2019: X… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: Xmas Seafood Sauce
I’m back for “Year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!
My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew. 2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on. 2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!
Xmas Seafood Sauce in Florida (2018)
Seafood sauce on Xmas Eve is a big tradition with Italian families… and known as the “feast of the 7 fishes”… but often end up with more than 7 fishes on the table.
When I first began celebrating in their Xmas traditions, we didn’t eat at Grandma Minnie’s on Xmas Eve… we ate with Grandma Nonni… who didn’t celebrate in the same manor. Nonni made homemade pizzas for Xmas Eve… and pizza I ate. By the time we arrived at Grandma Minnie’s, all their seafood fishes was gone… and at that time, it was ok with me. I wasn’t missing what I didn’t know. It was much later on when I was introduced to the famous seafood sauce… and it took a few years to really develop a taste for it… which soon become a much anticipated meal.
Rose (daughter in law) holding one of our many seafood dishes of the 7 fishes on Xmas Eve… and wearing a Santa pin I painted!
Grandma Minnie always began her seafood sauce on Xmas Eve morning… a sauce filled with blue crabs for flavor and she always liked to add small lobster tails; I loved when I found one in a scoop of extra sauce on my pasta. After the sauce was made, she spent the afternoon frying many of the other seafood items like shrimp, shiners, and cod; the easiest dish prepared was the shrimp cocktail… but my favorite was the stuffed shrimp. The one fish I never touched was the Baccalà… which in Italian means… salted codfish. Whether they really liked it or not… it was more served out of tradition. I always thought the shiners served was funny… as it’s really a bait fish; Steve and I dragged for shiners in the summer when we fished. This small bait fish was fried all intact… you ate it whole from the head to the tail… hubby loved them!
In the early years of when Grandma Minnie’s sons were home, it was Freddie who contributed the Xmas Eve crabs for his mother’s sauce… they never went to the store to buy like we do today. In living next door to the West Haven Yacht Club… it was easy for Freddie… as the crabs always hung around the pier pilings. My husband and I even crabbed there many years ago with Uncle Frankie, but catching them during the summer wasn’t the same as at Christmas. For some reason, I never want, or enjoy this dish at any time of the year other than Christmas; it just never appeals to me at any other time of the year. I have frozen crabs in my freezer right now… we bought them to cook for Xmas Eve… but hubby and I both ended up sick… and they just never were used! I’m hoping they will be good this year… if we get the urge for seafood sauce!
Like all things in life… things change at holidays with the passing of family members… and it felt so wrong when we stopped having Xmas Eve dinner in Grandma Minnie’s kitchen! It was now time for me to learn how to make the sauce… and with Aunt Dolly’s help, I had a recipe. She also never learned by watching her mother… but instead called her on the phone when she wanted to make. Those are times you look back… thinking… why wasn’t I watching her cook when I lived home! I never watched my mother cook either… never even gave a thought to paying attention!
It’s my husband who now makes the seafood sauce… kicking it up a notch… as he says! Like everything else he cooks… he takes his time and …….. nothing is wasted; since no one wants to take the time to eat the blue crabs after dinner anymore, he takes the time to pick out all the crab meat… adding back into the sauce. Definitely makes it thicker and more tasty; he also adds a few cans of crab meat to his sauce.
Let’s get cooking…
Xmas Seafood Sauce!
Note: Through the years, we have changed in adding 3 packages of blue crabs, and 4-5 cans of crushed tomatoes… in wanting to have leftovers! If you don’t have basil leaves… feel free to add dried parsley. As hubby loves garlic… I know he always adds more than from the original recipe here… and that’s ok. Like I told him, add your spices in the beginning… but be forewarned… spices do cook out, so taste along and reseason as needed!
Note: A little change to my original directions above from my family cookbook… After sauteing the crabs and they’ve turned orange… remove them from pan. Add all your cans of tomatoes and spices… then add your crabs back in. It just makes it easier to stir all the tomatoes and spices together without having to deal with the crabs in the very beginning.
After a couple hours of simmering, hubby removes the crabs… grab them with tongs and lightly tap the sauce off of them back into the pot. Believe me… there’s way too much sauce hiding in all the nooks and crannies of the crab shells to waste. If you don’t plan on really eating them after your meal, then this is a good time to let them cool… and pick and scrape out all that good crab meat to add back into your sauce. We use seafood forks and pick through the crab meat… before dumping it back into your sauce be sure and search for any spiny pieces clinging to the crab meat.
This would also be the time to add any cans of crab meat you’re adding in. Like I said, hubby kicked up my recipe a notch by adding 3-5 cans of white crab meat into the sauce… nearer the end of the cooking. No one has ever been disappointed with his crab sauce! Usually in early November we start buying the cans of crab meat when it’s on sale… crab sauce isn’t cheap to make, but it’s only once a year… so splurge!
Everyone has their own traditions and way of making the sauce. Grandma Minnie always made hers on Xmas Eve morning… some make it the day before and say the flavor sets in more… but hubby is stubborn about wanting to make it the same day he’s going to eat it. I usually made it the same day also, unless I was working late, and then I’d make it the day before. I remember those rush… rush days… of coming home from work and running around my kitchen making sauce and stuffed shrimp and everything else I needed. I think I enjoy the crab sauce even more now… since I don’t have to make it!
All My Girls with Santa in 2013
This is the best part of Xmas Eve… having all five granddaughters together… watching them run about and rip open presents… food is not on their priority list right now… it’s all about what’s in those packages under the tree! (2016)
And then the silly reindeers appeared!
Santa arrived by Fire Truck on Xmas Eve 2017… the girls were thrilled to pose with Santa!
While the “seafood sauce” is the adult favorite… it’s the desserts that kids wait for… they save room for favorite cookies and cupcakes!
Let me hear about your Xmas Eve seafood sauce… what are your ingredients? It varies from family to family!
Continue reading more of the A to Z… Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories
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