Cooking With James: Christmas Traditions

By James Benazzi

All of us that have celebrated wonderful Christmas days have several Christmas traditions that are marked with wonderful memories.  Because we are Americans, we have so many delicious and wonderful things to choose from and can select a world variety of cuisine.  Some people would choose to have a beef stew, a chicken pot pie, a pork roast or even roast some chateau Briand to a perfect medium rare.  Some people would choose to get a little more ethnic and celebrate their heritage with tamales, escargot, pasteles or pho.   Here at A Thyme Savor Catering, we try and keep everything local and fresh, including the fish that is our bounty on the coast.

When I think about Christmas and Christmas Eve dinner, I can remember all of the wonderful things I had on those special days.  From a classic Minestrone to a perfectly roasted moist turkey.  One Christmas Eve, we made a delectable fish stew called Cioppino, which is super healthy and delicious.

Please be sure to call us for your next holiday event here at A Thyme Savor Catering.  We would be happy to share in your holiday memories and serve you professionally. Our phone number is (910) 262 – 2962.  We can be found at 5941 Carolina Beach Road across from the Beau Rivage Market Place in Potter’s Square.

Below is the recipe for the Cioppino I had mentioned:

6 to 8 servings


  • Firm white fish fillets — 2 pounds
  • Cooked Dungeness crab or Blue crab (Seasonal) — (1-2-pound)
  • Clams or mussels — 1 1/2 pounds
  • Shrimp — 1 pound
  • Olive oil — 1/4 cup
  • Onions, chopped — 2
  • Garlic, minced — 3 to 4 cloves
  • Crushed tomatoes — 1 (28-ounce) can
  • Red or white wine — 1 cup
  • Fish or shellfish stock, or clam juice — 3 cups
  • Parsley, chopped — 1/4 cup
  • Basil, chopped — 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper — to taste


  1. Cut the fish fillets into bite-sized chunks. Clean the crab, remove its legs and crack them with a nutcracker to allow easy access to the meat. Break the body into halves or quarters. Scrub the clams or mussels clean under running water and de-beard the mussels. Peel and devein the shrimp. Set all the seafood aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high flame. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half in volume. Add the stock or clam juice, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the fish and shrimp and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes. Next, add the crab and clams or mussels, pushing them down into the soup a little. Cover the pot and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the clams or mussels are steamed open and cooked through.
  5. Scoop the stew into large bowls, garnish with a little chopped parsley and serve with thick slices of sourdough bread. It’s best to have a side plate for each diner to hold empty shells.

Happy Holidays from all of us at A Thyme Savor.  Cheers!


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