Christmas 2014: Feast of the Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian: Festa dei sette pesci), also known as The Vigil (Italian: La Vigilia), is a  Southern Italian and Italian-American celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and other seafood.

The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence.A traditional holiday meal  may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. The most famous dish Southern Italians are known for is baccalà (salted cod fish). The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà is attributed to the greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.

A typical modern Christmas Eve  Feast  may include some combination of anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels and clams.

The menu may also include pastas, vegetables, baked or fried kale patties, baked goods and homemade wine. This tradition remains very popular to this day.

Below are few of the dishes that were apart of our Feast of the Seven Fishes.


Seafood Risotto with Shrimp, Asparagus
and Mushrooms


Baked Stuffed Trout with Oyster Stuffing


Seafood Gumbo with Quail, Blue Crab and White Clams


Calamari Fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta


Shrimp with Zucchini  Linguine


Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli with Spinach Basil Pesto and Shaved Parmesan


Fried Calamari


Cioppino Seafood Soup with Sourdough Rounds


Escarole and Fig Salad



Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese and Pepper Jelly Appetizers

This recipe was adapted from Chef  Vivian Howard who contributed to  the January 2015 Issue  Food and Wine Magazine. Originally conceived as a fancy grilled cheese sandwich  made with Époisses, the pungent French cow-milk cheese, and sweet and spicy pepper jelly, it can easily be adapted to be a festive appetizer. I made my own hot pepper jam for my version of this dish.

You can find the original recipe by following this link:


Serves 4
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices of French bread
4 Tablespoons hot pepper jelly
8 ounces Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese, cut into 1/4-inch

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a pie pan, toss the pecans with the oil and salt. Bake for 8 minutes or until toasted. Let the pecans cool, then coarsely chop.

Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Toast in the oven until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and spread 1/2 tablespoon of the pepper jam on the other side of each slice. Arrange the cheese on the buttered of 4 slices of bread and top with the pecans and return to the oven, for about 3 minutes and bake until the  cheese is melted.

Remove the cheese toasts and arrange on a serving platter with the jam covered toasts. Serve with additional hot pepper jam on the side.