Ringing in the Holidays

By Isabel Minunni

  Isabel Minunni

Isabel Minunni

The holidays are a special time of year. They signify spending time with loved ones, celebrating and making a lifetime of memories. It’s a time of reflection and appreciating those close and dear to us.

I am a home cook who loves entering recipe contests. I was featured on the Today Show and had the pleasure of competing and cooking for Kelly and Michael on the Kelly Show. I also won a trip to Italy. Although I enjoy sharing my love of cooking with others, what I love the most is cooking for family! I especially like hosting holidays and special occasions at home! We are a large Italian family, which means plenty of people and plenty of great food!

Every year we host a Christmas Eve party. Although we do not follow the true seven fishes tradition, fish is served in addition to an abundance of meat and pasta for all!

Two of my favorite recipes to serve on a special occasion, especially Christmas Eve is my rendition of Beef Burgundy (Beef Bourguignon). I use filet mignon and strain the sauce to make a more refined texture. This recipe is such a hit, it is now a tradition!

I absolutely love cioppino any time of year! I am a seafood lover and this dish just screams fancy! You can choose any combination of seafood you’d like for your cioppino. The sauce can be made ahead of time, a helpful time saver during the holidays. I choose a delicious assortment of shellfish for this festive cioppino.

Shellfish Cioppino

Prep Time: 20 minutesCook Time: 40 minutes - Serves: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Leeks - sliced in ¼ inch rounds and cleaned
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 1/2 cups good quality dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup clam juice
2 cups fish stock
1-28 ounce can good quality plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
18 clams
6 cooked small clusters of snow crab legs - room temp.
1 1/4 pound cooked lobster - room temp. - broken up into 6 equal pieces
18 shrimps
18 sea scallops
2 tablespoons dried parsley for garnish (if desired)
6 small sprigs of fresh curly parsley

In a large Dutch oven with olive oil, cook leeks on medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until just starting to soften. Mix in garlic and cook for another minute, add wine and let cook for another couple minutes to cook out wine. Add in fennel, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, broth, clam juice, fish stock, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and parsley. 

Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. 

Place clams into broth until just ready to open, about 4 minutes, place crab and lobster into the pot to warm, add shrimp and scallops to cook until just opaque, about three minutes depending on size. Place an even amount of seafood and broth into 6 serving bowls and serve. Garnish with parsley if desired.   Enjoy! 

Warm Holidays Wishes, Isabel