Every Christmas, we do the Feast of 7 fishes. There really is no wrong or right way to have the feast of seven fishes as a Christmas Eve dinner, but Italian-American families have modernized it in recent years. Every family has their own traditions, and this is one we keep annually. There are fish that are meant to be served, but we like to mix it up around here and go for the fish we enjoy most. After all, it’s important to enjoy what we are eating!
In the 19th century, each geographic area in Italy had it’s own government. Southern Italy was in the poorest region and they could only afford fish, which is part of the origin of the 7 fishes. In the Roman Catholic church, meat is not eaten on the evening before a holiday and this includes Christmas day. The number of courses are determined by the fact that there are 7 deadly sins and sacraments in the Bible and in Catholicism. It all stems from the sacraments of the Catholic church and cooking fish dishes to stay away from meat.
The feast of the seven fishes menu traditionally includes clams, mussels, halibut, shrimp, anchovy, calamari and scallops. It’s not totally necessary to have a ton of it, you can do tasting portions if you’d like. But having an entire fish including the head and tail signifies abundance, so a lot of people like to prepare these traditional dishes of seafood courses in large portions, but for the past few years I’ve been hosting Christmas Eve and love my way of serving these dishes as 7 courses.
How to Serve It
I love splitting out the 7 fishes by courses. I don’t like putting different kinds of fish altogether on the table, nor count a seafood salad as 3 different fishes. I rather split it up by making different seafood dishes such as shrimp cocktail, lobster tails, baked clams, mussels marinara and more rather than just a whole fish on the dining room table. An Italian meal is never complete without sides. While we focus on different types of fish, we do like to make dishes like fresh pasta and veggies.
What I’m Serving this Year
I don’t tend to go the traditional route, just because we have certain dishes we know we enjoy. For instance, we usually make dishes like mussels, crab cakes, clams. Now, a lot of things can be prepared in the form of an appetizer, while things like lobster tails can be the main attraction with something like a side of pasta or salad.
Here is my 7 course Christmas Eve Dinner:
Scallops on 1/2 shell
Clams w/ linguini
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