I am a lucky gal. We’ve been invited to spend Christmas Eve with friends who are celebrating with their family, Italian style. Even though I grew up with Italian grandparents, I can only remember one time time when we had a traditional multi-course seafood dinner on Christmas Eve, and that was hosted by my cousin and his wife. For some time now J. and I have had our own tradition of having pasta fra diavolo (a spicy seafood sauce with shrimp and scallops) to celebrate La Vigilia (Christmas Eve), but I was thrilled to be included in L.’s family festivities. I toyed with the idea of making stuffed clams as my contribution, but in the end decided to go with this easy and flavorful shrimp appetizer. Any recipe that includes fresh fennel works for me.
Shrimp Marinated in Fennel
2 pounds medium shrimp, lightly cooked, peeled and deveined
1 cup coarsely chopped fennel tops
1 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Coarse salt and pepper to taste
Fruity olive oil
8 bay leaves
Alternate layers of shrimp, fennel and lemon slices in a glass or enamel bowl. Season each layer with the dried re chile pepper, fennel seeds, garlic, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to cover. Arrange the bay leaves over the top and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.