Our Christmas Eve menu is always the same. The main course is lobsters fra diavolo, made according to a recipe I developed from watching my Neapolitan aunt make them every Christmas eve and only on that vigil. If I requested them on any other occasion, she refused. For her, as they are for me, they were special; something to be anticipated and then consumed with great relish. I still remember my diminutive aunt slaughtering the live lobsters; a task that as she got older she relegated to me. “Center the cleaver right between their eyes,” she said. “And press down hard; don’t hesitate.” And this memory brings me such great joy.
We were so busy last night that we only took one picture of the lobsters, right before they went into the oven. The recipe, like so many of my aunt’s, is relatively simple; nothing fancy and I share it here with you in the hope that it will bring the same seasonal joy to you as it does to us.
1 large clove garlic minced fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste
1 jigger of brandy/cognac
1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, simmer the garlic and pepper flakes in the olive oil over low flame until aromatic (approx 5 – 7 minutes). Don’t let the garlic brown.
2. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, season with salt and pepper, and simmer sauce for about 15 to 20 minutes minutes. After the first 5 minutes, add the brandy.
3. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Stuffing for Lobsters (Quantity is for 4 1½-pound lobsters)
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup grated Romano cheese
2 large garlic cloves minced fine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Lobster coral (make sure to remove any overly dark pieces of the coral)
1. Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, garlic, and oregano, salt and pepper. Gradually add just enough olive oil to moisten the breadcrumb mixture. The breadcrumbs should be just moist enough so they clump when pinched.
2. Add the lobster coral and mix just until incorporated. If the mixture is too moist, add more breadcrumbs. If too dry, add a little more olive oil.
3. After killing and slitting the lobsters lengthwise, and removing the sack behind the neck, stuff the lobsters in the cavities in front of the tail.
4. Add a ladle or two of sauce to each of the baking dishes Place the lobsters in the baking dishes shell-side down. Ladle sauce over the claws and the tail meat, but not on the stuffing. Add remaining sauce to the bottom of each baking dish.
5. Drizzle the lobsters with a little olive oil.
6. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes.