By Rebecca Gardon
Many cultures build their holiday meals around seafood. Italian families, for example, serve a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve to commemorate the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. In Spain’s coastal regions, the most popular dishes on Christmas Day include lobster and crab. Our Portuguese fishmonger’s family gathering isn’t complete without plenty of wild Mexican shrimp, and a presentation of white seabass or grouper.
These folks definitely have the right idea. So, in keeping with our love of seafood, and the spirit of the season, we’ve rounded up “12 Days of Seafood” recipes to help you count down your holiday festivities!
12. Get back to basics with Ina Garten’s recipe for shrimp cocktail, a classic appetizer option that always proves popular.
11. An aromatic batch of cioppino like Giada De Laurentiis makes for her Italian family is the perfect centerpiece for a Feast of the Seven Fishes-inspired dinner. It also easily serves a crowd!
9. Mario Batali’s Lobster and Mascarpone Holiday Ravioli with Truffle Butter is perhaps best suited for those with more advanced culinary skills; however, if you can manage it, we’re talking major wow factor.
8. You simply cannot go wrong with crab cakes. Our friend, Ken “Man with a Pan” Gardon, puts a spin on classic Maryland-style cakes by packing them with Baja rock crab. Whether you make appetizer-sized cakes or entrée cakes is entirely up to you. Serve with a homemade aioli, or set them atop fresh salad greens tossed with olive oil and balsamic and finish with fresh parmesan shavings.
7. The best thing about traditional seafood salad is that it features a variety of seafood in one dish. Bobby Flay’s Spanish seafood salad is teeming with shrimp, squid and crab meat and gets its festive holiday flair from bright red piquillo peppers and red onions along with green olives, cornichons, and parsley.
6. With its sweet anise flavor and crunchy bite, fennel is a deliciously unique cool-weather vegetable. It’s also a popular addition to Mediterranean cuisine whether raw or cooked. The Food Network Kitchen’s Grouper with Fennel and Olive Relish is a delicate yet rich-tasting combination that’s perfect for colder weather.
5. Creamy Scallops and Corn Chowder from Real Simple Magazine marries bright corn kernels with tender potatoes, crisp bacon, and golden brown scallops. This could serve as a hearty first course, or a main dish when paired with a salad and crusty bread.
4. Tommy Gomes, our aforementioned Portuguese fishmonger, recently showed our friend Sam the Cooking Guy how to pull together what Sam coined, The Most Legit Tuna Salad Ever. Based on Tommy’s upbringing on tuna boats, this Portuguese skips the mayo and instead features red onions, olives, spices and lots of red wine vinegar. Put it on crackers or crostini as a party appetizer, or make an out-of-this-world tuna melt.
3. What better way to take advantage of winter’s superfruit than with Pomegranate Glazed Salmon from Tori Avey. It not only looks beautiful, it’s loaded with antioxidants and heart-healthy Omega 3s. For a decorative touch be sure to finish this dish with the pomegranate’s jewel-like ruby-red arils.
2. If you love oysters but hate shucking them (or don’t know how) – grill them! The heat forces the oysters to open, taking all of the manual labor out of the equation. Bobby Flay’s Grilled Oysters with Spicy Tarragon Butter calls for medium to large oysters, making our Baja Nautilus oysters a perfect match!
1. Bacalao, or bacalhau – the Portuguese word for cod – is a traditional holiday dish of salted dried codfish. Its origins stem from Catholic countries going without meat on Fridays during the 40-day observation of Lent. Today there are countless variations of recipes, but basically you soak cod in water for 24- 48 hours to leach out the salt, and then prepare with accompanying sauces. If you don’t have cod or don’t want to go through the trouble of soaking it, you can achieve similar-tasting results with this Whole Fish Baked in Salt.