A Feast of the Seven Fishes Menu for Christmas Eve Dinner
The Feast of Seven Fishes, an Italian tradition, is celebrated on Christmas Eve each year. In Italy, the meal is known as Festa Dei Sette Pesci, or, more simply, La Vigilia. The tradition is one of abstinence; Catholics historically refrained from eating meat on the night before the Christmas holiday, so this was a way for Italians to still honor the occasion without breaking their vows. Each family has its own dishes, of course, passed down from generation to generation, but there are some common threads among the people who celebrate this feast. You are likely to see, for instance, salt cod, clams, octopus, anchovies, sardines, and, if you're fortunate, lobster. The menu we've created rises to the occasion of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, with dishes that are exceptional on their own.
Since seven courses can feel like a lot of eating, start with this light, refreshing ceviche, which features bay scallops, marinated with fresh cilantro, green onions, and lime juice. If you can't find bay scallops, substitute quartered sea scallops, instead. Better yet, you can make it a day ahead of time. "I always make it a day before I want to serve it," says Allrecipes user Kaz. This helps the flavors to marry, giving the final product more punch.
Patti's Mussels a la Mariniere
Mussels are a traditional Seven Fishes offering, and this version, made with garlic, tomatoes, white wine, and butter, is a hearty and rustic dish. "Serve with the crustiest bread you can find and drink the wine as you cook," suggests Allrecipes user RumoreHigh.
Dried salt cod, or Baccalà, is a practically required part of the Feast of Seven Fishes. The fish itself, which has been preserved in salt, must be soaked in milk or water for at least a day to eliminate some of the excess salt. In this version, the prepped fish is cooked with aromatics and then mashed together with potatoes for a creamy dip that can be spooned over crusty bread.
Sardines with Sundried Tomatoes and Capers
Summoning the flavors of Italy, this dish gets its punch from briny capers, bright lemon juice, and aromatic oregano. Requiring only ten minutes of time, it's the perfect fit for a long meal, offering a little respite from the hard work of cooking. Allrecipes user Jangyuma suggests an alteration: "I combined all the ingredients in a glass bowl, smashed the sardines slightly, and smeared it on toast," she says.
You really can't go wrong with this Feast of Seven Fishes classic. Rings of squid are bathed in flour and fried to light, crispy perfection in vegetable oil. It's also a really quick course that you can prepare in under 20 minutes. Actual cooking time is even less. "I've found that with this recipe, you don't want to cook the squid for more than 2 minutes," offers Allrecipes user tiggzangel. The flash fry prevents the calamari from becoming rubbery.
Clam Sauce with Linguine
Linguine with clams is another Italian Christmas Eve tradition, combining the sacred seafood of the evening with the pasta for which Italy is known. This easy recipe utilizes mostly larder ingredients, as well as quality canned chopped clams, for a creamy, addictive version of the famous dish.
Broiled Lobster Tails
No holiday would be complete without a luxury item or two. Lobster is the perfect coda to this fish-centric meal, and broiled lobster tail is a no-fuss option (ask for just the tails at your fish counter to save yourself the headache of cooking the whole lobster). Broiling, Allrecipes user Jody Campos Dowling adds, helps with consistency of cooking. "With broiling them, you have more control over cooking them so they don't get over- or undercooked and they stay flat," she says.