Clams Oreganata – Feast of the Seven Fishes
A Christmas Eve meal for many Roman Catholics, and in particular Italian families, is a meal that is absent of all meat and is traditionally focused around fish dishes.
The Christmas Eve meal is all about eating fish, seven different kinds in fact. This Christmas Eve tradition symbolizes the “Seven Sacraments” of the Roman Catholic Church.
Some may say that in Roman times the tradition of the “Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve was to signify the seven hills that surrounded the city of Rome. Others may argue that it represents the seven days it took God to create the Heavens and Earth.
In any case, it is a day for religious followers of the Catholic faith to abstain from meat and celebrate Christmas Eve with a meal of only fish.
Some of the most popular and time-honored fish are preparations of: lobster, calamari, baccala (codfish), oysters, scallops, whiting, shrimp, scungilli (a type of sea snail), mussels and clams.
I am sharing this Clams Oreganata recipe for the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” or La Vigilia di Natale (the Christmas Vigil) in Italian. These are best made with Little Neck Clams as suggested below. They provide a tasty and tender clam perfect for this type of recipe.
Now, you will have only six more fish dishes to choose to satisfy the tradition of the seven fish for a Christmas Eve feast!
- 12- Little Neck Clams ( shells scrubbed clean of sand and any debris )
- 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons – Olive Oil
- 6 cloves – garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon – Oregano (dried)
- 1/2 cup – flat leaf Italian parsley (chopped fine)
- 1 cup – Italian seasoned breadcrumbs ( store bought or homemade)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3-Lemons (quartered and seeded)
- Scrub clams well. Place in a bowl and cover by one inch of cool water. Lightly salt the water and let the clams purge for a few hours or preferably overnight.
- Drain and rinse the purged clams and place in a clean container with cool water. Hold until ready to use in the refrigerator.
- Place 1 inch of water into a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- At the boil, add the clams. Cover and cook approximately 5 minutes.
- Discard any unopened clams and remove pot from heat.
- Remove the clam meat from the opened shells. Leave the clam meat whole or, if desired, chop coarsely.
- Cover a baking sheet with foil and place 12 half clam shells on it.
- Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
- Add garlic and cook stirring constantly until golden brown.
- Remove from heat and stir in parsley, oregano, chopped clams and bread crumbs and mix well.
- Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill shells with mixture, dividing evenly.
- Drizzle tops with remaining olive oil.
- Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes.
- Turn oven to broil and place tray 2-3 inches from the flame and broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately with fresh cut lemon wedges
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!