Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

New Year's Eve always make me feel a bit melancholy.  Forced fun and mandatory kissing have never been my idea of a good time.  And let's face it, trotting out Dick Clark every year is just sad.  Once the hoopla of Christmas is over, it's like one long funeral dirge to bury the old year.  This year is no different, although instead of thinking about lost opportunities and lost friends, I've been thinking a lot about lost traditions. 

My mom is Italian and my dad is Southern.  Growing up, New Year's Eve was marked with an age-old dish from the Adriatic Coast: fried fish smothered in anchovy sauce.  In the old country it was likely the Church's way of supporting the local fish industry, and it stuck.

Then, on New Year's Day we'd be greeted by the smell of black-eyed peas simmering over a ham hock.  Your luck in the New Year was measured by how many of the slimy spotted beans you'd be willing to eat.  Not eating any was a pact with Bad Luck, and thus, not an option.  I could usually coax one down my throat.

When I married, my husband--normally more than happy to snarf down anything I put in front of him-- could never get his palate around the anchovy sauce, and I pretty much quit eating back-eyed peas the year I turned 18.  My children don't have these traditions, and for some reason--that saddens me.   Call it middle age or just misplaced nostalgia, but this year I'm ringing in the New Year with fried fish, anchovy sauce and black-eyed peas.  Auld Lang Syne, my friends, auld lang syne.

Fried Fish

1.  Purchase about 2 lbs of a mild, but firm white fish, like haddock or flounder, scaled and filleted.  Avoid tilapia, it's too fragile for this recipe.

2.  In a small bowl mix about 2 cups of Italian bread crumbs and 2 Tbs dried parsley.

3.  In a small pie plate or fluted dish, vigorously beat 2 eggs until the whites and yolks are fully blended.

4.  Heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in a large frying pan until just smoking.

5.  Dredge a fish fillet with the egg wash, then dredge it through the breadcrumbs so that it is fully coated on both sides, and then dredge it through the egg wash one more time.  Fry it until golden brown.  Repeat with every piece of fish until you're done.  You may need to mix up more egg wash and breadcrumbs.

Anchovy Sauce

1.  On low heat in a large sauce pan, mix together the following:  Two 27-ounce cans of tomato puree or crushed whole tomatoes, 2 large cloves of garlic--mashed, 1 Tbs dried parsley, 1 can of flat anchovies, with the oil, 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, 1/2 Tbs capers--chopped, 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives (optional), salt and pepper to taste.    Simmer for about 2 hours until thick.  Add a can of tomato paste about half-way through if necessary.

2.  Serve over the fried fish and a generous helping of rotini pasta.

Black-eyed Peas

1.  Rinse and clean one pound of dried black-eyed peas.  Drain.

2.  Chop and saute over medium heat one small onion until soft and translucent--about 10 minutes.

3.  Add the now-cleaned beans to a large sauce pan, and cover with water--about 4 cups.  Add the cooked onion and one ham hock.

4.  Simmer over medium-low heat until tender.  Drain any excess water.  Remove the hammock and add any bits of meat to the beans.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remark on how much better these taste since when you were a kid.

5.  Have a very Happy New Year.

1 comment:

  1. My family always celebrated the New Year with root beer floats, even when we were in the single digits and were only allowed to stay up until 9 PM. There's still nothing more festive to me than the fizzle running all over the kitchen counter!