Sunday, December 26, 2010

All I want for Christmas is a girdle...

Guess what I got for Christmas? Heavier. That's right. Heavier. Santa did not bring it, it was a gift to myself that came in all forms of good things to eat and drink...

The most significant meal of the Christmas Day is the lunch or il pranzo. In Northern Italy, Christmas dishes likely to feature are:

  • lo zampone - the skin of the lower pig leg, including the toe little bones, filled with minced meat and sausages

  • il cotechino - pig's foot stuffed with spiced minced meat

  • Sausages made of pig's intestines and smothered in lentils

  • Turkey stuffed with chestnuts

  • Lamb is also enjoyed with mashed potato and lentils

  • Panettone - light but buttery sponge cake

I become a little unsure about my culinary skills while contemplating how to stuff a pigs foot with minced meat, or even handling toe bones for that matter; therefor I decide it would be best to continue researching and to leave the piggy alone for Christmas. I wanted our first Christmas meal in Italy to be special while being reflective of our new Italian lifestyle. Ideally, a mesh of our Australian and Italian Christmas traditions and cuisines.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa dei sette pesci), is celebrated on Christmas Eve, also known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). It is believed to have originated in Southern Italy and is not a known tradition in many parts of Italy; but since the typical Northern Italian Christmas does not particularly suit my husband, (being a vegequarian/pescatarian) I figure we can borrow custom from the South for a day, (even if it will appear a day late). This feast typically consists of seven different seafood dishes, (or 9, 11, 13, I think it must be an odd number). This celebration is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.


Breakfast - Briòche and Champagne, (family tradition to start the day with a champagne while opening the presents, coffee prior of course!)

First Course-

  • Bruschetta with - smoked salmon / tomato, basil and mozzarella /tuna, sundried tomato, olives, capers, oregano

  • Figs and Ricotta wrapped in Prosciutto

  • Crumbed mozzarella balls

  • Arancini (rice balls coated with breadcrumbs, filled with ragù (meat sauce), tomato sauce and mozzarella)

  • Olive balls

  • Selection of cheeses

  • Bottle of Prosecco (dry Sparkling White Wine, similar to Champagne and apparently very Italian)

Main Course-

  • Marinated sardines

  • Marinated mixed seafood

  • Pesto and spinach lasagne

  • Mixed seafood salad

  • Mussels crumbed with parsley

  • Bottle of Insolia. (This is a white wine present mainly in Tuscany and Sicily, it is said to be paired nicely with fish dishes, marinated sardines in particular, sounds pretty specific doesn't it, it is amazing what you find on the Internet!)

  • Chiant Classico. (Red wine that tends to be medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity, a Tuscan wine. And yes this is pretty much how I was speaking sniffing my wine and swishing it around my glass by the time my husband and I reached the 3 rd bottle of the day!)

  • Spaghetti and Clam dish was on the menu but decided my eyes were bigger than my belly.


Tiramisu (One of Italy's most famous desserts)

There is some debate regarding tiramisu's origin:

It may have originated as a variation of another layered dessert, an Italian version of the English trifle.

There are claims that the dessert is a recent invention and Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary gives 1982 as the first mention of the dessert.

Several sources claim that tiramisu was invented in Treviso at Le Beccherie restaurant by the god-daughter and apprentice of confectioner Roberto Linguanotto, Francesca Valori, whose maiden name was Tiramisu.

Other sources report the creation of the cake to have originated in the city of Siena.

There are also allegations of the recipe's invention at an Italian brothel to provide an energy boost to exhausted clients. (I guess this was before the invention of energy bars and boost drinks?)

Pandoro, (similar to Panettone) was also on the menu but there was no more room for anymore food, even after changing into my drawstring pants!

So I guess you are all ready to say congratulations on making so many friends to come and feast with you on Christmas Day... alas... it was just us. I did however cook for ten, (a door to door salesman or Jehovah witness would of been dragged in at the front door), the day was still special and very relaxed. We celebrated with food, family, fun and frustration (we were irritated by excess jail like packaging on children's toys), but had a very merry day!

(Due to the last minute cancellation on my clam dish I was concerned that my 7 fish dishes became 6, so I counted the types of seafood in the salads and came up with an odd number. I figure this is acceptable? And if it is not?)

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