Feast of the Seven Fishes is Our Favorite Christmas Tradition
Feasting is our column dedicated to cooking, grilling, eating and discovering what’s on the menu across America and the world.
If you grew up in an Italian-American family, feast of the seven fishes was no doubt part of your Christmas Eve tradition. No one is exactly sure where the number came from—some say seven represents the sacraments, but other families will prepare 10 for stations of the cross or 13 for Jesus and the apostles. The tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve stems from the practice of fasting, or abstaining from meat, but it’s turned into quite the extravagant spread in most households. Whether you’re Italian or not, feast of the seven fishes is a delicious holiday meal that everyone should experience at least once. So we’ve gathered recipes from our favorite chefs around the country so you can prepare this celebratory dinner for your friends and family this holiday season.
Halibut Collar Hot Pot
Chef Sean Telo, 21 Greenpoint
2 lbs fish bones, Telo likes fluke racks but you can use whatever you like
1 gallon water
2 sweet white onions, large dice
1 head of celery, large dice
4 long hot peppers, torn into large pieces
6 wild bay leaves
1 sheet sugar kelp or kombu
White distilled vinegar
1 halibut collar, cleaned and cut in half with a hatchet
1 small bunch of tatsoi, torn
1 rib yokatana (Asian greens)
2 small diced radishes
2 small diced hakueri turnips
For the broth:
Place all the ingredients for the broth into a stock pot and bring to a very low simmer. The trick is to never boil or even simmer to hot because you want the broth to go low and slow for about three hours. Strain the broth once it tastes delicious. Season with white distilled vinegar and salt.
To assemble the hot pot:
Grill the skin side of the halibut collar until well charred, then transfer into a cast iron pot with the radishes, yokatana and tatsoi. Add enough broth to touch the bottom of the collar but not submerge it. Simmer until all ingredients are cooked through, and serve.
Makes 30 2 oz tasting portions
3 lbs peeled U12 Shrimp
3 habanero chiles, grilled or roasted
1 16 ounce can coconut milk
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp salt
8 cups water
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh lime juice
.5 cup rice wine vinegar
.5 cup pickled onion
In a sauce pot, combine the water, salt, bay leaf, coriander seeds, 2 of the oranges and 2 of the squeezed limes, and bring to a boil. In a bowl or container set up an ice bath with ice, water and the remaining 2 squeezed limes and oranges. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and let cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to the ice bath and let cool. Dice.
In a blender, combine the grilled or roasted habanero chiles, rice vinegar, can of coconut milk and juice of 1 lime. Purée until smooth. Pour just about a cup of this mixture over the diced shrimp, add about 2 tablespoons of evoo and juice of 1 lime. Add some of the chopped cilantro and sea salt to taste. Mix well and serve in a bowl garnished with pickled onions, chive and cilantro.
Serve with Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Torrontés.
Saffron Grilled Octopus Salad
Chef Mario Alcocer, Visconti Ristorante & Bar
“I like this dish because it involves more work than just putting a mix of lettuce on the table,” Chef Alcocer said. “On special occasions, especially once every year, it’s my belief to put your best effort forward by being adventurous and enjoying dishes that would make the feast of the seven fishes a special day to remember.”
1 4-pound whole octopus
3 bay leaves
1 white onion, cut in quarters)
4 garlic cloves roughly smashed
15 saffron threads
3 bunches kale, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 large head fennel, shaved with a mandolin or thinly sliced
.5 red onion, sliced and resting in ice water
.5 lb Brussels sprouts, shaved
.25 lb pancetta, cut and cooked until crispy
4 cups orange juice
1 oz Dijon mustard
2 oz lemon juice
8 oz extra virgin olive oil
.5 oz chili flakes
Large pinch of dried oregano
In a large pot, place octopus, white onion, garlic, bay leaves tomato juice and saffron. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough water to cover the octopus and cook on low heat. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Let the octopus cool then cut it into large pieces that would stay on the grill.
To make the vinaigrette, place orange, lemon juice and mustard into a blender. At a low speed, start pouring in olive oil to create an emulsification. Add water if needed. Season with oregano and chili flakes.
Preheat the grill. Toss octopus with salt and olive oil. Place the octopus on the grill and sear on both sides. Let cool. Cut and toss with some of the vinaigrette and let it marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Toss lettuce, red onions and Brussels sprouts with vinaigrette and place on a large platter. Toss the octopus, fennel and pancetta with the remaining vinaigrette and place on top of the salad, making sure the octopus is evenly distributed. Serve.
Related: Get to Know Bottarga
Pan Roasted Black Cod Livornese with Clams, Potato Gratin & Flying Fish Caviar
Chef Rodney Murillo, Davio’s
Four 7 oz. pieces black cod
Salt to taste
Pan sear the cod on high heat, skin side down, first for 30 seconds, then flip and sear for another 30 seconds. Add clams to the pan. Cook in 400º oven for 5 minutes. If the clams haven’t opened yet, remove the fish from the pan and let it rest. Continue to cook the clams until they open.
1 pint olive oil
1 pint shaved garlic
2 quarts chopped San Marzano tomatoes
1 quart white wine
1 cup lemon juice
2 quarts clam stock
Salt and pepper to taste
In saucepan, sweat the olive oil, shaved garlic, and shallots. Add tomatoes. Add white wine and reduce. Add lemon juice and reduce. Add clam stock and reduce. Add rosemary, salt and pepper and let simmer for five minutes.
15 Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced on a mandolin
1 quart heavy cream
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese (separated)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, mix together potatoes, cream, 1 cup parmesan, salt and pepper. In a buttered baking dish, layer potato mixture and additional parmesan cheese until you have multiple layers. Bake covered with foil at 375º for 45 min. Take foil off and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown on top and center is soft when pricked with a toothpick.
Plate cod, clams, Livornese and potato gratin and garnish with flying fish caviar.
Sardines with Winter Radish and Preserved Lemon
Chef Michael Kaphan, Farmer & the Fish
Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette:
75 grams preserved lemon
9 grams Italian parsley
10 grams fresh thyme leaves
1 small garlic clove
10 grams capers
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
.5 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree for one minute.
12 sardines, rinsed and gutted
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Assorted radishes (daikon, watermelon, black, breakfast or red), sliced thin on a mandolin
Arrange the sliced radishes on six plates. Place sliced lemon on a pan and place one sardine atop each slice. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and broil for 1-2 minutes. Flip sardines and return to broiler until skin begins to change color and belly bones start to show. Place two sardines on each plate prepped with radish and drizzle with preserved lemon vinaigrette. Serve.