The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or festa dei sette pesci, is an Italian-Catholic culinary celebration of seafood that springs from the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays and holy days. There are as many theories about the significance of the number seven as there are fish in the sea, so I won't venture a guess; I'll just be glad that as a good little Italian girl, I have yet another valid reason to buy seafood!
If you and your loved ones follow the "seafood on Christmas Eve" tradition and need some recipe ideas, here are seven of my favorite seafood dishes. Buon Natale!
6 large sea scallops
Finely ground black pepper
12 parmesan crisps (see below) or ¼” thick toast rounds
1 batch porcini sauce (see below)
Dry off the scallops with paper towels so that there is no moisture on the scallops’ surfaces. Dust the scallops with finely ground black pepper.
Place a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat and brush with a thin coat of olive oil. Add the scallops. Sear the scallops for 1-2 minutes per side, turning regularly. A golden-brown crust should form on the outside of the scallops; cook no more than 5-6 minutes total, depending on their size. Remove from the pan; set aside.
Place six of the crisps on a plate. Spread 1-2 teaspoons of the porcini sauce on each crisp in a thin layer. Next, place one of the seared scallops on top of the sauce on each crisp. Finally, place one of the remaining parmesan crisps on top of each sea scallop, creating a bite-sized scallop sandwich. Serve with a crisp, dry white wine.
Coarsely-grated parmesan cheese
Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle about 2 T. parmesan in 2-inch circles on the pan (most standard-size pans will fit 3-4 crisps). When the parmesan begins to melt and bubble, remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Using a spatula, carefully scrape the crisps off the skillet, making sure to keep them in one piece. Place the crisps on paper towels to absorb some of the grease; set aside until ready to use.
Hint: Always make a few more than required to allow for any that break.
¼ c. dried porcini mushrooms, broken or snipped into very tiny bits
¼ c. Boiling water
Splash heavy cream
Salt and finely ground black pepper
1/8 t. cornstarch
Soak the porcinis in the boiling water. When they have softened, add the porcinis and their soaking liquid to a small saucepan. Place over medium-low heat; add the whiskey, cream, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until small bubbles begin to form on the surface of the liquid. At this point, add the cornstarch, stirring constantly, until it is fully dissolved and the sauce begins to thicken. Once the sauce is the consistency of melted chocolate, remove from heat and use a rubber scraper to transfer into a small bowl.
Lobster Potato Salad
1.5lbs potatoes (red or Yukon Golds work well)
meat from 1 1lb. lobster, or 1 cup prepared lobster meat
2-4 green onions, sliced into thin rings
juice from 1/2 lemon
splash olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Slice the potatoes lengthwise into quarters, then slice into half-inch wedges. Place these in a pot and fill with enough water to cover by at least an inch. Salt the water, bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender. When they are cooked, drain them and set them aside to cool. In another similar-sized pot, melt the butter over high heat so that the butter begins to brown slightly. Add the potatoes, remove from heat immediately, and toss the cooled potatoes with the melted butter. Set aside.
While potatoes are cooking, slice the green onions and put them in a large bowl. Next, add the lobster meat. If you are using a whole lobster, break the lobster apart overtop of the bowl so that any flavorful juices are not lost.
Once the meat is removed from the lobster, or if you are using prepared lobster, use your fingers to tear the meat into small chunks. Add the cooked and buttered potatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Toss until all ingredients are evenly distributed, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
8 oz. dried angel hair pasta
generous splash olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T. golden raisins
2 T. capers
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 T. tomato paste
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. calamari, cleaned, tubes sliced into rings
salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley, plus sprigs for garnish
Cook the pasta. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and raisins. Saute for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic becomes fragrant but does not turn golden.
Next, add the capers, white wine, tomato paste, roma tomato, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir vigorously so that the tomato paste breaks up and blends with the wine. Cook until the liquid begins to bubble gently, about 5 minutes.
Now, add the calamari. Cook for only about one minute. The calamari should start to firm up. Drain the pasta, and add the hot pasta to the pan with the calamari and tomato broth. Stir so that each strand is coated with the sauce. By this time, the calamari should be cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and divide among two serving dishes. Sprinkle with minced parsley and garnish with a sprig or two of fresh parsley.
12 oysters, freshly shucked, in the deep “cup” shell
1 T. butter
1 shallot, minced
½ cup Chablis
½ cup heavy cream
Pinch sea salt
Pinch white pepper
Preheat the oven to 450. In the meantime, drain any of the juice from the oysters, reserving the juice in a small bowl. Next, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the minced shallot, cooking for a minute or two until the shallot is soft and translucent. Once the shallot is cooked, add the Chablis and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the wine is reduced by about half.
Place a fine-meshed sieve over the bowl containing the oysters’ liquid. Pour the wine and shallot mixture into the sieve, and use a spoon to press out any remaining liquid if necessary. Reserve the cooked shallots for the Celeriac Puree recipe; return the liquid to the saucepan.
Now, add the cream, sea salt, and white pepper to the saucepan with the wine mixture. Bring to a boil and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the liquid has again been reduced by about half. Reduce to very low heat.
Arrange the shucked and drained oysters in a baking dish. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons of the Chablis cream sauce onto each oyster, then dust with the slightest amount of cayenne pepper. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 4-5 minutes until the cream begins to turn golden at the edges.
Remove the baking dish from the oven, and using tongs, divide the oysters among serving dishes. Serve with chilled, but not cold, Chablis.
For the sauce:
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. Amontillado sherry
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 t. smoked paprika
2 T. heavy cream
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the monkfish:
1 monkfish tail, cut into 1.5 inch thick medallions
flour seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging
olive oil, for frying
First, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a blender, puree until liquefied, and set aside.
Take each of the monkfish medallions and dredge in the seasoned flour, making sure to shake off any excess flour. Set aside. Heat a large, heavy bottomed frying pan. When it is hot, add a generous splash of olive oil. Once the olive oil is heated and covers the entire surface of the pan, add the monkfish medallions and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until slightly golden. Remove from heat when they are done.
To serve, place 2-3 medallions on a plate and drizzle with the Sherried Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
1 lb. dried farfalle
1 jar Classico Alfredo
1/2 cup champagne
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 T. capers
dash cayenne pepper
generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper
4 oz. smoked salmon, sliced into thin strips
1 jar caviar (no need to go expensive, American lumpfish works fine!)
Cook the pasta. In the meantime, combine the Alfredo, champagne, peas, capers, cayenne, and pepper in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to bubble slightly.
Add the cooked farfalle to the saucepan. Stir to combine until all the pasta is coated with the sauce. Now, add the smoked salmon. Stir just until combined, then serve immediately, garnishing with a spoonful of caviar. Enjoy!!!
generous splash olive
1 leek, sliced (white part only)
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, a few fronds reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup prosecco
5 cups shellfish stock
1 pound calamari, mostly tentacles - slice tubes into 1/4" rings
1/2 pound cockles or other small clams
1 T. capers
parsley, to garnish
Heat the shellfish stock to a low simmer. In a separate large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the leek and fennel. Saute for about 5 minutes, then add the arborio rice. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the prosecco. Lower the heat, and stir continuously until the prosecco has been absorbed.
Now, add a half-cup of shellfish stock. Stir continuously until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this process until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is almost fully cooked. In the meantime, place the calamari and the clams in another pan with a bit of olive oil and a splash of the shellfish stock. Cover, and steam until the clams have open and the calamari has firmed up. Set aside a few clams in their shells for garnish, remove the meat from the rest and discard the shells.
When the rice is almost fully cooked and you're on the last addition of liquid, add the calamari, clams, and capers. Continue to stir until the last of the liquid is absorbed. Finish with sea salt. Serve in individual bowls with a clam shell or two, garnished with fennel fronds.