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Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Italian Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve in an Italian family  is the feast of the seven fishes, which means the Christmas Eve meal is all about the fish!  It is a tradition for Italian cooks to serve seven different types of fish. In Italian, the meal is known as La Vigilia, or Feast of the Seven Fishes, and it is one of Italy’s most famous traditions.  No one knows for sure the significance for offering seven fishes, although there are numerous explanations for it. Some believe that seven fishes are served because it took God seven days to create the world, while others mention the Seven Hills of Rome. There is also the possibility that the seven fishes symbolize the seven sacraments in the Catholic Church, along with the seven sins. Today, the number of fishes served varies. Although seven remains the historical number.

So..that being said my family, since we are Italian, tries to stick to this tradition of "fish". We do not however make 7 different kinds of fish.  We make three:  fried shrimp, fried calamari and fried smelt.  I have included our entire Christmas Eve menu (our family is now actually too big so we do not actually celebrate this party on Christmas Eve...rather the saturday before)  for you on this post.  Our menu does not falter, does not is strictly the same every year!  A tradition my Grandmother & Grandfather started way back when.  We tried to honor them every year by keeping up the italian tradition!
  While doing a little research on this subject I ran across a blog dedicated to The Feast of Seven Fishes  The authors of the blog actually have a book named after this feast, but it is a comic strip.  Kinda funny and will know if you come from an Italian family or friends with someone who is part of an Italian family!  They also have a movie being made out of the comic strip.


  •  4 lbs. large fresh shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, tails removed
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. whole allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. whole mustard seed
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 3 medium sized onions, sliced
  1. Combine the vinegar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper and sugar until dissolved.  Stir in remaining ingredients.
  2. Put cooked shrimp into a large bowl (not metal).  Pour vinegar mxture over; mix gently.  Cover; refrigerate 24 hours.
  3. Before serving, drain shrimp thoroughly.  Pile shrimp in a decorative bowl.  Serve with frilled wooden picks.

  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 container (16 oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise
  • 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
Combine all ingredients and chill about 2 hours.

*My Grandma Gehrig is actually on the Swiss/German side of our family - my mom's side.  But she used to make this amazing shrimp dip that she would make on Christmas day for us.  My mom now uses her recipe.
  • 2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • 2 cans Campbells Cream of Shrimp Soup (may be hard to find - call around first)
  • 1/2 TB. dried onion
  • 1/2 tsp. (or more if wanted) garlic powder
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients with an electric hand mixer until fluffy and creamy.  Put in refrigerator for at least one hour up to 24 hours before serving.  Serve dip with potatoes chips or crackers.

*Can also add canned/drained baby shrimp or chopped cook shrimp.

  • 1 head of fennel - white part only - seperate into pieces
  • 1/4 cup really fine olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesean cheese
  • Ground black pepper
  1. Place fennel on serving platter.
  2. Drizzle olive oil all over fennel so that is spills over onto place bottom.
  3. Sprinkle parmesean cheese over fennel
  4. Ground fresh pepper over top





  • 1 1/2 cups cranberry-apple juice drink
  • 2 (3 oz.) pkg. sparkling wile berry flavor gelatin
  • 2 cups sparkling water, chilled
  • 1 (15 oz.) can madarin oranges, drained
  1. Oil 7-cup jello mold.  In medium saucepan, bring cranberry apple juice drink to a boil.  Add gelatin; stir until dissolved.  Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  2. Stir in sparkling water.  Refrigerate 40 minutes.
  3. Fold orange segments into gelatin.  Spoon into oiled mold.  Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.
  4. To serve, line serving platter wtih lettuce.  Unmold gelatin onto lined platter.  Cut into wedges to serve.
*This picture shows some kind of "dip" in the middle.  It does not have a recipe for it, so we never do it.

**Recipe & Photo Courtesy of Pillsbury

PASTA AILIO  ( or in my family we just call it AILIO)

* This pasta dish is extremely simple to make.  It just has a few ingredients, but it is how you use the ingredients that gives this pasta dish the great flavor! 
  • 4 lbs. vermecilli
  • 6 garlic cloves - sliced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cupwater
  • black pepper
  • grated parmesean cheese

  1. Cook pasta al'dente in a salted pot of boiling water.
  2. In the meantime saute sliced garlic in a large saucepan.  Add olive oil and water and some ground pepper.  Gently simmer for about 1/2 hour or so.
  3. Place pasta in large serving bowl.  Pour olive oil - water mixture and toss well so pasta is completely coated.
  4. Serve with lots of fresh ground pepper and grated parmesean cheese.


* This recipe is for about 4 lbs. of shrimp - but we triple the recipe because we bread 12 lbs. of shrimp! The job of frying all this food goes to the men of our family.  They can accomplish anything with a little "Seven & Seven " in them (Seagrams Seven Whiskey and Seven Up)  By the way did I mention my mom makes them fry it all up in the garage?!?!?
  • 4 lbs. shrimp (the largest you can find without calling them "prawns" - we get ours at Costco)
  • 1 cup bisquick (plus more for dredging)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • Canola oil for deep fryer (lots)
  1. Clean and de-vein shrimp, but leave tail on.
  2. Par-boil shrimp - place shrimp in boiling water for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes only.  Remove and place on paper towel lined baking sheet.
  3. Make batter:  Mix 1 cup Bisquick, salt, egg and beer in a large bowl.Dredge shrimp in bisquick ( can do this by place about a cup or so of Bisquick in a large zip lock bag.  Add Shrimp and mix around so shrimp is coated with Bisquick.
  4. Dip each shrimp in batter generlously - shake excess off.  Place about 3-5 at a time in deep fryer and let sit for a few minutes or until golden brown. 
  5. Remove from deep fryer and place on paper towl lined baking sheets.
  6. Once we get a whole tray of shrimp we bring them to the "oven station".  Here my mom takes the shrimp off the oil soaked baking sheet and places them on a clean baking sheet and in to a warm oven.  The oven should be barely on.  This step is just to keep them warm until 12 lbs. of shrimp are made!
  7. Serve shrimp warm when all is ready.

  • 3 lbs. frozen broccolli spears
  • olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup grated parmesean cheese
  1. Saute garlic in large skillet in about 1/2 cup of olive oil
  2. Add broccolli and saute for about 15-20 minutes
  3. Place broccolli in a large baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle the top of broccolli first with bread crumbs and then the parmesean cheese.
  5. Right before you are ready to serve place under broiler in oven.  Broil for about 5 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

  • 2 1/4 all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 TB. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 10 inch tune pan; set aside.  In bowl stir together flour, oats, baking powder, soda and salt.
  2. In large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 cup sugar; beat until combined.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating on low speed after each addition until combined.
  3. Toss cranberries with 2 TB. sugar; fold into batter with orange peel.  Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.
  4. Bake 50 - 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool on rack.  Prepare Orange Glaze; spoon over cooled cake.  Let stand until glaze is set.
ORANGE GLAZE:  In small bowl combine 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel.  Add 2 to 3 tsp. orange  juice to make drizzling consistency.


* See past Christmas Cookie posts of mine for recipes

* See past Christmas post for my recipe


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