Spicy Calamari in Red Sauce
We call it “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” It may come as a surprise to some, but there’s really no mystery as to why seafood plays such a major role in the Italian celebration of Christmas Eve. Historically, Italians are Roman Catholics who often turn to seafood repasts during meatless fasts leading to a holiday. Since the eve of Christmas is considered a vigilia, or vigil, it only makes sense to abstain from meat the night before December 25th. Why do most make merry with seven seafood dishes? That’s speculative. Some say it symbolizes the seven sacraments of Roman Catholicism. Others explain, “Well, it took God seven days to create the universe, didn’t it?” It was actually six days, but who’s counting?
2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1 t crushed red pepper
1 cup white wine
3 cups Red Sauce (recipe follows)
2 lbs. calamari cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch rings. Keep tentacles intact.
2 T freshly chopped parsley leaves
1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper, and sauté until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds.
2. Add the white wine and red sauce, increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.
3. Add the calamari and cook for 2 minutes or just until calamari firm up but are still fork tender. Don’t overcook. Serve with a crusty bread for dipping or over linguine.
2 (35-ounce) cans plum tomatoes in juice
6 T olive oil
2 Turkish bay leaves
1 head (about 12 medium cloves) garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 medium carrots (about 8 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 t dried oregano
2 T tomato paste
1 t kosher or sea salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and place your immaculately clean hands in the bowl and crush the tomatoes so they breakup into small pieces.
2. In a 5-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat until it is fragrant, but before it smokes, about 40 seconds.
3. Add the bay leaves and stir them in the oil until they begin to brown, about 10 seconds.
4. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until it starts to turn golden brown, then add the onions, carrots, and oregano. Cook the vegetables until they are very brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, just enough to prevent them from scorching.
5. Add the crushed tomatoes with their juice, the tomato paste, salt and pepper and 1 1/2 cups of water, (white wine or clam juice can be added instead). Bring to a boil.
6. Lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered until the sauce level has reduced by 2 or 3 inches and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cook the sauce for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.
7. Remove from heat, cool down in the pot, then when at room temperature, transfer to a sealed plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. This sauce will keep a week in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator or may be frozen.
Yield: about 2 quarts
(This is a variation of Jasper White’s mussels in red sauce)