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Tuesday is Christmas. So by now everyone most likely has their meal planned. But, what about Christmas Eve? Italian-Americans have a tradition of eating fish which. most likely, evolved from the Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat the day before a holy day. They call it the “Feast of Seven Fishes” where there are seven different seafood dishes served. In Italy, it’s called La Vigilia, The Vigil, commemorating wait for the birth of Jesus. According to Wikipedia, it’s not clear where or when the term “Feast of the Seven Fishes” originated:
The meal may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. “Seven” fishes as a fixed concept or name is unknown in Italy itself. In some of the oldest Italian American families, there was no count of the number of fish dishes. Dinner began with whiting in lemon, followed by some version of clams or mussels in spaghetti, baccalà and onward to any number of other fish dishes without number. Some have suggested that the idea of “seven” fishes originated in restaurants.
The most famous dish for Southern Italians is baccalà (salted cod fish). The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà reflects customs in what were historically impoverished regions of Southern Italy, as well as seasonal factors. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.
If you have a big family or lots of friends over for Christmas Eve, The Feast of The Seven Fishes can be a problem solver for what to cook. There are fifty one suggested recipes to choose from at Epicurious. Here are just a few:
Shellfish and pork are a power duo. The salty-sweet pancetta soffritto is the backbone of this clam toast.
Feel free to experiment with your favorite seafood in this classic San Franciscan fisherman’s stew. And don’t forget to use the toasts slathered with zippy gremolata butter to soak up the flavorful broth. Bonus: This stew is great for entertaining since you can make the base a day in advance.
To keep lobsters alive in your fridge for up to one day, pack in damp newspaper. You can substitute eight frozen tails; sear per recipe method, then use the meat from four in place of the knuckles and claws, and split the others for serving.
This dish is only as good as the crab it’s made with; buy the freshest you can find.
Most fish markets will sell you the bones you need to make the rich broth, but avoid those from oily fish like mackerel or bluefish, which will overpower the stew’s flavor.
A flavorful tomato sauce that’s a cinch to make and rock shrimp that come already peeled mean a weeknight dinner recipe has never been so easy—or delicious.
The one–two punch of citrus zest and juice balances all that anchovy richness in our new favorite dressing recipe for spring veg.
Puttanesca isn’t just for pasta. Anchovies and olives punch up a sauce hearty enough to stand up to meat or fish.