NEAPOLITAN CHRISTMAS DISHES
What do Neapolitans eat during Christmas holiday?
Not all Italians know and much less one who is not Italian, or as any Neapolitan who has lived abroad for too many years. Since this is a blog about Neapolitan culture I could not avoid to dedicate a post to this tasty subject. Aside from some ingredients, hard to find on the other side of the ocean, many of these recipes are easy to make and those who enjoy the Neapolitan cuisine or who just want to taste something special for this Christmas, may try and present these dishes on the table. The applause will be guaranteed!
Any ‘genuine’ Neapolitan already knows what he eats during the holidays because the menu has ancient tradition handed down from mother to daughter, and it is very important to us. On almost all the Neapolitan tables you find the same dishes and shops are used to sell these usual products during this time of year. I’m referring, for example, to clams, eels, oysters, cauliflower, broccoli, cod, and the ingredients to prepare some classical dish. One of them is the “minestra maritata” (literally ‘married soup’), so called because the different ingredients mix as to “get married” each other to give an unique vegetable-meat stock. The typical ingredients are: chicory (cicoria), endive small (we call them scarola or ‘scarurelle’), broccoli, borage (which gives it a slightly bitter), chard (bietole), spinach, cabbage (verza) and with turnip (cime di rapa) too; in some variant is also used the Catalonia, while the meat is typically beef, pork chops and rind, other cuts and a typical sausage (made with salted pork intestine). Traditional also is the “Insalata di rinforzo” (literally Salad reinforcement), an appetizing salad make with boiled cauliflower, oil, vinegar, olives, anchovies and pickles. In every cake-shop and supermarket you then can find Panettone, Pandoro (traditional in the northern Italy), Rococo, Struffoli, Mustaccioli or Susamielli, just the traditional Neapolitan sweets together wine, Spumante and other liquors as drinks.
Well, during the holidays we have to distinguish from Christmas day and Christmas eve, as like as New Year day and New Year’s eve that precedes the so-called “Veglione” (New Year’s party).
The “Cenone” (the big New Year’s meal) is generally freer than Christmas’s and can also include the same courses as Christmas dinner, and not so important especially if people go to some restaurant or disco to enjoy the long nightly party among dances and dishes. As a rite, Neapolitans cannot pass a New Year’s eve without a slow long slow meal. But, here’s now a typical
Christmas’s eve meal
Oysters and spumante (ostriche e spumante);
Spaghetti with clams (spaghetti alle vongole), [with or without cherry-tomatoes;
Broccoli (lemon) salad (broccoli all’insalata);
Dried (salt-cured) cod (baccalà fritto);
Insalata di Rinforzo;
Dried large eel (capitone fritto);
As pastime a mix of dried fruits as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and the wonderful “castagne del prete” (Priest’s chestnuts), a particular dried chestnut got by a slow steam-cooking.
Of course, local or bottled wine can’t lack.
[You can read this previous post about some Italian dish pronounce.
Vegetable/meat stock (Minestra maritata), [Note that many make it simply with pieces of hen only and then use the broth to get pasta soup (tortellini, ravioli, or any egg-pasta)];
Instead of Soup, someone prepare Cannelloni or maccheroni at ragout simply or pasta with sauce of baked lamb with peas and potato.
As second course we can find fish (grilled king prawn, roasted sea-bream, i.e.) or meat (grilled chop lamb, roast beef, i.e.), also if usually Neapolitan families will try to consume some of the ingredients bought or prepared the day before, as Broccoli, cod or eel, Insalata di Rinforzo, etc.
After any meal can’t lack the traditional desserts as Panettone and Pandoro also if these one aren’t typical of Napoli but always accompanied with Roccocò and Struffoli, then drinking spumante, Limoncello or a different. [ I talked about this in the post Neapolitan sweets. ]
For you some recipe now
Spaghetti con vongole
you find the recipe here: https://italiots.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/italian-dish/
Broccoli leaves salad with salt anchovies
We are referring to Italian broccoli that is mostly leaves, with just little flowerets because they just are the leaves to be eaten here in fact people from other regions used to call Neapolitans “leaf-eaters” even.
Trim off the leaves from the raw broccoli stem, discarding those too big or shabby and the tough stalk at the end. Cut the largest leaves and the trim off flowerets too, then wash broccoli thoroughly.
Place in a large pot with water and blanch for the necessary time the leaves become soft and flaccid (15 min should be sufficient). Drain and leave them to cool. Shortly before the dinner is on, dress boiled broccoli with olive oil, some crumbled garlic cloves, salt and lemon juice. Take some salt-packed-anchovies from the can and wash them a little bit before to add them to the salad. You can avoid to add anchovies in the case you don’t like them. The salad is ready and can be utilized to accompany some fried dishes as cod or eel.
Dried (salt-cured) cod
Call it baccalá, bacalao, bacalhau, morue, but we usually buy pieces already soaked and ready to be cooked, otherwise you need to soak the dried fish in fresh water for 2-3 days, changing the water every day – so plan it ahead.
Once got the soaked fillets, dry them and if possible, coat with white flour before frying.
Fry in abundant and hot oil until both sides of the chunks become slightly golden. Drain it on absorbent paper and avoid to add salt!
Dried large eel
You should buy one still alive and able to cut into pieces before wash and dry.
As for cod, better to cover any pieces with white flour before frying.
Fry in abundant and hot oil until eel pieces become slightly golden, then remove the fish with a slotted spoon, drain it on absorbent paper, salt it, and serve it at once, with lemon wedges or with white vinegar squeeze. For someone the exterior fried skin can be hard to digest but, it can be easily put away.
Insalata di Rinforzo
Despite it’s not so difficult to prepare, I advise you to buy a ready-made-can at supermarket, otherwise you need to buy cauliflower, oil, white vinegar, olives, salt-packed-anchovies and different pickles. You need to boil the white cauliflower till becomes soft in advance. It has to be fork-tender (a fork slips in easily), but not overcooked. Once drain and cool cut it in small pieces and in a large bowl add green (or black too) olives, washed salt-anchovies, pickles, oil, salt and vinegar. You got a good one adding slices of small vinegar peppers instead of the pickles.
Vegetable/meat stock (Minestra maritata)
It’s a difficult recipe both to find different ingredients and to prepare it. As vegetable you should find at least more than two of the following one: chicory, small endivel, broccoli leaves, spinach, borage, chard, green cabbage, turnip; while chicory, spinach, chard and endive could be sufficient. An example for 5-6 people
1 pound spinach
1 pound chicory
1 pound escarole
1 pound small endive
1 pound chard
1/2 green cabbage
Some cheese rind (parmigiano crust) if u have
A bouquet garnis.
Once trimmed off and washed accurately the vegetables you need a big pot.
some cheese rind (parmigiano crust) if u have.
As meat you need (at least) pieces of beef and pork chops, also if u can add some pork rind (not so fat and without hair), some Italian fresh sausage (or cotechino), a prosciutto bone with some meat attached. if you cannot find pork chops and rind use prosciutto rind or use a quarter pound of fresh side pork (the cut used to make bacon). Do not substitute pork rinds or bacon, which have spices that will throw off the seasoning.
Remember you are going to make a vegetable-meat stock so it’s worth to add more ingredients also if in the end you will get something a little bit different from the original Neapolitan ‘minestra maritata’ taste.
Prepare a bouquet garnis consisting of a rib of celery, a garlic clove, 1 onion, a peeled carrot and some sprigs parsley, tied with a string.
Wash the meat and put it in a pot with the herbs. Cover all the meat to a depth of about 3 inches with water, add salt and set the pot on the stove. Simmer for two hours or more.
In the meantime, blanch the greens in a little bit of lightly salted water (dump them into the pot, cover it, wait for the water to return to a boil, and after some minute drain the vegetables into a colander). Squeeze out as much water as you can (it will be quite bitter because of the broccoli rabe).
Give a look to the meat, if the pork rind still is tough, remove other meat and let it boil more. Transfer the pulled meat to another pot, and add to it a ladle or two of broth; check seasoning, adding more salt if necessary, cover the pot and set it aside. Let the broth in the stock pot cool and skim the fat that rises to the surface. Return the pot to the fire. Crumble the Parmigiano crusts and stir it into the stock, together with the drained vegetables and a pinch of hot pepper. Simmer for about a half hour, and check seasoning, adding salt if necessary. In the end add the pulled meat, mix and boil again for some minutes. Serve the soup very hot adding grated Parmigiano on the side if you like.
The wine? I’d go with a white, either a Fiano or a Greco di Tufo.