Christmas has come and gone for 2012. The world did not end as predicted. And the launch of a new Italian American magazine was released in Boston called Bostoniano. The creator, my friend Nicola Orichuia and I were discussing Christmas and the traditions in Italian homes. Nicola being a native of Rome never heard about the “Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve until he moved to the States. I was surprised and figured that it was a Southern Italian tradition which is why my family still honors it, being from Calabria and all. My other friend who is Asian-American also asked me why Italian families cook 7 fishes. Upon some quick internet research and discussion with my mother we surmised that the 7 fishes cover the 7 Catholic Sacraments; while some others cook 13 types of fishes to honor the 12 apostles and Jesus. Whatever the case may be, we prepared a delicious seafood “pranzo”.
My mother prepared the most popular Calabrese dish which is Pesce Stocco. It’s not very popular here but a staple in my home every Christmas Eve. This type of fish is from the Cod family. It’s less meatier than baccala with more gristle. It goes through the same process as baccala which is soaking it in water to release the excess salt for days prior to cooking. My mother then cuts it up and makes the stocco into a hearty stew with potatoes, olives and cauliflower.
My mother’s other dishes for the evening consisted of the ubiquitous zeppole. Again, there are many variations “zeppole”. Our tradition maintains that the zeppole are made with flour, yeast and potatoes. Once it rises into a dough base a handful is twirled and twisted into a cruller size shape stuffed with anchovy. Thanks to my sister, Maria who made them this year and are as good as the ones we grew up on. Of course, our mother was supervising.
This is a Calabrese Zeppole.
Other dishes for the evening were:
Lobster Pie, Crab Cakes – A dish I make that is not Italian yet very tasty – (thanks Ruth Reichl) among other “Americane” dishes that my father would never eat!
As my blog’s title is “Everyone Wants to Be Italian” I must mention that our good friend over in South Boston, Michael Flaherty stopped by earlier in the day to pick up a gallon of homemade wine (which he helped make this Fall) he lent a hand in making some zeppole. After asking a lot of questions of what we were making and how? We put him to work, after all if you want to “Be Italian” this is the only way how!