The Feast Of Seven Fishes
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, there was fish and more fish even served to the mouse! If this sounds familiar, you’ve experienced the Italian traditional Feast of Seven Fishes. We figured with the government recommending that people eat fish at least twice a week and the increasing number of studies promoting the health benefits of omega 3 oils, this may be the perfect year to kick off your own Feast of Seven Fishes!
The significance of the seven courses of seafood varies depending on to whom one speaks. There are those who believe the origin is in the seven days of creation, others refer to the seven pilgrimage churches in Rome, others to the seven sacraments and others to the seven hills of Rome. As to why fish? The belief is held that the night prior to a religious feast a vigil is held so no meat is served. Others think it is a way to “cleanse” the night before a large Christmas day feast. Whatever the origin, there is fish and more fish!
Traditional Italian families typically serve a meal that includes baccala (salted, dried cod), Squid, Smelts, a pasta with anchovies or tuna, eels, shellfish and a steak fish. Choices were often determined by the wealth of a family – some serving lobster while others enjoying more affordable mussels or clams. Today, there are many takes on the Feast of Seven Fishes – even the renowned James Beard House in Manhattan hosted a gourmet version with a celebrity chef.
The Feast of Seven Fishes promotes a long, leisurely dinner where each course is savored and paired with appropriate wines for a full eating experience. Games such as an Italian form of bingo are typically played after dinner to incorporate all generations in the holiday festivity. Surprisingly enough, even with seven courses of fish, desserts are served at the conclusion of the feast!
When selecting fish, always let your senses guide you. You want to see a fresh, moist fillet that has no odor. If you are selecting whole fish, make sure the eyes are bright, the flesh is firm to the touch and any bloodlines are bright. Tell your fishmonger you want all natural scallops - "dry pack" can still have water and chemicals added. Foley Fish are all always all natural.
Here is a suggested Feast menu with recipes. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Feast of Seven Fishes
Cold Shellfish Platter
featuring Jonah Crab Claws, Cape Cod Oysters, Wellfleet Clams
featuring: Point Judith Calamari
featuring: USA Gulf Shrimp
Sole Florentine with Pine Nuts & Swiss Cheese
featuring: Georges Bank Sole
Scallop, Clam & Pasta Toss
featuring: Georges Bank Sea Scallops, Georges Bank Chopped Clams
Pan Seared Haddock in Tomato Sauce
featuring: Georges Bank Haddock
Simply Elegant Swordfish
featuring: Block Island Swordfish
RECIPES: Cold Calamari Salad (serves 6-8)
2 1/2 pounds cleaned calamari
2 cups milk
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
head of radicchio
lemon zest for garnish
Calamari: Soak calamari in milk, overnight. In a large pot, bring water to roiling boil. Add salt and lemon juice. Blanch tubes and tentacles no more than 3 minutes. Cut tubes into 1/8” rings and cut tentacles in half.
Dressing: In a large bowl, combine cilantro, celery, olive oil, onion, rice wine vinegar and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to marry flavors.
To Serve: Toss squid with dressing and serve cold on radicchio with lemon zest for garnish.
Shrimp Scampi a la Scotty (serves 4)
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/4 cup butter
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup dry vermouth
Marinate shrimp in refrigerator for 1 hour. Place 4 tablespoons marinade in sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté shrimp for 2 minutes on each side. Add 2 more garlic cloves, if desired. Add butter, lemon juice, parsley and dry vermouth to pan. Blend together and cook for approximately 5 more minutes. Serve hot.
Sole Florentine with Pine Nuts and Swiss Cheese (serves 12)
5 pounds sole fillets (24 fillets)
pinch of nutmeg
2 pounds frozen, chopped spinach thawed and drained
4 ounces pine nuts, toasted
½ pound swiss cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix cheese, eggs, spices and pine nuts into spinach. Lay out 12 fillets in baking pans. Place spinach filling along center of each fillet. Cover each spinach-topped fillet with second fillet, splitting the top fillet to show the filling. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with paprika. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.
Scallop, Clam and Pasta Toss (serves 4)
1 pound chopped clams
1 pound bay scallops or small sea scallops
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
pinch dried oregano
1 pound linguine
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Cook linguine in rapidly boiling salted water. Drain. Sauté garlic in olive oil. When golden, add clams and scallops along with 1 cup clam juice and white wine. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until clams are heated through and scallops are cooked. Uncover, add oregano and parsley. Cook for 1 minute to heat. Return drained linguine to large pot over med-high heat. Stir in clam and scallop sauce. Toss with wooden spoon for 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Pan Seared Haddock with Tomato Sauce (serves 4)
4 portions haddock (8 ounces each)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
14 ounce can peeled & seeded chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
Haddock: Salt and flour haddock portions. Fry haddock portions in four tablespoons of very hot oil until lightly golden (1-2 minutes each side). Drain haddock on paper towels and set aside.
Sauce: Heat remaining oil in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced. Nestle haddock into pan among the tomatoes. Add the parsley. Cook for 5-8 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and serve hot.
Simply Elegant Broiled Swordfish (serves 6)
6 swordfish steaks (1” thick)
salt & black pepper to taste
2 cups canola oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 cup dry white wine
dash of Tabasco
1/2 pound soft butter
1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon roasted red peppers (Jarred is fine)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
Season steaksvwith salt and pepper. Combine oil, soy sauce, shallots, white wine and Tabasco to make marinade. Marinate steaks for 1 hour, in refrigerator, turning once. Preheat broiler. Broil, turning once approximately 10 minutes per inch of thickness, turning once. Serve with maitre d’hotel butter.