For a traditional Southern Italian Christmas (and now an Italian-American staple), the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a grand event of seafood fare on Christmas Eve. Smelts, squid, whole sea bass, and clams fill plates that are passed around large tables to fill bellies before Santa arrives. Why there are seven fishes represented at this poignant gathering is still up for debate. Is it because 7 is a lucky number? Is it for the number of days in the week? Symbolic of the day of rest? Who really knows, but a ton of seafood is consumed, so I am more than okay with that!
We love seafood here, so let me help spark some ideas for your feast, and maybe create a new tradition! With the right items, this meal is easier to prepare than you would expect.
1. Cap-off Jonah Cocktail Claws
Sweet , tender, and snackable – perfect for an hors d’oeuvre. Serve with a grilled lemon aioli to make a simple and elegant dip while people mingle and sip cocktails.
2. Oysters – All of them.
Try experimenting with a few varieties and different mignonettes or sauces. Want to really shake things up? Try grilling some with herb and shallot butter while you’re grilling lemons for your crab claws.
3. Live Scallop
Glamour is defined by a scallop served in its own shell. Shuck one raw, slice, and garnish with herbs and a funky vinegar or flavored salt. Keep it simple. They can shine completely on their own, especially since they're in season.
4. Scungilli / Live Whelk
Here comes the salad course. Local live whelk can be poached, steamed, or grilled, and sliced on a bed of hearty greens, parsley, and sweet onions. Dress with plenty of olive oil and lemon zest.
5. Stuffed Quahogs
A little bit of New England influence never hurt anyone. Steam the clams open, chop the meat, and mix with herbs, bacon, and breadcrumbs. Stuff it back in the shell and bake until golden. The sweetness of this dish should be a great segue for the courses to come.
6. Linguine with Manila Clams
It's not officially an Italian feast without a pasta course. Manilla clams are the perfect size for a petite burst of salty sweet accents to a tender linguine, spaghetti, or angel hair. Steam the clams open with garlic and white wine, stir in some butter, pour over the pasta, and season with plenty of black pepper.
7. Cioppino with Mussels
Finish your feast with a belly warming stew featuring mussels. Nothing makes me feel all warm inside like slurping shells and sopping up tomato broth with huge chunks of bread (something crusty and rustic!). Start by sweating onions, garlic, and shallots. Add sherry or white wine, crushed tomatoes and simmer, reducing slightly. Add in whitefish, crab, and plenty of sweet mussels to round out a perfect and festive evening.
If your culinary juices are flowing, feel free to email me for further ideas or recipes.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!