The Feast of the Seven Fishes does not limit you to only seven fish. But if you are going to attempt preparing this classic Italian-American La Vigilia (The Vigil) Feast in commemoration of the wait for the birth of the baby Jesus, then here are four classic recipes for just a few staple fish of the feast. Recipes are all adapted from the Randazzo family cookbook (which I happily own as the great-granddaughter of Frank Randazzo, who established Randazzo’s Seafood in the late 1920s. My uncles now own and run the business).
Makes 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds baccalà (salt-dried cod fillets)
Soak the baccalà in water for three days in the refrigerator to get the salt out, changing the water twice a day.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the baccalà and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain. With a slotted spoon, transfer the fish to a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
When cool, flake the fish with a fork and gently toss with the olive oil, parsley, olives, celery, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Makes 4 servings
Olive oil for frying
2 eels, skinned and cut into two inch pieces
1 cup flour, well seasoned with salt and pepper
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium to high heat.
Dredge pieces of the eels in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Fry 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.
Makes about 6 servings
3 dozen littleneck clams, opened (save shells and juice)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 strips of bacon (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Put oil in bottom of cooking pan and arrange clamshells on the pan. Spoon individual clams onto the clamshells.
Mix breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in separate bowl. Put bread crumb mixture over each clam.
Top each clam with small piece of bacon (optional). Drizzle olive oil over clams. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
(Note: calamari is a slippery fish. You may need an extra pair of hands to make this recipe happen.)
4 whole calamari
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp grated parmigiano cheese
1/2 pound ricotta
1 hard-boiled egg
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
Clean squid and finely chop tentacles and set aside.
Sauté onions in the butter over medium heat. When onions begin to soften, add finely minced garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix the breadcrumbs, cheeses, and chopped tentacles together. Add cooled onion/garlic combination. Break up egg with a fork and mix lightly into breadcrumb mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the calamari until it is about halfway full. (The stuffing will swell as it cooks and will fill the calamari completely.) Close the open end with a toothpick.
Add tomato sauce to top of calamari. Drizzle olive oil over it. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, then decrease the heat to 350°F for 30 minutes.
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