Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad's:
When I was growing up my father was the executive chef of most holiday cooking in my family. My mother Celeste usually handled most of Christmas Day and Thanksgiving pretty unbelievably well too. On Christmas Eve we usually had a few aunts, uncles, grandparents, and a cousin or two over to eat at this Joe Coltré traditional annual culinary event. Joe never held back what he wanted to cook for us, his family. On this day, Christmas Eve was traditionally an Italian seafood fiesta.
After shrimp cocktail, assorted pepperoni’ , salami, cheese, marinated vegetables, olives, crackers, and Italian bread- the dream seafood meal always started with one of his phenomenal sauces on linguine or fettuccini. I am talking phenomenal here. Everyone had seconds. My favorite was the red clam, shrimp, and lobster tail sauce on linguine. This was the most popular I would have to say (with or without the shrimp in it). Next course which I guess you could say was a gigantic monster main course- was the incredible assortment of shrimp casseroles; calamari sautéed in wine sauce; calamari in spicy hot sauce; a tray of large broiled lobster tails with drawn butter; battered and fried smelts; and a huge broiled salmon. Occasionally there would be some sautéed steamed clams and mussels. Of course the vegetables he put together somehow were juicy dishes like swiss-charge or rapini (or both) in olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper; baby peas with bacon and chopped sweet onion; battered and fried chopped artichokes; stuffed artichokes; chopped artichokes sautéed in a olive oil and garlic; asparagus sautéed in a olive oil and garlic; stuffed mushrooms with chopped almonds; and a salad filled with roman and curly lettuce among other greens and salad delights. Red and white wines; lemon-lime, ginger ale, cola sodas; coffee, espresso; liquors and flavored brandies. Trays full of Italian pastries such as different types of canola, sfogliatelle, Italian cream puffs, mini vanilla and chocolate custard filled pies; cream filled chocolate covered big round cup cakes, little rainbow cakes, homemade ricotta cheese cake (mom’s), traditional cheese cake, banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, and chocolate cream pie.
Just an incredible experience of homemade down home Italian love- complements of my father Joe! I love you and miss you Dad! Thank you Dad for these memories of culinary masterpieces created with so much love that I have always cherished and will the rest of my life. I can and have shared these memories with my wife, kids, and other relatives; plus lots of friends. To this day I have not been able to reproduce even one eighth of those Christmas Eve meals, but some day I will really give it a try. I don't know how yet, but I will soon! -JC