‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
A quiet and peaceful pre-holiday weekend indeed. No last-minute gift shopping, no endless hours in the kitchen (OK, maybe just a couple 🙂 ), no worrying about how your “perfect” holiday would actually turn out. I was blissfully happy to have moved away from the “commercial” side of Christmas but have retained the spirit and the traditions that really matter, like spending time with the ones you love, making foods while you actually enjoy the process rather than just rushing to put everything together to “feed a crowd”, putting thought into wrapping up small gifts and not the ones that would definitely impress but won’t necessarily be meaningful.
It seemed I had time for everything, visit my parents, sleep in, have several leisurely meals, read, make blueberry-lemon heart cakes for Christmas Eve dinner, watch a marathon of cheesy Christmas movies on Lifetime… It seemed like the time has stopped.
When did we all become so engulfed into creating a “perfect” holiday that we forgot what perfection really means?! And do we even need all going “nice and straight”?! I bet you remember the holiday when the turkey got burned, and you all had Chinese, or pizza. Just because it was so “imperfect” and unpredictable, and probably full of laughs (after the initial anger and frustration settled in) and more shared conversations than all the previous family gatherings before. You remember the holiday spirit and what you felt inside days or maybe even years after it all ended, not the elaborate meals, expensive gifts or the hours you spent wrapping and decorating only to have a whole day being just a blur because you were so tired and probably too worried about all the little details to actually enjoy it.
My most fondest memory of Christmas comes from a day many would say was lacking “excitement” yet it created the most memorable experience and warm feelings of remembrance of a blissfully happy little boy having all the time in the world to play with his new toys rather than being rushed into a car to make a trip to attend a family gathering. And then eagerly chomping on a knish and a hot dog for lunch at a local Jewish deli. And being led by his equally delighted parents on a walking tour to see the Christmas lights in the neighborhood followed by a movie and more playing untill he is fast asleep clutching one of the new toy trains, happy, exhausted and completely filled with love…
I’m yet to top this day among all other occasions, Christmas or not, with a complete fulfillment of what a “perfect” holiday should be.
What’s Cooking This Week
To me Christmas Eve meal is always structured around seafood. That’s one day a year when lobsters, shrimp, scallops and such are on the menu no matter the price. The more typical menu this eve would probably be shrimp scampi or lobster Fra Diavolo. This dish however is a nice diversion while still maintaining the traditional seafood theme.
Provencal Seafood Stew
1 lb of any fish cubes (I used salmon, tuna and tilapia)
1/2 lb of medium shrimp, tails removed
8 little neck clams
16 oz of fish stock
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbspoons of lemon juice
3 large sweet potatoes
3 large carrots
1 tspoon of French herbs blend
1/2 tspoon of lemon peel
1/2 tspoon of garlic powder
salt, pepper, olive oil
chopped chives for garnish
In a large dutch oven, heat up some olive oil, thinly slice shallots and saute them for about a minute, then add cut sweet potatoes and saute for several minutes until them start to soften. Add to the pot fish stock, chopped tomatoes with juice, wine and lemon juice, cover it and slowly bring it all to the boil. Season with salt, pepper, lemon peel, garlic powder and spices.
Add chopped carrots and clams, cook for about 10 minutes. Then add shrimp and fish cubes, cook until clams begin to open and the rest of the shrimp and fish look done.
Here I’m serving it with fresh herbs and mozzarella biscuits.
And Merry Christmas to all!