As discussed in Part 1, the origins of the Feast of Seven Fishes celebration can be found in the South of Italy. Part 2 will discuss the most common dishes served at an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration.
A salted white fish, the traditional preparation of baccalá involves soaking it in a sink for several nights before Christmas Eve. Reconstituting the dried fish removes excessive saltiness. It is then either sautéed or fried with onions and capers.
A dinner party needs several types of appetizers on the menu. Baked clams should be one of the selections of every seafood feast. Foodies sometimes argue whether the better choice is whole or chopped clams. Some insist that a whole clam is best because it preserves all the flavor from the sea. However, some truly prefer the taste of tiny bits of clam scattered over buttery breadcrumbs.
Many Italian-Americans will not consider a Christmas Eve feast complete if it is without calamari. Consisting of the chopped rings and tentacles of squid, calamari is either served after being fried to crispy deliciousness or as a special ingredient in a chilled seafood salad.
After being butterflied, the tasty flesh of bigger smelt can be easily pulled away from its bones. Some may not know that true happiness can also be found in eating a smaller smelt completely whole. They are crispy morsels packed with the deliciousness of the ocean. They can be aptly described as the French fries of the sea.
There are Italian families who think having an immense pot filled with mussels on Christmas Eve is almost as important as a visit from Santa Claus. It is a key component of cioppino-style seafood stew. Two tasty alternatives are delicately dressing the meat of this shellfish with light tomato sauce or steaming it with butter, garlic, and herbs.
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