Welcome to our crazy COVID 2020 Christmas! It wasn't a normal Christmas family celebration but instead one with a small group of friends celebrating the holidays. On the table was a three course feast starting with the Italian tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes with a spread of wonderful Italian Christmas seafood. Then segueing onto pasta, meat and four desserts! Come and take a peek at the dishes we ate!
I'm sure for many of us, this year's Christmas will go down in infamy. It isn't the way most people would want to celebrate it. A couple of weeks ago when my Italian food twin Monica and I were discussing Christmas away from families we decided to collaborate on a friends Christmas feast.
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Italians, particularly in Southern Italy have a tradition on Christmas Eve called the Feast of Seven Fishes. That's because they eat seafood on Christmas Eve and save meat for Christmas Day. For those of us having a hot summer the feast of seven fishes suits our Australian love of seafood at Christmas.
There are some key foods as part of the Italian Feast of Seven Fishes. Monica made baccalà mantecato which is a creamed salt cod. The process for this emblematic Venetian dish is wrapped up in Venice's history as a port and trading city. Making baccalà mantecato takes two to three days and the soaked codfish is cooked in milk, peppercorns and bay leaves and then is blended with a mild extra virgin olive oil. The baccalà ends up being so deliciously creamy (you must try it!) and it is served with grilled polenta.
Another dish Sarde in Saor or sweet and sour marinated sardines. This is also a Venetian dish, which is where Monica's partner Marco is from. The sardines are deep fried and then marinated in a sweet and sour vinegar solution with onions and raisins.
Monica also brought over some tuna tartare served with potato chips and caviar (this dish sums up Monica and I perfectly) and and kingfish sashimi dressed with soy sauce, red yuzu kosho, sesame oil and lemon juice as Crudo di Pesce is usually served at the Feast of Seven Fishes. She also brought freshly live Pambula shucked oysters with mignonette dressing. Along with my prawn cocktail and Scallops Venetian style, our feast of seven fishes was complete.
I took care of most of the hot dishes as Christmas dinner was at our house. I made grilled Scallops Venetian style which are topped with parsley, garlic, olive oil and breadcrumbs and grilled.
Then there were four desserts: a Gelato Filled Pandoro pistachio panettone and a macaron Christmas tree. Christmas isn't complete without a plate of Dear Reader Matilda's wonderful Italian biscuits! She bakes these every year and if we are lucky we get a box of these. My memory of the period between Boxing Day and New Year's Day is always nibbling on her biscottini and ciambellette.
We also invited over our friends Ahana and Sagaar for Christmas dinner. They're originally from India and it was also their first time celebrating Christmas. When I asked them about dietaries Ahana said, "We don't really eat seafood apart from prawns," which was a slight cause for alarm. "We'll try everything," she reassured me.
Just in case, I made the apricot chicken roulade and potatoes for them. It came to Christmas Eve and we were very excited at our first friends only Christmas. With the strains of everyone's favourite Christmas song "All I want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey, Monica and Marco arrived with their bags of food and tools. She shucked the oysters and we set out the food on the Christmas table. Monica also loaned me her beautiful hand stamped tablecloth from Stamperia Bertozzi in Rimini, Italy.
Ahana and Sagaar arrived and after some Spiced Rum cocktails we sat down to eat. The first course was all the seafood and a green salad with palm sugar dressing. I was so happy to see that both Ahana and Sagaar dug into the seafood with gusto. It was their first time eating scallops and baccala and it was so nice to see them enjoying everything. Ahana loved the baccala and polenta and Sagaar loved the grilled scallops. The rest of us are seafood lovers and we devoured the seafood spread. It was hard to pick a favourite as it was all so delicious. If I could, I'd do the Feast of Seven Fishes every year!
Then we served up the second course. I think by this stage we were getting too full to eat much (that's what happens with an Italian and Chinese come together to make dinner haha) but out came all the hot dishes.
Teddy was actually much better behaved than last year where he was a bit of a handful. He only really pestered us when it came to prosciutto. I swear he can hear the sound of prosciutto. When I accidentally dropped a tiny square of it he was in the kitchen like a flash. We joked that Teddy's biography will be called, "The Sound of Prosciutto."
We had to have a break then before dessert so we played some games. Then it came to dessert and I served up slices of the pistachio panettone that Carm had gifted me. This luxe panettone was literally the best panettone I've ever eaten. It came with some pistachio paste and a knife and the texture was just so incredibly and fluffy. Even Teddy was a massive fan and ran away with the plastic bag that it came in.
And the icing on the cake? Monica's gift to me left me speechless and teary. It was a happy cry but it also felt like the whole burden of 2020 and everything just lifted off my shoulders after I shed some tears.
Monica opened her iPad and asked me to turn off the music and then started to play a video for me. It was the actor Melora Hardin who played my favourite character from the office (Jan Levinson-Gould) with a personalised Christmas message just for me! I am a massive fan of The Office and my favourite episode is Dinner Party for its exquisite cringe and relatability. I also think that Jan is a misunderstood and villainised character.
Melora sang me a few lines from the song in the episode and basically crafted the most perfect video message ending in the tag line, "That's what she said." I've put it on my Instagram stories in case you want to see the video. I could not believe that Monica had thought of such an amazing gift-I didn't ever dare to dream that big!
And do you know what? This topsy turvy year ended in a big bang! And that's what she said.
So tell me Dear Reader, tell me ALLL about your Christmas! What did you eat? What did you do? Did you get any cool presents?