Feast of the Seven Fishes with a Modern Spin

The Feast of Seven Fishes is very much an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. It is the grand meal of abundant seafood on a day of abstinence from meat. The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it is known simply as La Vigilla, The Vigil.

While there is no set menu for the Feast of Seven Fishes, there are certain things that are consistent. At lease seven different fish or seafood dishes are served during the course of the evening. No meat is present, although the more liberal cook will use butters that were once strictly forbidden during abstinence. (Just as chicken stock, once banned during abstinence is now allowed).

The most common dishes for this feast usually include Linguine with Clams and a Fish Stew made with muscles. Thank goodness, those dishes aren’t carved in stone. Otherwise I’d be short a couple of plates. While I love Clam Chowder, I don’t like clams on my pasta or muscles in my stew. But that’s just me.

Why seven fish? No one knows for sure, but there are some interesting theories floating about. Seven is the most repeated number in the Bible. The Catholic Church has seven sacraments, the Lord created the world in seven days and Rome has seven hills. In the early 1900s Italian-Americans felt homesick, especially during the holidays. Families rekindled the Old Country’s Christmas Eve tradition by preparing a seven-course seafood supper. The Feast of Seven Fishes is considered one of the oldest Italian Traditions in America today.

When we’ve attended such feasts, they generally begin at three in the afternoon. You need that much time to space out each course, have time to digest and still make it to Midnight Mass. While my menu does contain seven different fish or seafood presentations, three of those are found in the appetizers, making the meal just five courses, which is much easier to manage. Still, give this condensed menu plenty of time. Time to savor, to prepare between courses, and to enjoy all the flavors of the season.

Feast of the Seven Fishes
Festive New Potatoes with Caviar
Salmon Mousse Endives
Shrimp Cocktail Shooters

Soup and Salad
Lobster Bisque
Baby Octopus with Roasted Fennel and Citrus

Pasta Course
Bay Scallop Linguine with White Wine Sauce

(4) Bay Scallop Linguine with White Wine and Parsley

Main Entrée
Baked Tilapia Crab Oscar
Rosemary-Garlic Seasoned Roasted Red Potatoes

Dessert and Coffee
Fresh Pear and Almond Crostata
Almond Amaretto Cappuccino


Christmas New Potatoes with Red Caviar
15 small new potatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup sour cream
Dill weed springs for garnish
Red caviar for garnish

Heat water to boiling in 3-quart saucepan. Add potatoes. Cover and heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until tender; drain and cool.

Cut potatoes in half; place cut sides up on serving tray. (Cut thin slice from bottom of each potato half, if necessary, to help stand upright.)

With a small spoons, create a small well in the center of each potato half. Place pulp in a bowl. Mash well with sour cream until smooth. Taste and season with a little salt and pepper if desired.

Top each potato half with about 1 teaspoon of the sour cream mixture. Garnish with fresh dill and a little red caviar. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until well chilled.

Salmon Mousse Endive Leaves
24 Endive Leaves
2 packages (3 oz each) Smoked Salmon
6 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 tablespoon Dill Weed
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon prepared Horseradish
Handful Watercress for garnish, optional
Diced Pimientos as needed for garnish, optional

Break apart the endive leaves. Rinse and pat try the leaves dry. Arrange on a serving platter and set aside.

Place smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill weed, lemon juice, onion powder and horseradish in a food processor; cover and process until smooth. Pipe or spoon about 1 tablespoon filling onto each endive leaf. Garnish with a few watercress and pimientos to resemble holly if desired.

Shrimp Cocktail Shooters
12 Shrimp, 26-31 count
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/2 cup Chili Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
2 or 3 Lemons for garnish

Peel, rinse and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Keep refrigerated until ready to cook.

Combine ketchup, chili sauce, lemon juice and horseradish in a mixing bowl. Whisk to blend. Chill until ready to serve.

Cut lemons in half. Cut each half into thin slices. Wrap and keep chilled until ready to garnish.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes until pink.

Drain and place shrimp in an ice bath. Set aside.

Use funnel to pour cocktail sauce into shot glasses.

Garnish each shooter with one shrimp and one lemon slice. Arrange on a serving platter.

Note: The sauce and shrimp can be made in advance. Keep refrigerated until ready to assemble. Once assembled, serve immediately or keep on ice for no more than a few hours.

Soup and Salad

Classic Lobster Bisque
1 Shallot
1/4 cup White Onions
2 Garlic Cloves
1/4 cup Cremini Mushrooms
1/4 cup Celery, chopped
1/4 cup Carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon Avocado Oil
1/4 cup White Wine
Hot Sauce to taste
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
Cayenne Pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
Fine Sea Salt to taste
Fine Black Pepper to taste
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 – 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
3 tablespoons Butter
1/2 pound cooked lump Lobster Meat
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley for garnish
Small Lobster Tails or Claws, cooked for garnish if desired

Peel and finely mince the shallot. Set aside. Peel and finely chop onion. Set aside. Peel and mince garlic. Set aside. Rinse mushrooms, remove and discard the stems. Slice the caps and set aside. Chop celery. Peel and dice the carrots.

In large dutch oven, heat oil over med-high heat and sauté shallots, onion and garlic for one minute. Add the celery, carrots, and mushrooms. Cook for 5-8 minutes until mushrooms have browned and the carrots have softened.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the hot sauce, thyme, paprika and salt and pepper. Sauté for another minute. Add the broth and mix well. Stir in tomato paste.

Pour the bisque into a high speed blender, or use an immersion blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Return blended mixture to pot and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Whisk in heavy cream and butter and bring to a low simmer. Add the lobster meat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until lobster is heated through. Serve hot topped with parsley.

Note: For an extra special presentation, top with visible pieces of tail or claw meat if desired.

Marinated Baby Octopus and Potato Salad with Roasted Fennel and Citrus
1 lb Baby Octopus
6 Garlic Cloves
1 head fennel
1/2 teaspoon ground Fennel Seeds
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Oranges, divided
1/2 lb Small Potatoes.
10 Kalamata Olives
2 tablespoons Pistachios
Fresh Dill, optional garnish

Clean octopus, slice down one side to open them up. Set aside.

Peel and mince garlic cloves. Set aside. Remove the leafy tops from the fennel bulb. Set the bulb aside. Chop the tops, and set aside.

In a non-reactive bowl, place octopus, salt, ground fennel seeds, black pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and chopped up fennel tops. Squeeze the juice of an orange over the octopus mixture. Stir well and leave covered for up to 1 hour.

While the octopus marinates, supreme and juice the remaining orange. With a very sharp knife, trim the ends of the fruit. Set flat side on a cutting board. Slice off the peel and pitch in sections, following the shape of the sphere.

Set the fruit on its side. Cut toward the center, along a membrane, then slice along the adjacent membrane until the cuts meet and the segment of fruit is released. Transfer the segment to a bowl and repeat until all the segments have been released.

Hold the remaining membranes over the bowl tightly and squeeze to release all the juice. Chill until ready to assemble the salad.

Place whole potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, slice potatoes in half and chill until ready to use.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice fennel bulb into 1/4 inch slices lengthwise and arrange on a baking sheet. Season generously with salt, black pepper and olive oil. Place in oven for 15 minutes, turn slices over and repeat until they start to get crispy.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat.

Shake marinade off octopus, and place in hot pan. Cook octopus for 3 to 4 minutes on one side. Remove from skillet. Remove skillet from heat. Scrape out and discard the reddish-brown gunk from the pan. Return octopus to the skillet and cook the other side about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove cooked octopus to a plate until all are cooked.

Arrange potatoes, roasted fennel and supreme of orange on a platter. Cut olives in half, scatter over the salad. Place the octopus on top. Roughly chop the pistachios and sprinkle over the entire salad. If desired, garnish with fresh dill.

Serve and enjoy.

Seafood Pasta

Bay Scallop Linguine with White Wine Sauce
1 Red Onion, chopped
6 Garlic Cloves, sliced
1 lb Linguine
2 tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
1 1/2 lbs Bay Scallops
Fine Sea Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
1 cup dry White Wine
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup Italian Parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  While the water comes to a boil, peel and chop the onion. Set aside. Peel and slice the garlic into slivers. Set aside.

Once the water comes to a boil, add linguine and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil; set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Rinse and dry the scallops on paper towels. If necessary, remove side muscle.

Add scallops, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Stir in wine and mustard; simmer until scallops are cooked through and some liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. While the scallops simmer, finely chop the parsley and set aside.

Once scallops have cooked, remove from heat and stir in parsley.

To serve, transfer the cooked linguine to a platter and top with scallops and sauce.

Main Entrée

Tilapia Crab Oscar
Hollandaise Sauce Blender Style
6 Egg Yolks
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Tabasco Sauce or to taste
3/4 cup Butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the Hollandaise Sauce: In the container of a blender, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce. Cover, and blend for about 5 seconds.

Place the butter in a glass measuring cup. Heat butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds, stir, the continue to microwave for another 30 seconds, or until completely melted and hot. Set the blender on high speed, and pour the butter into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream. It should thicken almost immediately.

Pour into a large glass measuring cup, scraping the blender to get all the sauce. Set aside until ready to use.

Tilapia Crab Oscar
6 Tilapia Fillets, frozen
6 oz Lump Crab Meat
1/2 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
3 tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Italian Parsley
12 Asparagus Spears
Paprika to taste

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place fish fillets on prepared baking sheet. Set aside.

Break apart the crab meat into small pieces. Place in a mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs and garlic powder. In a microwave safe small bowl, melt the butter in 15 second intervals until fully melted. Let the butter cool slightly.

While the butter cools, finely chop the parsley. Add the parsley and butter to the shrimp. Stir to combine.

Top each fish fillet with an equal amount of crab mixture. Trim any woody ends from asparagus, drape over the fish. Drizzle half the Hollandaise sauce evenly over the asparagus and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

When ready to serve, gently warm remaining Hollandaise sauce on low until hot. Plate the Seafood Oscar. Pour reserved Hollandaise Sauce over the fish and serve.

Optional Platter Garnish
Handful Arugula Leaves, if desired
1 Large Tomato, if desired
1/8 cup chopped Chives, if desired

While the Oscar bakes, garnish a serving platter with some arugula leaves. Slice a tomato and fan out over the leaves. Chop some chives, sprinkle over the tomatoes. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.

Rosemary-Garlic Seasoned Roasted Red Potatoes
Cooking Spray as needed
24 small Red Potatoes
16 small White Onions
3 Garlic Cloves
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoon dried Rosemary
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon Hungarian Sweet Paprika
1/4 cup Olive Oil

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray and set aside.

Scrub the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Peel the onions and place whole in the bowl with the potatoes. Set aside.

Finely mince the garlic and place in a small bowl. Whisk in the mustard, rosemary, salt, pepper, sweet paprika and olive oil. Pour mixture over the onions and red potatoes. Toss everything is well-coated.

Transfer to the prepared pan and cook for 60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender; slightly browned and the onions have caramelized. After 30 minutes of roasting, give the pan a good shake for even cooking. Continue to roast until cooked through.

Transfer to a serving platter or large bowl and serve hot.

Dessert and Coffee

Fresh Pear and Almond Crostata
1 box Refrigerated Pie Dough
1/2 cup Sugar
3 tablespoons Flour
4 cups chopped Pears, peeled (8 to 9 medium)
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 tablespoons sliced Almonds

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Remove pie crust from box and let come to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar and the flour. Set aside. Peel pears. Chop into bite size pieces. Gently stir in pears into the flour mixture to coat.
Remove 1 pie crust from pouch; unroll crust into ungreased 15-inch by 0-inch pan with sides.

Spoon pear mixture onto center of crust to within 2 inches of edge. Carefully fold 2-inch edge of crust up over pear mixture, pleating crust slightly as necessary. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over crust edge.

Bake 14 to 20 minutes or until pears are tender and crust is golden brown, sprinkling almonds over pear mixture during last 5 minutes of bake time.

Cool 15 minutes. Cut into wedges; serve warm.

Almond Amaretto Cappuccino
Ingredients – per glass
2 oz Espresso
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
4 oz Milk Foam
1 shot Amaretto

Brew espresso in espresso machine according to manufacture’s instructions. While espresso is brewing, add almond extract into milk, froth milk. Pour espresso into a cappuccino cup. Stir in amaretto. Top with foam from frothed milk. Serve hot.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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