Those of you who have followed me through the years know that I honor my grandparents each year by carrying on the tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. A southern Italian tradition that involves at least 7 kinds of fish and in our family tradition, each person must try 13 items, 12 for the Apostles and one for Jesus. I have a bunch of recipes and more of the story on my food and travel blog. 2017 presented a new challenge for me as we have been living in an apartment for the first time in our married lives. No more dual kitchens like my house of 18 years, no more oversized family room and an even smaller kitchen!
As you can see, very little room, to the left of the photo is the sink so there is all the counter space I had in that photo. You can see my schedule taped to the doors which I had to modify a bit to make it work in this kitchen. Especially having the one stove for cooking the meal and making the sauces. Here's a look at the 2017 Menu which was simplified to make it easier to prepare in the apartment. We also had a vegan attending, so we added a few vegan friendly items to the menu.
The toughest part to figure out were the sauces. Previously I had started them around 9 in the morning and let them simmer all day in the second kitchen of our old house. This time, one stove and two large pots of sauce, Seafood Sauce and Marinara Sauce.
Fortunately have a six-quart slow cooker. I decided to make the Marinara Sauce a day in advance because that would re-heat very quickly and letting that sauce sit overnight adds flavor anyway. For the Seafood Sauce, I did my normal 9am start on Christmas Eve and let it simmer till about noon. Then I transferred the sauce to the slow cooker and left it on low until it was time to serve. That worked out brilliantly.
The lack of an outdoor grill to roast the red peppers bit me when I made a stupid kitchen mistake.
I roasted the peppers a day in advance under the broiler in the oven and after removing the pan with an oven mitt, grabbed it with my other hand to move it. The other hand without a mitt. Dumb. Fortunately it was not a bad burn and I was able to keep on working.
My normal cooking schedule calls for some items to be made in advance and fortunately that same plan worked here. Clams and mussels were steamed in advance, Tortonis made in advance, Baked Stuffed Clams were prepped in advance, Cippiolinis and Potatoes made in advance (they always taste better the next day) and much of the rest of the food was prepped so all I had to do was cook it on the 24th.
We had a total of 10 of us and we converted the living room into the dining room since it's the biggest room in the apartment. A couple of folding tables and we were ready to serve. A fun tip, set up the table dinner party style with the couples separated. This forces folks to meet new people at the table and can create some really fun conversations. To minimize the clutter and maximize the space in the kitchen, I prepared each course when it was time to serve.
The Baked Stuffed Clams and Rudolph's Rocket Fuel were super easy as the Fuel was just a soup that had been prepared in advance and the Stuffed Clams simply had to heat up and broil in the oven. From there the meal just followed a very casual pattern and took about 2 1/2 hours to full serve from appetizer to dessert. The pause as I cooked each course worked out really well allowing folks to digest their food a bit and continue great conversations. It was the most intimate and one of the most amazing Feast of the Seven Fishes we've ever had.
For me the Holidays have always been about family and friends gathering around a meal to share love and laughter. It's not the presents, it's not the 'perfect gift,' it's time shared together. Whatever your religion (or non-religion), whatever your beliefs and traditions, I really hope you take the time to break bread with some friends and family. Happy Holidays to one and all and a very Happy New Year!