New Year’s Eve Menu

Cotechino
Cotechino with Lentils (Image from Cellartours.com)

Still recovering from a wonderful Christmas? Rest up and get ready for New Year’s Eve.

We eat late on New Year’s Eve so that at the end of the meal we can flow right into the midnight ball drop. I minimize my time in the kitchen so here’s a simple menu to maximize your time with friends and family.

Cioppino is a traditional New Year’s Eve dish among North Beach Italian-Americans. I’m combining it with a traditional Italian dish for good fortune in the new year, lentils with Cotechino or roasted Italian sausages.

A glass of Prosecco, the light Italian bubbly, gets things moving in the right direction as your guests arrive.

Start with some antipasti. Keep it simple, maybe some prosciutto di parma with fresh mozzarella drizzled with a great finishing EVOO, or soppressata salami and young pecorino. Scatter some olives around the plate and you’re done. My giardiniera or sweet vinegar peppers make an nice addition to this antipasti platter and my celery mostarda (relish) is always a hit.

Serve the lentils and sausges as your primo piatto, your first course. You can make this dish ahead and just heat it before serving. Make sure you have some good crusty bread on the table to soak up the broth. A fruity, dry red goes well with this dish, a Dolcetto d’Alba or Nero d’Avalo pairs nicely.

For the main course, cioppino is really easy to make so you won’t be away from the party for long. It’s a great fish stew from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf all cooked in a single pot, less than 30 minutes start to finish. The sour dough bread is a must have with this delicious dish from the sea. I like a Chianti Classico with the fish in a zesty tomato sauce.

For dessert, affogato, a scoop of vanilla gelato showered with a shot of espresso. This is the ultimate simple dessert and the espresso will help you make it to the ball drop.

It never hurts to have a panettone around. The sweet dome bread is studded with candied citrus and raisins. If you have any left over it makes great french toast the next morning.

I’m feeling generous as 2011 draws to a close, so here’s another menu suggestion for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

Crab is in season and they are heavy and meaty this year. Get one live or steamed from your fishmonger and cook the picked crab in a spicy tomato sauce over linguine. A nice start to the meal.

How about a roast?

My porchetta (roasted pork loin stuffed with herbs) with sauteed escarole and truffle roasted potatoes is a celebratory meal. If you want something really quick try my simple roast pork tenderloin or my roast beef studded with garlic and parsley.

Get my free Italian vegetable eBook and pick the side dishes you want to enjoy.

Felice Anno Nuovo! Happy New Year!

 

Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes (Cena di Vigilia)

Arancini with aioli

UPDATE: There is now a video recipe for Cioppino, the simple and easy seven-fish San Francisco stew: WATCH NOW

Italian-American families have their favorite dishes for Christmas Eve fish dinner – some serve 7 fish (for the 7 sacraments or 7 virtues), some serve 10 (for the 10 stations of the cross) and others 13 fish (for Jesus and the 12 apostles). I serve 7 fishes not for the religious symbolism but to draw family and friends to the table to enjoy a great 3-course fish meal and each other during the holiday season.

When I was growing up my family ate fish because it was a Catholic rule, no meat on Christmas Eve. We loved this meal so much we still cook it many years after the meat ban was dropped by the Church. It’s a big part of my holiday tradition. You can catch some of my excitement in the video we just released. I fried up some squid.

If you want to eat some fish on Christmas Eve or any day of the year check out some of my fish posts from the past year. Cook one dish or a bunch at the same time. You’ll be eating well in any case.

Let’s see if we can get to 7 fish dishes. Your first one is Calamari Fritti above.

Continuing the antipasto (before the meal) theme, how about some steamed mussels and clams with a hunk of garlic bread for dunking in the broth? (Like the calamari fritti eat these as soon as they’re done.)

Cod fish cakes anyone? If I was serving the cakes with other dishes in the antipasto I’d make the cakes much smaller, almost bite size. (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)

Maybe arancini (fried rice balls) stuffed with bay shrimp and served with a spicy aioli? (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)

Here’s one that you can put out in the antipasto course or use as a secondo piatto (second course) dish. I always have to have some sole on Christmas Eve.

For the primo piatto (first course) linguine in a spicy crab tomato sauce.

Here’s a great secondo piatto (second course), halibut baked with roasted cherry tomatoes, potatoes and green olives. I like to roast the whole fish, a branzino or sea bass, using this recipe. Just put the herb(s) inside the fish otherwise follow the original recipe. Debone the fish before serving.

That’s 7, but hey, it’s the holidays so here are a few more: fried shrimp, sword fish with salmoriglio sauce and  shrimp with oregano and garlic, simply roasted in a hot oven; and baccala salad below.

Check out my free vegetable eBook for some ideas of sides to serve with these fish dishes. Buon Natale!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:78]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:79]

 

Weekend Recipe: Cioppino

Cioppino -- A San Francisco Treat

Cioppino has been on my mind lately. Some of my fans asked me to share my recipe so I just had to make it today.

Cioppino is a San Francisco original created by the Italians on Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1800s. The local story is that when the boats came in at the end of the day a big pot with tomatoes was put on the fire and the fisherman “chipped in” pieces of that day’s catch. They’d call to those who hadn’t donated yet. “Hey Guiseppe you gonna chip-in-o? Ciopinno was born.

More likely Cioppino comes from the Ligurian dialect. Some of the earliest Italians who settled in North Beach were from Genoa and other parts of the region of Liguria. They were fisherman in Liguria and they became fisherman on the Wharf. Cioppino is probably derived from “ciuppin” which in the Ligurian dialect means “little soup”, a fish stew.

This is an ecumenical dish. Sicilians later joined the Genoese on the Wharf along with Portuguese fisherman. They all added their own touches to this dish and the pot on the Wharf probably had different fish each day depending on what was left over on the boats.

I’m using local halibut, clams, mussels, calamari and prawns. Oh, and dungeness crab. I couldn’t find any in the fish markets. We’re out of season here in San Francisco. I was desperate. I went to see my friend Gigi at Sotto Mare in the Village. Gigi wasn’t there but Louisa hooked me up with a big, beautiful crab from the waters off Oregon.

This is really an easy dish to make. Saute the vegetables and herbs, add the tomato and simmer until you reach the consistency you want. I like a thicker tomato sauce but still with enough broth to dunk a piece of toasted sour dough garlic bread. Once the sauce is to the proper consistency put in the fish, cover the pot and simmer until the mussels and clams open. Top with basil, parsley, a drizzle of a good finishing EVOO and your ready to dive in.

The fish is just cooked through, tender and sweet bathed in the tomato sauce scented with onion, garlic and herbs. The sparkle of the red pepper flakes hits the back of your mouth as you swallow each bite. The zesty flavor of the sea in a bowl.

Make the tomato base and use any fish that you like. Make Cioppino you’re own. Here’s mine. Buon appetito.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:65]

 

 

 

Scranton, PA Does North Beach Italian

Cioppino: North Beach to Scranton; photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Cioppino: North Beach to Scranton; photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Cioppino: North Beach to Scranton; photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick

I’ll do The Scranton Times Tribune a huge favor and refrain from telling any Dunder Mifflin jokes in this post. It’s the least I can do, since this article they ran explains how the fabulous one-pot alternative to the traditional Christmas Eve  7-fish meal that originated here in North Beach – Cioppino – was a winner in their “Recipes We Love” contest!

Cioppino, for the uninitiated, is a seafood stew made with crab, clams, shrimp and various other types of fish. It was created in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen from San Francisco’s North Beach area. As the story goes, a group of them gathered after a long day at sea and began throwing that day’s catch into a large soup pot.

In addition to giving the recipe, the article tells the lovely story of how its owner, 91-year-old Lithuanian immigrant, Ann Randazzo, inherited it from her Italian-American mother-in-law who’d worked in a cannery in San Jose early last century. It’d been given to her by a Portuguese-born friend of hers. The head spins at the global span of this recipe’s history!

But it’s travelled too far for me.  Let me bring this recipe back to its North Beach roots. I’ll post my cioppino recipe soon. But here are some suggestions in the meantime.

Ingredient Modification

  • No stewed tomatoes. Use San Marzano from Italia.
  • No green onion. Rough chop a half of yellow onion.
  • Save the chopped parsley to spread over the finished dish. Throw in 2 parsley sprigs to the sauce instead.
  • No king crab. 1 or 2 fresh dungeness crabs, broken into pieces. See my linguine with crab sauce to see how to handle fresh crab.
  • No imitation crab. Put in a couple filets of fresh sea bass or your favorite fish.
  • No chopped canned clams. Just use 2-3 fresh little necks/person instead. You could add some mussels too.

Instruction Modification

  1. Give the crab pieces a head start when the sauce is simmering just below the boil, 2-3 minutes. Then put in the fish filet and the shrimp. Watch them they might be done in less than 15 minutes. Don’t go too long with the crab, shrimp and filets because they’ll continue cooking for the 3 or so minutes it will take the clams/mussels to open.
  2. When the shrimp are starting to go pink and curl and the filets are no longer very translucent add the little necks and mussels if your using them. The sauce is done when the clams/mussels open. Discard any clams/mussels that don’t open.
  3. Mrs. Rendazzo says she likes to let the sauce stand for an hour or two. I wouldn’t. The fish will be way overcooked. Serve immediately.
  4. Top each bowl with a drizzle of good EVOO and the chopped parsley.
  5. No grated cheese. Savor the fresh unadulterated taste of the sea.

Linguine with Dungeness Crab in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

Photo by Miles Grant

I was in NYC when Dungeness crab season opened last week, and couldn’t get them out of my mind. The reports were that the harvest was bountiful and the crab were big and meaty. I couldn’t wait to get back home. I had to get one and add the crabmeat to a spicy tomato sauce over some linguine.

It was delicious.

Lots of briny and sweet crab in a simple San Marzano tomato, garlic and dried chili infused olive oil. Once you have the crabmeat ready you can make this sauce in the time that it takes to cook the linguine. In Italia, they don’t put cheese on seafood dishes. It masks the fresh taste from the sea. Don’t do it!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Steamed 1-1/2 pound crab
  • 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 gloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 small dried chili or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound or 500 grams linguine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • Drizzle of finishing EVOO

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water over high heat to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In another pan, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Put the crab in a steaming basket to keep it out of the water. Steam the crab until it turns a bright red-orange, about 7 minutes for each pound of crab. Or, buy a just steamed crab at your fish monger and have it cracked.
  3. When cool, clean the crab. Here’s a link to how to clean the crab.
  4. Pick out all the crabmeat from the legs and body. Shred the crabmeat. Set aside.
  5. In a large cold saute pan, put in the EVOO, red pepper and garlic and over a medium-high flame let the garlic sizzle in the oil until translucent to infuse the oil with its flavor.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Simmer to let the tomato water evaporate and to create a thick sauce, 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Put the linguine in the pasta water to cook, about 8-10 minutes until al dente.
  8. Add the crab to the sauce and keep on a low flame until the linguine is cooked.
  9. Add the oregano to the sauce.
  10. Check for salt. The crab adds saltiness to the sauce but add more to taste if necessary.
  11. Pull the linguine out of the boiling water with a spider, slotted spoon or tongs and put the linguine into the crab sauce. Finish cooking the linguine in the sauce, about a minute or two, tossing to coat with the crab sauce.
  12. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and mix with the linguine to distribute evenly.
  13. Serve immediately. Make sure each dish has some of the crab. Top each plate/bowl with a drizzle of a finishing EVOO.