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A merry Italian Christmas!

Updated: Feb 17

Family, friends, sightseeing, a beautiful nativity scene in the front garden, delicious food – military style preparations, cooking and eating, drinks, a lot of laughter, clean-up, sleep and so much more: Our Christmas 2019 in Chicago

Our dear friends Betty and Michele opened the doors to their beautiful historical home in Oak Park to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. People from near and afar flocked to the city to do just that: from Hawaii, California, Washington, Italy, to name a few…



Food lovers Betty and Michele have a no-nonsense approach when it comes to food and entertainment. From the day of our arrival on the 21st December, we feasted on pasta, suckling pig, goose a l’orange, steak, pata negra, etc.

Me, Shreya, Michele and Betty / with the suckling pig / and pata negra


Shopping for ingredients: Carnivore in Oak Park



Starting preparations for Christmas eve menu

Me and Michele preparing the red snapper in crust of Hawaiian black salt

Since I know Michele, he always has been very passionate about cooking, eager to learn new tricks and recipes to widen his portfolio. We are kindred spirits when it comes to food. For me it is my profession, for him a beloved hobby.


All culminating on Christmas eve in a 12-course menu for approximately 35 guests, each course symbolizing one of the 12 apostles.

And hear this: NO meat at all was served on Christmas eve, we had ten courses of either fish or seafood and two courses of dessert! Most definitely an exceptional evening for everyone present – until next Christmas! Salute!


Some impressions from Christmas eve

Ciao, ci vediamo!


Supplement: Some Recipes


Black Salt Crusted Red Snapper

4 boxes granulated Mediterranean salt

6 egg whites

1 large tbsp of squid ink

Mix together until salt is uniformly black and shiny. It should stick together just a little.

Coat whole fish with salt and bake at 400 degrees for ~40 min

Top with 1 spoon 1:1 lemon-EVOO mix


Swordfish Sauce

Put 2 large smashed garlic in olive oil and heat till lightly yellow

Add in whole marjoram branches and fry with garlic

Add in sliced red & yellow cherry tomatoes and cook down

Add in 2 bottles of tomato sugo (yellow heirloom tomatoes cooked down with whole basil branches)

Add a splash of good white wine and cook for 5 min

Add in 1 bottle red tomato sauce (home-made, preserved)

Add salt and cook for 15 min

Remove the branches and large garlic and big skins

Puree to baby food consistency

Cook swordfish in the sauce, add mint and cook for 5 min

Boil coco de cavaliere (9min) pasta - a thick spaghetti - in water

Mix pasta in sauce and serve in coils


Beetroot marinated salmon

5-6 beets: Peeled, cubed, blended with 1 cups of water, 2 cups vodka/gin

Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 cup granulated Mediterranean salt

Mix in to beetroot blend

Add peel of 1 lemon, 4 peels orange

Add juice of 1 orange and mix well

Add fillet of salmon (~3lbs)

Put washer cold parchment cover, cover dish with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 6-14 hrs/overnight

Remove salmon and store marinade

Slice thin to check salmon taste - refrigerate with washed parchment cover and Saran Wrap to dry out for 2 hours

Make a fennel-blood orange salad with champagne vinaigrette (olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper, honey)

Put thinly sliced salmon on salad to make a nice presentation


Cuttlefish gratin (Sepia del Marchese Portino)

Large cube for cuttlefish

Note: Small cuttlefish (~75g each) preferred for delicacy in texture (large are rubbery)

Add marjoram leaves

Add a splash of EVOO

Add salt, black pepper and mix it up

Add splash a good white wine


Breading:

Put home-made bread crumbs in a pan

Add salt

Add dry oregano

Add 1 large smashed garlic

Toast it on the pan on low heat until browned

Let cool


Cheese:

Grate 300g Pecorino Romano

1 bunch fine chopped parsley

1/2 bunch finely chopped cilantro

Mix together

Mix breading and cheese when cooled

Place cuttlefish on baking sheet and add breading on the top

Drizzle a little EVOO over breaded cuttlefish

Bake at 170 degrees until the gratin is brownish color - maybe ~15 min

Place portion in plate and serve with fresh crispy baby arugula salad


Black Cod (Baccala)

Remove skin from fillets and cut into 1 inch squares - ensure no bones

Fine chop 1 medium onion and parsley, add 2 smashed large garlic cloves

Thin sliced fingerling potatoes


Salsa:

1.5 box mixed red/yellow cherry tomatoes sliced in 1/2

Cubed kuamto tomatoes - 4

2 sprigs of spring onions (sliced)

200g kalamata olives - sliced

Olive oil extra virgin

Splash of good white wine


Cooking:

Low pan - brown the garlic in EVOO on low heat and remove

Add in the "salsa" mix + potatoes with splash of white wine and cook on very low flame for 5 min

Add cod fish and fish broth, cook for 5 min or so with lid on until the fish is cooked

Add salt and pepper to taste


Octopus Salad

Salt the octopus (2 kg) and leave for 1hr

Rinse the octopus, cover with cold water and put on the stove at lowest temperature for 2hr

Put heavy pan on octopus to ensure all tentacles are covered with water and cook for 1- 2hrs until tender

Chop octopus and add thinly chopped red onions (2 small) and course chopped parsley

Add thinly sliced, course chopped lemons (4 whole) - do not put center of lemons in ie no seed or rind


Dressing:

2 lemons - juice

EVOO 1:1 ratio with lemon juice

2-3 spoons white vinegar

Salt - 1 tbsp

Black Pepper - 1 tsp

Mix ingredients and dressing together just before serving


Buon appetito!


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