talde lovingly puts it, like “liverwurst mixed with sweet and sour sauce.” Get the recipe for Filipino Roast Pork Belly with “Lechon” Sauce »

Roast Pork Loin with Salted Caramel Potatoes

Roast Pork Loin with Salted Caramel Potatoes

Roasted Apples and Bacon with Onions and Thyme (Æbleflæsk)

In a classic Danish treatment, sweet red apples are roasted with onions, caramelized in bacon fat, and served under thick steaks of smoked belly bacon. Get the recipe for Roasted Apples and Bacon with Onions and Thyme (Æbleflæsk) »

Celery Root, Carrot, and Potato Gratin

Celery Root, Carrot, and Potato Gratin

The Ultimate Crab Dip

Known as chupe de centolla, this Chilean crab gratin borders on a cheesy crab dip. While similar South American chupe are always prepared with milk-soaked bread and any combination of shrimp, scallops, shellfish, meats, and cheeses, Patagonia’s version relies solely on the massive local king crabs, the hallmark of fishermen’s kitchens along Chile’s southernmost coast. Get the recipe for The Ultimate Crab Dip »

Chicken and Root Vegetable Soup (Sancocho)

This Puerto Rican chicken soup is hearty with starchy vegetables. Get the recipe for Chicken and Root Vegetable Soup (Sancocho) »

Wiener Schnitzel

Battered and fried veal cutlets—scattered with horseradish, capers and lemon juice—is the perfect breakfast cure after a night of holiday revelry. Get the recipe for Wiener Schnitzel »

Goanese Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi)

In Goa, a tiny, palm-fringed state on the western coast of India, seafood is central to the cuisine. Beloved regional specialty sembharachi kodi, or shrimp in a coconut curry, is prepared a number of ways, but always with the freshest local shellfish simmered in a rich, chile-spiked coconut sauce. Get the recipe for Goanese Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi) »

Rice Pudding with Raspberry Coulis

Lighter than most rice puddings, and not as sweet, this Swedish specialty is eaten both as a dessert and as a breakfast food. Short-grain rice, such as arborio, is essential for creating a deliciously creamy consistency. Get the recipe for Rice Pudding with Raspberry Coulis »

Krusciki (Polish Bow-Tie Fritters)

Also referred to as angel wings, these sugar-dusted fritters are both crunchy and pillowy and are often served at Polish weddings and holidays. See the recipe for Krusciki (Polish Bow-Tie Fritters) »

Speculaas (Molded Ginger Cookies)

A specialty of the Netherlands and Belgium, speculaas are cousins of gingerbread, only lighter and more delicately spiced. Intricately carved wooden molds are used to form the cookies into bas-relief images of characters and symbols from stories about Saint Nicholas, or Sinter-klaas, whose name day, December 6, kicks off the Christmas season in that part of the world. See the recipe for Speculaas (Molded Ginger Cookies) »

Vanilla Crescents (Vanillekipferl)

These Austrian vanilla crescents made with ground walnuts and showered in confectioners’ sugar are typically served throughout central Europe during the weeks leading up to Christmas, but they make perfect bite-sized treats any time of year. Get the recipe for Vanilla Crescents (Vanillekipferl) »

Basler Brunsli (Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies)

Specialties of Basel, in northern Switzerland, these chocolatey confections are often described as Swiss brownies. Almonds, sugar, and chocolate are ground fine and bound together with egg whites to create a satisfyingly chewy texture, while cinnamon and cloves impart an unmistakable flavor of old-fashioned Christmas cheer. See the recipe for Basler Brunsli (Chocolate-Almond Spice Cookies) »

Christmas Goose With Stuffing

This roast goose makes a splendid centerpiece for the American holiday feast. See the recipe for Christmas Goose With Stuffing »

Chocolate-Cornflake Cookies (Marens-Kornflexkökur)

Cornflakes bring a pleasing crunch to these chewy chocolate meringues, a popular holiday treat in Iceland. See the recipe for Chocolate Cornflake Cookies »

Galletas con Chochitos (Mexican Butter Cookies with Sprinkles)

Tiny, ring-shaped butter cookies like these are a popular holiday treat in Mexico. They’re typically decorated with chocolate sprinkles, but green, red, and white ones transform them into festive Christmas wreaths. Get the recipe for Galletas con Chochitos (Mexican Butter Cookies with Sprinkles) »

For Feast of the 7 Fishes Advice, Ask a Fishmonger

At my house, the first whiff of Christmas Eve was always frying fish. Or calamari to be exact, splattering all over the New Jersey kitchen of my childhood, my dad cheerily at the stove, my mother breathing deeply in quiet panic. The next day, the table would be crowded with over 20 Italian-Americans, and this greasy mess was a nightmare to clean up.

And so the Feast of Seven Fishes began, an all-day seafood-a-palooza leading up to Midnight Mass. Originating in southern Italy, the Feast of Seven Fishes has been firmly adopted by Italian Americans. It may be rooted in the Catholic abstention from meat on Christmas Eve, but it’s really just an excuse to gather in the kitchen and gorge on the best of the sea. The number seven may come from the seven hills of Rome or the seven sacraments, but the details don’t really matter. For those of us that began the heart of the Christmas season scrubbing mussels or stuffing clams while still in our pajamas, it is a beloved tradition, garlic-scented fingers and all.

And in my family at least, it’s an opportunity for little friendly competition. Around 5 p.m. the phone would ring, a great aunt on the line, and without even saying hello she would ask accusatorily, “So how many fish did you serve this year?”

But before the seven—or 10, or 13—fishes can reach your table, there’s shopping to do! And menu planning. And while you can never go wrong with a table full of garlic-laced classics, a few modern touches can reinvigorate the feast. We talked to fishmongers and chefs for tips on buying, storing, and preparing La Vigilia, the Feast of Seven Fishes.

When fish biologist Bianca Piccillo moved to Brooklyn, she was delighted by the quality of restaurants around her home. But the seafood markets? Not so much. To combat this dire situation, she and her husband, chef Mark Usewicz, opened Mermaid’s Garden—New York’s first fully sustainable seafood market—in early December 2013.

“You won’t find salmon in our case,” says Piccillo. “It’s not in season [right now]. We have sides of sockeye salmon in the freezer, but our case is full of other delicious, in season, and sustainable items.” For the Feast of Seven Fishes, Piccillo and Usewicz recommend razor clams, sea urchin, and fish cheeks. “Monkfish and skate cheeks are delicious,” Usewicz says. "They contain lots of collagen and are to the fish what short ribs are to beef."

When approaching any fish counter, an open mind will get you the best value and versatility. Ask for substitutions of familiar fishes, and you might discover new products you love. At Whole Foods Market, customers seeking a meaty whitefish like Chilean sea bass will find more affordable, sustainable alternatives like paiche (PIE-chay), an affordable South American fish ($13.99/pound) that functions as a blank canvas for a variety of flavors.

Freshness is a factor for the Feast of Seven Fishes, but a few tactics can help you avoid the crush at the counter. Place your order in advance, either on the phone or in person, choosing a pickup time. And don’t forget staples that don’t require any cooking at all, such as smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, smoked mussels, anchovies, Spanish tuna packed in olive oil, pickled herring, or smoked bluefish pâté. Think about your kitchen tools, too. Chef Marco Canora of Hearth in New York City recommends a fish scaler. “The fishmonger always misses some scales,” he says.

“Our fish has been out of the water for 24 to 48 hours,” Piccillo says. “If stored correctly, fish will easily keep for 5 to 7 days.” But she's quick to add: “If your fish is already 1 to 2 weeks old when it reaches the market, this doesn’t apply. But fresh fish, sealed in a bag and stored in a slurry of ice and water, will keep for this long.”

Ask your fishmonger about the fish's shelf life. Bluefish, for example, should be eaten immediately or preserved. “Don’t sit on it,” Bianca advises. The longevity of other fish might come as a surprise. While some customers think of mackerel as fishy, “only old mackerel is fishy,” says Usewicz. Fresh mackerel, with its high fat content, is super sweet, mild, and delicious.

Marco Canora, who has been serving the feast at Hearth since it opened in 2003, recommends you take the fish out of the fridge well before cooking. “Don’t cook the fish from the refrigerator cold with wet skin,” he says. “Scrape moisture out with the back of your knife and pat dry with paper towels for crispy skin.” When you cook the fish, it should be at or near room temperature.

The essence of the feast is a simple one, and Michelle DiPietro, culinary concept coordinator at Whole Foods, also reminds customers of the beauty in raw seafood. Oysters, clams, scallops—they can all be enjoyed raw at home. (For shellfish, bury in ice in a colander, placed over a bowl. Never bury shellfish in water.)

Stay away from sautéing fish,” says chef Louis Maldonado of Spoonbar in Sonoma County, California. “Home kitchens aren’t set up for this.” Instead, he recommends salt-curing and slow-cooking fish. This method works well for cod, halibut, ocean trout, and wild salmon—but not for delicate fish like fluke. “We salt-cure fish at the restaurant, packing the filet in kosher salt for 6 to 12 minutes. Then I preheat an oven to 200 degrees (or as low as it will go) and"—after wiping the fish clean of salt—"put the filet in a roasting pan with a nice layer of olive oil. Then put it in the oven for 25 minutes. Slow cooking at home is much better than hard and fast.”

Maldonado serves the Feast of the Seven Fishes in the week leading up to Christmas Eve, with a different menu every day—for a grand total of 49 different dishes in 2012. He takes inspiration from different cultures, such as Spain one day and Japan the next.

When it comes to preparing fish, your pantry is important too. Maldonado advises, “Steam your clams in kombu and water or add some bonito flakes to your cioppino.” Michelle DePietro of Whole Foods uses local craft beer when preparing beer-battered cod. She also utilizes garlic confit—garlic slow cooked in olive oil on the lowest possible heat until it becomes mashable—mixed with red pepper flakes to make a marinade for shrimp. Part of modernizing the feast is also using the same ingredients in fun, new ways. That could mean clam pizza or fish tacos with homemade tortillas.

At Mermaid’s Garden, the fridge has a few pantry items that can elevate your feast, such as uni butter. “Toss it into pasta with bottarga and top with breadcrumbs,” advises Bianca. “It’s also great on vegetables or spread on toast.” She also mentions playing with the taste of the sea, without serving fish. The market sells a kelp minestrone soup, providing all the flavor of the ocean, without the help of any sea creatures.

Marco Canora, however, prefers the old ways. “F—k modernization," he says. His pantry this Christmas Eve will be stocked with parsley, garlic, lemon, and peperoncino. “Keep tradition alive and cook it the way your nonna did. And remember, less is more, always.


Roast turkey leg with potatoes and tarragon

Roast turkey leg with potatoes and tarragon. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

I make no apologies for using the brown meat only. It is infinitely more interesting – not to mention considerably cheaper – than the white. The stuffing, cubes of potato fried and tossed with tarragon and garlic, replaces a traditional forcemeat. The mushroom gravy (see below) is made using the glorious, gooey sediment from the turkey roasting tin, and once made is best when reduced for a good 15 minutes to intensify its flavour. If you can’t find chanterelles, any “wild” mushroom will suffice, or indeed a good everyday chestnut mushroom if left to become dark and bosky for a few days in a brown paper bag in the fridge. Ask the butcher, well in advance, to bone a large turkey leg for you, making sure he also removes the long, silvery white sinews too.

floury white potatoes 1kg
smoked garlic 3 cloves
goose or duck fat 4 tbsp, plus a little for basting
tarragon 8g
parsley 10g
turkey leg 1, boned by the butcher, sinews removed, 1.8kg (boned weight)

Wash the potatoes, then cut them into 1cm thick slices and then into 1cm cubes. Peel and very finely chop the smoked garlic. Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6.

Warm the goose or duck fat in a large shallow-sided pan then add some of the potatoes and fry till pale gold. The best results will come from cooking them in 2 or 3 batches, no more than will sit comfortably in a single layer. Turn from time to time to get an even colour, adding a little more goose fat as necessary. As each batch is ready, transfer it to a mixing bowl.

As the last batch of potatoes is removed, scatter the chopped smoked garlic into the fat and let it sizzle for a minute over a moderate heat then add it to the potatoes. Remove the leaves from the stems of tarragon and roughly chop, then do the same with the parsley. Fold the herbs into the potatoes and garlic together with a generous seasoning of salt and ground black pepper.

Cut five pieces of butchers’ string approximately 50cm long. Lay the boned turkey leg on a chopping board, skin side down, longest facing you, and open it out flat. Position the strings vertically at regular intervals underneath the meat. You will need these for securing the rolled meat.

Slice a deep pocket in the thickest part of the meat and spread it open. Spoon the potatoes over the turkey, mostly in a thick line towards the centre of the meat. Roll it up into a thick, plump sausage securing it with the string. A helping hand will be useful to hold the edges of the meat together while you tie the string tightly.

Lift the tied turkey into a roasting tin, moisten with a little more goose fat and season the skin with a little salt. Place the turkey in a large roasting tin and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting from time to time. If the skin is browning too rapidly, cover loosely with kitchen foil.

When the turkey is ready, remove the meat to a warm place, covered with foil, to rest. Pour most of the fat from the roasting tin and finish the gravy (see below).


Matt Moran's summer Christmas feast recipes for Good Food

Healthy delicacy: Oysters are high in zinc. Photo: William Meppem

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. It's all about enjoying traditions, spending time with family and friends and cooking up a big feast. In my household, we usually lean towards traditional, classic dishes with all the trimmings but as the Aussie summer heats up this year, we may well have some seafood on our table for more weather appropriate fare. Here are some of my favourites.

Oysters with chardonnay dressing

The most important consideration with oysters is that they are freshly opened or shucked. It can take years to perfect the art of oyster shucking, so I suggest that you ask your fishmonger to open your oysters in front of you. By doing this you know how long they have been open, but also all the natural juice can be left to sit in the shell. I prefer Sydney rock oysters as I find they have a more intense salty flavour and are generally not too large, however no matter what variety of oyster you are serving, look for an oyster that sits full and plump in the shell that has an appealing shine. One more quick tip is not to serve your oysters to cold, as the flavour will be stunted and you won't be able to fully taste the oyster's wonderful briny flavour."

Perfect for the festive barbie: Barbecued prawns with nam jim dressing. Photo: William Meppem

Barbecued prawns with nam jim dressing

This dish is great for a summer barbeque, and the nam jim dressing gives it a distinctly Asian flavour. Galangal comes from the same family as ginger, and has a similar but strong flavour. It is available from Asian grocers and speciality stores.

A glamorous way to end the meal: White chocolate panna cotta. Photo: William Meppem

White chocolate panna cotta

This panna cotta makes such a beautiful finish to a meal – its silky smooth, a little bit rich and a little bit tart. It's glamorous enough to serve at a dinner party, yet simple enough to make for a family meal. You could leave out the jelly if you're short on time, but I wouldn't! Start this the day before you intend to serve it. You'll need to set the panna cotta overnight before adding the jelly.


Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 6-8 sauerkraut leaves
  • 1000 g chopped sauerkraut
  • 100 g (2 cups) pearl barley or rice
  • 400 g minced pork
  • 1-2 onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1-2 tbs lard or oil
  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika powder
  • ground black pepper
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • salt

Instructions

Make the stuffing:

  • 1. Braise half the diced onions in lard, add the minced pork, the pearl barley (rice) and sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon paprika.
  • 2. Add the mashed clove of garlic, some salt, ground black pepper and stir well.
  • 3. Place some stuffing on the sauerkraut leaves and make nice rolls.
  • 4. Braise the remained onion in oil.
  • 5. Remove the pan from the heat, add 1 teaspoon paprika powder, half of the chopped sauerkraut and the bay leaves.
  • 6. Place the stuffed rolls on it and cover it with the other half of the sauerkraut.
  • 7. Add some water and cook it until the cabbage and the stuffing is tender (approx. 1,5-2 hours).
  • 8. Remove the stuffed rolls.
  • 9. Mix sour cream with 1-2 tablespoons of flour and add to the sauerkraut and cook it for 1-2 minutes, dilute it with some water if necessary. The name of this last process is habarás in Hungarian and it thickens the meal.
  • 10. Place the cabbage rolls back in the pan.

76 Best Christmas Dinner Recipes to Help You Prepare the Ultimate Feast

Even if you're not super confident in the kitchen, these easy Christmas dinner ideas will make you feel like a chef.

A good Christmas dinner is something you can spend the other 364 days of the year dreaming about. The best Christmas dinners include palate-exciting appetizers, delicious main courses, side dishes that have you returning for seconds, and desserts that you'll be licking clean off your plate. But as with any big meal, planning a Christmas feast can be tricky. Luckily, there are plenty of Christmas dinner ideas that will be sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. And not only will your dinner taste amazing, it'll also make you look like a seasoned chef, even if you don't feel very comfortable in the kitchen. These easy Christmas dinner recipe ideas ensure that even if you only have 15 minutes to whip up a dessert, it'll still be one of the most legendary desserts your family has tried. So instead of worrying about what to cook, you can spend more time enjoying your family this holiday season.


Recipe: Baccalà Fritto For Christmas Eve Seafood Dinner

Seafood is essential to the traditional, meatless Christmas Eve (La Vigilia) dinner in Italy. Chef Gianluca D’Esposito is well-known for the mouthwatering uber-fresh seafood dishes he whips up at Ristorante Michel’Angelo on the island of Capri. Chef Gianluca and his wife Holly joined us live for a wonder Italian Christmas Seafood virtual workshop. You can purchase the workshop here and receive both the full class recording and recipe ebook.

Every region of Italy has its own unique way to enjoy this staple. In Southern Italy you’ll often find Baccalà cooked with a tomato sauce with capers and black olives (similar to puttanesca sauce), while at Christmas time its most commonly served fried. Simple, quick and delicious although it’s important to be prepared it requires soaking for 2-3 days to de-salt before cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2.2 lb (1 kg) of cod fillets
  • 7-10.5 oz (200-300g) of 00 flour for dusting
  • 4 cups of peanut, sunflower or vegetable oil for frying
  • 3-4 lemons
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 1/2 small lettuce, arugula or other preferred leafy green for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • De-salt the boneless cod fillets either purchase from your fishmonger de-salted or immerse in water for 2-3 days (changing the water 3 times a day).
  • Cut the lemons into wedges, finely chop parsley, reserving a sprig for garnishing. Wash the lettuce (or other preferred garnish) and plate your serving dish with a bed of lettuce leaves.
  • Rinse the cod fillets and place them on an absorbant paper towel before slicing into bite size pieces and coating in flour, shaking off the excess.
  • Take a saucepan and bring the oil for frying up to frying temperature.
  • Fry the cod fillets in the oil for frying, turning occasionally, until lightly golden (approximately 8-10 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to absorb the oil.
  • Add a pinch of salt, sprinkle some chopped parsley and plate on the salad leaves with lemon wedges and a parsley sprig to garnish.

(A friendly reminder this recipe is one of Gianluca’s family recipes and while we’re all too happy to share it in our cooking class, should you intend to use and/or publish this recipe on any medium (hard copy, digital or electronic), we ask that you please acknowledge the origins of the recipe, being Michel’angelo, Capri. Grazie mille!)


What You Need to Know When You're Buying Fish

If you&aposre unsure about how to choose the freshest, most sustainable choices whether you&aposre buying fish fillets or whole fish, and if you want to know what fishes will suit your family&aposs tastes, read on as our friendly fishmonger demystifies buying fish.

WHAT ARE THE BASIC THINGS TO LOOK FOR?

Finding a fishmonger that focuses on domestically caught, sustainable seafood is the best way to make buying fish less daunting. A good fishmonger can help guide you by asking you questions such as: do you like meaty or flaky texture? Lean or oily fish? Thick or thin fillets? Do you have a specific recipe in mind? Since a lot of recipes call for fishes that may not be local, sustainable, or in season, a knowledgeable fishmonger can help you find a suitable replacement from their selection.

Your fishmonger should be able to tell you where their wild fish was caught and what catch method was used. Some (but not all) farmed fishes are great choices as well look for fish raised in recirculating aquaculture systems.

• When buying whole fish: Look for clear eyes, red gills, and shimmering skin.

• When buying fillets: Look for translucent flesh with no odor.

Skip shrink-wrapped fillets on foam trays buy something fresh from the fish case.

Alternatively, flash-frozen fillets are a high-quality, economical option, especially for fish with limited seasons (like wild Pacific salmon.)

WHAT TYPES OF FISHES HAVE MILDER FLAVORS?

Sometimes people say they don&apost like fish that tastes "fishy," and I tell them that really fresh fish shouldn&apost be "fishy." That said, generally speaking, the higher the fat content of a fish, the bigger its flavor profile will be. Some mild and flaky options are fishes such as hake, pollock, haddock, and flounder. For fishes that are mild and meaty, try striped bass, grouper, snapper, or tilefish. Some bolder flavored, oilier options are mackerel, bluefish, and sardines. Finally, there are meaty, steaky fishes such as tuna, swordfish, and opah. Some of these fishes are available all year while others have seasons or are restricted based on local fishing regulations. While we always lean towards choosing locally caught seafood, there are some seasonal treats we think are worth the fuel to transport them. These include wild salmon and halibut from Alaska, stone crabs from Florida, and sea urchin from California.


5 Easy Ways To Cook Lobster

Boiling Lobster Tails

In a large pot add enough water to cover how many tails you are boiling, add 1 tsp. of salt per quart of water you have. Bring to a boil, drop the thawed lobster tails in, after the water returns to a boil reduce the heat and begin timing.

How Long to Boil Lobster Tails?

Steaming Lobster Tails

Steaming can be done over a large pot with a steamer basket or in a steamer/rice cooker appliance. You can butterfly the tail or split them in half if you have a larger tail. If using a pot to steam bring the water to a boil place lobster in the basket and steam for about 1 minute per oz of lobster. Season your tail with salt and spread butter over it.

I really like the electric food steamer , it's fast and easy and almost fool proof by using the instruction booklet that comes with them. You can just put the specified amount of water in it, cover and cook.

Baking Lobster Tails

Butterfly the tail, brush with butter or olive oil, place tails in a dish, add about 1 cup of water to the dish and in a preheated 400 degree oven bake a 6 to 8oz lobster tail for 8 to 10 minutes.

Your baking time will vary according to size of tail, the temperature of the meat ( room temp or just out of the refrigerator) and the heating of your oven.

Lobster tails can dry out quickly so the water helps put a little moisture in the oven.

If your still are not comfortable with baking them like this. Cover your pan with aluminum foil and the moisture will stay within the pan. This is called steam baking.

Estimated cooking times this way are 8-9 oz tail for 10-12 minutes, 10-12oz tail for 12-14 minutes and a

12-14 oz tail for 14-16 minutes.

Broiling Lobster Tails

After butterflying your lobster tail. Fill your broiling pan with a 1/2" of water. Preheat the pan in the oven till the water is hot this helps keep the lobster moist while broiling.

Remember not all oven broilers are the same. Some produce more heat while others will not. The hard part is finding the right distance to place the broiling pan away from the heating element.

Larger tails, say 8 oz or larger will need to be placed farther away from the heat. For a 8 to 9 oz tail the rule of thumb is somewhere between 8 to 9 inches away from the heat. Cooking time for an 8 to 9oz tail it would likely be around 10 to 12 minutes.

To avoid baking the tails when broiling keep your oven door ajar, with the door ajar it makes it easy for you to watch your tail cook in case you need to make any adjustments.

Place the tail or tails on a broiling pan, brush with melted butter. Keep basting with butter as needed until your lobster tail is opaque.

Grilling Lobster Tails

Once again I like to butterfly the tail, the size of the tail and the grills heat will determine your cooking time. Over a medium high heat place the tail meat side down first, this will get you some nice grill marks and a little browning of the meat.

A 8 to 9 oz tail you would grill for about 4 to 5 minutes and then turn to finish cooking, say another 5 to 6 minutes, basting with butter.


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