With Christmas Eve just around the corner, I start counting my fishes. I count my blessings as well, but Christmas Eve is all about fish….seven different types of fish, to be exact. So I begin planning our menu for this feast of feasts…the mother of all feasts. Most Italian families consider Christmas Eve to be the holiday, and Christmas just naturally follows. Weeks of preparation goes into this celebration, especially the preparation of the food, Our tradition is that we must have seven fishes on the menu for Christmas Eve. How this tradition got started is not exactly known. Is it to represent the 7 sacraments? Does it represent the 7 hills of Rome? Or perhaps it because the number 7 is repeated over 700 times in the Bible. Whatever the reason, this tradition began in southern Italy, and is still carried on today in most Italian families. Mine is one.
We have our family favorites that we stick to each year, but we always add something new just to keep the interest level up. Many years ago, I added “stuffed clams” to the antipasto portion of this meal. They are “Florence’s Stuffed Clams,” to give credit to where credit is due. Florence is my son-in-law’s mother. She is the mother of nine, and grandmother to nearly 20 children. I was super impressed when she served this elegant looking appetizer to us at a family dinner party. I remember thinking to myself, that if she has time to make these beautiful and delicious stuffed clams, then I most certainly can give them a try. I must say, I was intimidated, but she assured me that they were very easy. I was indeed amazed at how easy they were to make.
You do need to ask you fish store for empty clam shells. They usually have plenty, but if your fish monger is not as friendly as mine, you can buy clams, and just boil them until they open. Clean out the clams from the shells, and you can actually use these fresh clams in the recipe as well. After your guests feast on these delectable little morsels, all you have to do is wash out the shells, and put them away in a plastic bag or Tupperware until the next time.
My family loves them, and it’s a simple, scrumptious way to count clams towards one of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. Now all you have to do is come up with six more fish dishes. Have fun!!
RECIPE: makes 2 dozen small or medium stuffed clams
4 cans (6.5 ounces) chopped or minced clams
1 cup clam juice or water
2 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 1/2 ( plus or minus) cups breadcrumbs ( seasoned or not)
1 TBSP chopped parsley ( or more if desired)
2 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper to taste
cream sauce: 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cold water, mixed)
1. Saute garlic, onions and celery in olive oil until soft.
2. Add clams, liquid and seasonings and parsley. Simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add crumbs and mix well.
4. Add the flour and water mixture. Simmer on very low heat for a few minutes, until well combined and thickened.
5. Fill clam shells and place on a cookie sheet. Spray with olive oil spray.
5. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top.