Christmas Eve is celebrated in many different ways. Some people prefer to celebrate with cocktails by the fire with friends, some enjoy hot cocoa and caroling, and some feast on countless treasures of the sea.
The feast of the seven fishes is an Italian tradition that celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus. Italian-American families gather for the meal which, although it's called "seven fishes", can contain many, many more dishes. For hours, plates brimming with shrimp, clams, mussels, and baccala are served with plenty of wine.
Tonight, Steve Martorano will be serving a special Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner at Cafe Martorano. Starting at 6 p.m., the restaurateur/cook will be on hand to cook his favorite dishes from his South Philadelphia childhood including fried calamari; seafood salad; shrimp scampi; salt cod; mussels, linguine with clams in white sauce; and fried smelts.
If you want to try your hand at celebrating at home, Martorano is sharing his special mussels marinara recipe with us. Steve tells us that, "back in the day the only way to clean mussels the right way was to put them in the washing machine. So, we used to buy old-school washing machines and put the mussels in like we were washing clothes."
Martorano reminds us that these days, good, high-quality mussels, like PEI's, don't require that intense kind of cleaning (thankfully).
Steve Martorano's Mussels Marinara
- 1/2 lb. fresh, cleaned Mediterranean mussels
- 4 oz extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
- 6 oz whole D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes
- Pinch of dried oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbs. torn fresh basil, plus additional to garnish
To prepare, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan and add garlic. Cook garlic until browned and add tomatoes and oregano. Season to taste. Let mixture cook for about ten minutes. Add cleaned mussels and basil. Cook until mussels open - making sure to discard mussels that do not open. Serve family style on a white platter with crusty Italian bread to mop up and savor the sauce.
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