'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the condo, not a Guinea was stirring, not even Uncle Armando.
Not a bad start, huh? Christmas Eve, the biggest dinner in the year of a Guinea like me, is upon us. I got started late; most years I would have my menu well in advance and my fish bought too. This year, not so much...
Talked to Gramma and my brothers about it and it seems everyone is cutting back. Not so much an economic thing; this stuff's just not getting eaten like it was... I was really a little surprised, but Gramma said she wasn't even making the Octopus Salad this year. What's the world coming to??
So in my cutback, I killed half the normal menu too... This year was easy- shrimp cocktail, octopus salad, fish cakes (with Bacala), some raw clams, and some macaroni. I am really glad I made the Octopus salad this year. Even though I can never find scungilli, which is texturally my favorite part, I have been honing my skills over the last few years and this time, I really knocked it out of the park. Everything was tender and had great flavor... lots of garlic, lemon, good olive oil. I made it 2 days ahead and let all those great flavors flow together... Brought a little sample to some of my local Guinea friends and got back some good reviews.
Centerpiece this year was Shrimp and Clams over fresh linguine. I bought a pound each of fresh regular and squid ink... made for a nice presentation. The fish cooked up nicely- shrimp were bigger than I usually use and the clams were smaller than I usually use, but I cooked them in some tomatoes I crushed in my hand and used a lot of garlic. I dished it all up and, being a crazy diavolo, hit the whole thing with a nice coating of grated Pecorino Romano. I know my Aunt Marie can't read that without getting upset- fish and cheese don't mix in her world... but I could never have a plate of macaroni without it. (recipe, if you care was 3lbs shrimp sauted in Garlic and oil, 3lbs little neck clams scrubbed and thrown in once the shrimp get their color; steam the calms open and then open 2 big cans of tomatoes and crush the tomatoes one by one over the pan, adding the juice from the can last, then a little salt and fresh basil; let it cook about 20 mins or so just for the tomatoes... that's it... put it over pasta if you want, or serve it in a bowl with a good loaf of bread)
Christmas Eve... this dinner hasn't been the same without my brothers around to eat everything in sight; next year, I'm gonna make 'em all visit and hit all seven courses. Putting out dishes like this, I don't think they'll be able to say no. And even if they try to, they'll HAFTA come... 'Cause Johnny Tomatoes says so!!