Italian Christmas is awesome. We’re not mad at turkey, ham and baked ziti on the same plate, not mad at all. So you get the big feast Christmas Day, but there’s also an equally important feast on Christmas Eve. Do it right, people. If you’re going to do Italian Christmas, take a leaf out of a master’s book.
“I love Christmas traditions, especially around food. But these days, it is so hard for people to make time to sit down and enjoy the full feast of the seven fishes,” says Osteria Morini Executive Chef Matt Adler. “Our zuppa de pesce at represents the soul of the feast, while allowing time for those last-minute chores that inevitably pop up on Christmas Eve.”
It’s the best of both worlds, a delicious meal and one that honors the tradition.
- 2 (1 1/2 pound) hard shell lobsters
- 1 pound manila clams
- 1 pound mussels
- 1 pound day boat sea scallops
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
- 1 pound striped bass fillet, skin removed, portioned into roughly 3-ounce pieces
- 1 pound fish bones (ask your fish monger)
- 1/2 pound fresh squid
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 small heads of fennel, 1 thinly sliced, 1 cut into 1/4-inch wedges
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 small beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1 cup white wine
- peel of 1 orange
- peel of 1 lemon
- 4 sprigs basil, 2 sprigs reserved for garnish
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes
- 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
The day before:
- Bring 3 gallons of heavily salted water to a boil on your stovetop. (The water should be as salty as the ocean.)
- Prepare an ice bath.
- Place the lobsters in boiling water, return the water to a boil and cook the lobster for 5 minutes.
- Remove the lobsters and place in ice bath for 15 minutes.
- Transfer lobsters to a cutting board; separate the tail and claws from the lobster.
- Use a pair of heavy kitchen shears to cut the tail directly in half lengthwise. The meat and shell should remain connected.
- Crack the claws and arms to remove all useable meat.
- Reserve the lobster tails and claw meat for the next day’s use.
- Use the kitchen shears to cut the head into 2 inch pieces.
- Prepare the Zuppa: Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan.
- Add the lobster headpieces, shrimp shells and fish bones, and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the sliced fennel, onions, carrots, garlic, celery and tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.
- Deglaze with the brandy and white wine, and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Cover the bones and vegetables by one inch of cold water.
- Bring to a simmer over high heat and cook on low for 45 minutes.
- Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve.
- Place the orange and lemon peels, basil, parsley and red pepper flakes in the strained liquid to steep over night in your refrigerator.
The next day:
- Boil the fingerling potatoes in heavily salted water until tender.
- Strain the herbs and peels out of the Zuppa.
- Bring to simmer in a large pot.
- Add the 1/4-inch fennel wedges and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the fingerlings and clams and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the mussels and scallops at the same time and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the shrimp, lobster meat and striped bass pieces and cook for 1 minute.
- Last, add the squid rings, fresh chopped basil and extra virgin olive oil.
- Ensure that all the shellfish is open before serving. Discard the ones that remain closed.
- Taste the Zuppa and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with crusty rustic style bread.
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