Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Classics: Frutti Di Mare

At least for me this is a classic.  Frutti di Mare is my family's traditional dish for Christmas Eve.  It is essentially fish stew over linguini.  Not complicated to make but time sensitive because it involves a fair amount of shellfish.  You don't want to start this dish too early or cook the seafood a little too long.  There is nothing worse than rubbery little mollusks.  Which means you are starting your cooking right after your guests arrive just to make for the start of a hectic holiday dinner.  The up side?  It is worth it!  Every last bright tomato and seafood bite!

This year I had been wondering about why we Italians have the seafood feast on Christmas Eve.  I never questioned it before because, well, why question a good thing?  The origins come from the Roman Catholic Church where, like on Good Friday (despite this overly optimistic name, it is the day when Jesus was crucified) observant Catholics do not eat meat.  With a little research I found a few possible answers as to why there are seven fishes served for Christmas Eve although none confirmed as true.  The number seven reoccurs in Catholicism.  It took seven days for Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem.  God created the universe in seven days.  The Catholic Church has seven sacraments.  Mortal sins are summarized in the Catholic religion by the following seven: pride, envy, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth and anger. 

Religious or not, if God (or anyone else) says I need to eat seven types of fish on any day of the year I will not argue. Though preparing one meal with seven fishes is not an easy task.  We are usually shy one or two.  This year we were missing one because a family member is allergic to lobster.  Frutti di Mare is a great way to get as many as you can in one pot.  I am going to recommend a recipe from the Epicurious site that I have used two years in a row.

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