The Feast of Seven Fishes
(Festa Dei Sette Pesci)
by Victor Rallo, Jr.
When I speak or write about The Feast of Seven Fishes, it gives me great joy and brings back 40 years of fond memories. The Feast of Seven Fishes evolved from the Catholic Church’s prohibition of the consumption of meat on Christmas Eve. A day of abstinence has morphed into one of my favorite Italian feasts. What did the church expect when they put a bunch of Italians together celebrating a holiday with wine and great food? Thus, the advent of “The Feast of Seven Fishes”. Today the feast may consist of seven fish courses, but it is more likely to be 10, 12 or even 14 courses. Historians believe the number seven was chosen because it is the number most repeated in the bible. I have one tip: if you’re invited to one a Christmas Eve celebrating the Feast of Seven Fishes, go. It will be an even you will never forget.
Here is my favorite menu for Christmas Eve:
Cod Salad I prefer fresh cod to baccala. I think the salad is more vibrant and tasty. After steaming the cod with garlic and vegetables, remove the cod and break it with your hands into pieces. Mix the cod with red onion, a little chopped garlic, Castelvetrano olives, celery, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Serve with Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco 2012, Alto Adige.
Cured Fresh Anchovy I love to cure anchovy fillets in extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, Trapani sea salt and fresh ground pepper. After 48 hours of curing, the anchovy filets are ready to go. I serve them with julienne honey crisp apple and Mache lettuce. It’s the perfect combination of savory, sweet, crisp and delicious. Serve with Vie di Romans 2011 Chardonnay, Friuli.
Calamari Two Ways:
Simple and delicious. Lightly dusted in flour, salt and pepper, and fried in hot olive oil. Serve with Fresh lemon. I would enjoy a Sicilian White with Calamari Fritti—Firriato Etna Bianco 2012, Sicilia comes to mind when I think of fried calamari.
Stuff the tubes with focaccia, pignoli nut, garlic and capers. Cook in a light tomato sauce until tender. Chianti loves tomato sauce, so try San Felice Chianti Classico 2011, Tuscany.
Linguine with Clam Sauce
Buy enough cockle clams; they make the dish. Make sure you clean the clams well. Sauté the clams with garlic, white wine and Italian parsley. When you cook the linguine, cook it for 30 seconds less than the directions say. Take linguine out of the water and put it right into the sauté pan and drip some of the pasta water into the pot. How about a Vermentino from Sardegna? Try the Samas 2012 from Agricola Punica.
Branzino al Forno
A great Mediterranean fish. Have the fish market take the head and scales off, butterfly and debone each fish. Sprinkle seasoned breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, Italian parsley and fresh lemon slices inside the fish. Bake in the over at 350°F for 30 minutes. Always drink a crisp, acidic white wine with this dish. I like Benanti Bianco di Caselle 2011, Sicilia.
Lobster Fra Diavolo
Fresh lobsters, the king of all seafood. Try them with Italian tomato, garlic, chili flakes and olive oil. Wear an apron when eating and remember not to name the lobsters, they become very hard to eat! Lobsters are to eat, not pets. How about a Pinot Noir, from Les Cretes, Valle d’Aosta? The 2011 vintage is a favorite of mine.
Some of Vic’s other favorite fish dishes:
grilled Skuna bay salmon, red beet & orange salad, sauteed rapini.
fresh Rhode Island black sea bass filet, grilled wax & green beans, local lettuces, fava puree.
Grilled sushi grade tuna, slaw salad (red cabbage, napa cabbage, trevisano, romaine), egg, green beans, ceci, olives, roasted peppers, potato, sundried tomato vinaigrette.
Local Chatham cod filet, pan roasted with grape tomato, yellow and green squash, string beans, red potato, with extra virgin olive oil.
Fresh East coast halibut filet pan roasted, with Sickles farm yellow and green zucchini, local cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil.