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Feast of the Seven Fishes

I'm hosting this year and am looking for ideas on how best to incorporate seven different kinds of seafood. Anything but baccala. No one ever eats it. I've got shrimp cocktail and caesar salad as definites but am open to suggestions for th eother five. Thanks in advance e buon Natale!

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  1. I Love that dinner. I really think it's my favorite Eve dinner. At my parents house we always had an eel dish, sometimes a salad and sometimes in a tomato sauce, but I suppose if your guests don't eat salt cod, they won't eat eel either.

    Some other seafood dishes I can remember are:
    Shrimp consomme
    Spaghetti with either shrimp, clams or anchovies
    Stuffed and baked quohoags
    Pan fried haddock or halibut
    Grilled smelts or sardines
    Steamed lobsters

    These days the whole thing has been very much simplified. A starter, a main and a few sides. No dessert....those arrive on Christmas Day.

    Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Wow, that sound like a NE style Feast of the Seven Fishes (not a bad thing.)
      Here's a chow link for a similar discussion happening currently on the San Francisco board:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/669638

      In Brooklyn, this feast would definitely include zuppa de pesce, calamari fritti, baked stuffed clams with oregano, along with the requisite pasta/shellfish offerings with mussels or anchovies. I like the pan fried haddock (as a sub for the baccala) and shrimp marsala as a secondi and maybe sauteed broccoli rabe or broccoli with garlic as a side.
      Then, struffoli and cannoli!

      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Stuffed flounder or sole would also make a good substitute for the bacalao. A little fancier, but it is Christmas. I'd go real light on the stuffing UNLESS I was trying to sneak some crabmeat (yet another "fish") into the meal. Small portions, small portions. There will be too much food.

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Our Brooklyn meal includes fried calamari, shrimp cocktail, and frutti di mari or mussels marinara for apps; pasta fra diablo (or sometimes just pasta with mushroom sauce); then fried flounder or scallops plus stuffed flounder and also baked/broiled something (like tuna or swordfish) for the next course, and the grand finale, everyone gets a whole 2# lobster. Then it's midnight and we have to open the presents (after the pastries of course). I'm tired just thinking about it ;-) but technically, there is NEVER too much food.

          1. re: coll

            I asked my husband last night, since this is really his family's tradition (ours was to fast and go to midnight mass) and he reminded me that his mother did the same antipasta platter both nights, just that on Christmas Day meat and cheese was added on the side. All that other stuff is what I added over the years since I took over.

      2. Salt encrusted baked whole fish. You could use red snapper or striped bass etc... A couple of sprigs of fresh herbs and a slice or two of lemon in the cavity all encased with a mixture of kosher salt and egg whites. Light, moist flavorful fish.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Lenox637

          one of the traditional fish in my Sicilian family was merluzza (whiting) fried ,scungilli (whelks} in a hot pepper infused tomato sauce,the baccala,shrimp,calamari,tiny fried sardi (or baitfish) and octopus with plenty of lemons anise olives, linguine and clams .Eels were kept alive in the bath tub.Sometimes mackeral with plenty of lemon and oregano and of course the bread a lasteda (sp) round and dark with seeds for dipping and the scaleda lighter and softer after midnight (after mass) you came home and ate sausages,peppers ,cheese there was home made red wine .oh yea Brioski for the agita.now imagine that

          1. re: scunge

            Love Brioschi for agita, saw it as recently as 5 years ago in my (Brooklyn Italian neighborhood) supermarket. My parents always had it at home. Now, $8 at Duane Reade in NYC.
            I forgot to mention the polpo in my post.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Oh gosh.... I forgot stuffed calamari. Your mention of octopus reminded me.
              Luscious, when made right and light..

            2. re: scunge

              Some of my earliest memories are sheets of pasta hung over the tops of kitchen chairs and eels in a clawfoot tub in Brooklyn. I'd love your scungilli recipe if you have one.

          2. Our family has done all this every Christmas eve for the 24 years I've been alive and probably 100 years before me:
            Antipasto
            Seafood Salad
            Stuffed Artichokes
            Baked clams
            Fried Calamari
            Fried Smelts
            Mussels in a wine broth
            Batter Fried cauliflower
            Shrimp Cocktail
            linguini aglio olio with alliches
            Spaghetti with clam sauce
            Broiled eel (since my Nana passed away this fell out of favor because she used to kill them, skin them and cook them herself)

            Not everything is fried now but I had 6 Italian great Aunts and a Grandma who were champs on the fryer. It's a lot of food but it was quality and quantity for a family of nearly 24 people filled with 4 generations of sharing love through food and laughter.
            Hope this helps!

            1. Some past comments and ideas I have made on the subject....

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5803...
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5643...

              These following items have been on past menus from different Christmas Eve Dinners I have be fortunate enough to have been invited to over the years, Usually, the evenings start out with many different hors doeuvres first before the more formal sit down meal:

              Seafood Cheese Dips
              Clams and Oysters on the Half Shell
              Fried Calamari
              Fried Oysters
              Fried Fish
              Fried Shrimp
              Fried Smelts, Anchovies or Sardines
              Baked Clams
              Clams Casino
              Seafood Salad... Calamari, Pulpo, Scungelli, Mussels and Shrimp
              Crab Cakes
              Grilled Scallops
              Grilled Calamari or Pulpo

              Stuffed Sole
              Stuffed Calamari
              Whole Baked Fish
              Pasta with Clam Sauce
              Lobster Tails
              Pan Fried Fillets of Fish
              Fish Cakes...Baccala made with mashed potatoes and a panko crust
              Zuppa de Pesce
              Zuppa de Clams

              17 Replies
              1. re: fourunder

                That's absolutely wonderful! Seems like I've had more than a few of those dishes over the years. It's a compliment to the cook, or cooks, that although so many of the same ingredients are used to prepare this meal not one tastes like the other, even though many of the same ingredients are used dish to dish. It's always the seafood that takes center stage.

                1. re: Gio

                  gio,

                  Between family and friends, I've been to my share of Christmas Eve Fish Dinners.....it's always a highly anticipated evening where everyone does their best to make some incredible dishes everyone will remember....Lobsters, King Crab, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and 8 count Shrimp cocktails......

                  But the best party I go to is at my best friend's house.....where the pre party has all the elaborate stuff to nosh on, but for the formal dinner the dishes are actually very meager by comparision...based on family traditions of his parents and relatives....who were, as described by Tom Brokaw, *The Greatest Generation*.... here the formal dinner has items from times when resources were not as plentiful...but thankful for what they had. A few of the dishes they always have are:

                  Stuffed Escarole with anchovies, olives and breadcrumbs
                  Barley Soup with Ceci's
                  Stuffed Calamari (breadcrumbs)
                  Pasta with the Red Sauce used to cook the Stuffed Calamari

                  Between the family war stories and the trash talk....it's a fun and enjoyable evening

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Oh yes... I know exactly what you mean. In our house, growing up, mother and her brother and perhaps a sister or two would come in the afternoon and work their magic. We had 2 kitchens so there was plenty of room. 1 of the aunts would make fresh pasta right on the table, Uncle Frank was in charge of killing, prepping and cooking the eels. My mother's stuffed calamari was delicate, light and so flavorful.
                    And, although I didn't mention it above there was an enourmous seafood-based antipasto, and wines galore. We children were allowed a glass of red wine cut with orange soda. After dinner we all poured out of the house to Midnight Mass...Happy, happy times!
                    Buon Natale, fourunder!

                    1. re: Gio

                      we had wine cut with cream soda, lol.

                      1. re: Gio

                        Gio and southernitalian,

                        For the past year, I have generally stopped watching the Food Network.....but just flipping stations through on cable television, Throwdown with Bobby Flay is on with Frank Pellegrino of Rao's.....and the dishes are both over the top and rustic. Give it a look for some nice ideas. I like the Striped Bass BF made and the Seafood Salad from Rao's team.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          I've replaced large pasta shells (not jumbo) for the linguine when I prepare any fish stews ,marinara's etc. the shell fish at times gets stuck in te pasta so you may get a shrimp , bay scallop,calamari or what ever else is in the mix .I'm considering stuffing jumbo shells with various fish prepared separately covered with a sauce and briefly baked (no cheese).Don't forget the fennel both added to the fish as well as to the table to aide with digestion and oranges as well

                          1. re: scunge

                            what a great idea with the shells!

                            1. re: scunge

                              Campanelle is a really nice pasta for shellfish, like shells but much fancier for special occasions. Hard to find unfortunately.
                              http://comps.fotosearch.com/comp/UNE/...

                              1. re: coll

                                Campanelle pasta by Barilla is readily available here in Northern NJ and often goes on sale. Last week one of the markets had it for .88/box......I believe at Pathmark stores.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Silly me, I'm always looking in Fairway and Italian groceries, I'll have to keep my eye out for it. I'll even try Pathmark next time I'm up island, thanks!

                                  1. re: coll

                                    I stopped at Stop and Shop before, looking for Tony Chachere seasoning, my secret ingredient in dirty rice: no go, but I passed the Barilla display and not only did they have campanelle, it was on sale for $1. I am now stocked up.

                            2. re: fourunder

                              I have the Rao's restaurant cookbook and will have to look to see if that recipe is there. But, I have a feeling that the Seafood Salad is pretty much generic. We'll see. It's be something I'd consider making this year.

                              1. re: Gio

                                Gio,

                                If I recall correctly, the Seafood salad in Rao's cookbook includes Lobster and is served warm....the same way I prefer it to be served freshly made and not served chilled and with any acid. Here's how I make mine based loosely on the Rao's recipe

                                First I pre-cut all my celery and red onions.......the celery, I use only the tender inner portions with leaves cut in a diamond pattern. The diamond pattern is achieved by making one slice down the middle of celery rib/stalk and then cutting on a bias. Second, I uses small red onions, and slice slivers from top to bottom. I like the way both vegetables present themselves with the sea food. Not always and I know it's not traditional, but on occasion, I've been known to throw in olives into the vegetables mix as well/

                                For the sea foods, I cook the cleaned Squid and Pulpo separately for a few minutes in a separate pot of water, removed from water and shocked briefly to stop the cooking process. Scungilli is cooked longer....10-15 minutes, again in separate pot of water. Lobster is par-boiled for 4-5 minutes so the meat can be removed. Shrimp is sauteed in olive oil....and the Lobster is finished in the olive oil as well. All seafoods are then mixed together with the vegetables.....but my recipe does not call for any lemon or vinegar to added. I do not like to further cook any of the ingredients...instead, I have lemon wraps available on the side. Here are a couple of helpful links for those who do not have the Rao's Cookbook:

                                http://www.raosrecipes.com/

                                http://almostitalian.com/scungilli/

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  I like to put hot pepper rings in mine, rather than olive. If you like it spicy, that is. Stole this idea from my old fish market.

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    OMGoodness... your recipe does sound lovely but I'm curious....no salt or pepper or EVOO? Or parsley either? Iike that you serve it warm, though. I'm almost ashamed to say I've never cooked squid, octopus or scumgilli, but you and those two blogs you pointed us to make me want to try this year. Love the blogs, BTW! Thanks.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Actually, yes to Kosher or Sea Salt....whatever is on hand, fresh cracked black pepper, pinch of red chili flakes and fresh flat leaf parsley....unless I know someone has an aversion to parsley. Then I keep a small batch parsley free.

                                      For the record, EVOO is used to cook shell fish in the pan. just before serving I drizzle more EVOO.....The salt and pepper is always a given in any recipe so sometimes I forget to add in details or I simply say season to taste......thanks for pointing out i omitted both this time for anyone with interest.

                                      For a twist, I like to add fresh Little Neck Clams, and or, Mussels steamed with a 7 ounce nip of beer....shallots and garlic. Here's the recipe on another past thread:

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5726...

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        Ah, well that makes more sense. S & P, RPF, EVOO are a given here too. And, Parsley is Always Italian flat leaf. Love the thought of adding Little Necks and/or Mussels. We love Mussels. I saved your recipe for future reference. The addition of Andouille or Chorizo is a wonderful thought. Kinda makes it Portugese??? And beer inseasd of white wine. Great.