January 8, 2012

A Portuguese Christmas - You've Never Seen So Much Seafood

A Christmas spread - and that was just the appetizers!
I figured that I'm already pushing the boundaries of Christmas being relevant, so I better get this post up ASAP.  Laid before your eyes is the Christmas appetizer spread that my girlfriend's family had laid out on 24th of December.  While the focal point at this festive time for American families tends to be a nice big ham (which we would have on this night), Europeans tend to highlight fish in honor of St. Nick.  There was enough fish at this table that I was burping up salt water for the next 48 hours (not even close to kidding).  Of course, being the gluttonous time of year it is, it would seem foolish to limit ourselves to fin friendly delectables, so various other salty and fatty items were sent to adorn this table in copious amounts.  The table above (somewhat from top to bottom) includes baked scallops, Spanish tortilla, jumbo cocktail shrimp, King Crab legs, pasteis de bacalhau (cod fritters), rissois de camarao (breaded and fried pockets of dough with shrimp and cream sauce in the middle), cocktail crab claws, prosciutto stuffed cherry peppers, fresh mozzarella, brie, thick cut fresh prosciutto, and smoked salmon (oh boy, I'm starting to get hungry again).  We haven't even made it to the main course yet!  Check detailed pictures and dessert after the jump.

Cocktail claws, a personal favorite of mine
Pasteis de bacalhau - codfish fritters that are deeply seasoned and could be straight out of the deep south

JUMBO shrimp with the rissois de camarao in the background
For the entree starter, we had either stuff crab with roasted red peppers or a stuffed scallop with a slightly spicy vegetable medley.  Both were decadent and felt like a total indulgence, which seemed appropriate for the setting.

Stuffed Crab
There were three main courses at dinner.  We had a slow roasted glazed ham that had juice for days, there was baked codfish, a Portuguese staple at any big meal, and braised octopus, not for the feint of heart, but absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately I was too busy shoveling food into my mouth and washing it down with Portuguese wine by the bottle to take a picture of everything but the ham (see below), but rest assured, they would have been fabulous saliva generating pictures that made you jealous that you weren't there.

Man ,what a ham.
The final part of the meal, and something that the Portuguese take more seriously than most political agendas and religious beliefs, was dessert.  We could have killed all of the diabetics in America with the amount of sugar on that freaking table.  The following is a list of desserts that my girlfriend have comprised from memory, and it is surely incomplete:

-Carrot Walnut Cake
-Rice Pudding
-Leite Creme (Portuguese creme brulee)
-Leite Creme Cheesecake
-Giant Homemade Cream Puffs
-Obligatory Fruit Cake

Carrot Walnut Cake
Rice Pudding - it was so good someone got into it in the top left before I could snap a picture

Leite Creme - sweet and crunchy burnt sugar on the top of an ocean of silky custard

Homemade Cream Puffs - way better than the ones you buy from Costco, I had about 5 of them

What holiday party, in any culture, is complete without Fruit Cake?  FYI - this did go untouched for the duration of the evening.
 Oh, and I forgot to mention that we were all dressed up in ridiculous pajamas for the entire party - that explained the dozen bottle of empty wine on the kitchen table the next morning.

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