The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American tradition that comes from history, culture, and religion. Today, it is a meal that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy, where it is known simply as The Vigil (La Vigilia). The main point of the meal is to gather family and friends and enjoy delicious food.

While the most common variation of the tradition is to eat seven fish, some households in southern Italy actually eat nine, ten or 12 fish instead.

The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà reflects customs in what were historically greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy, as well as seasonal factors. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.

You don’t have to be of southern Italian descent to enjoy this tradition; this Christmas Eve, serve a feast of fishes to your family. No matter whether you serve seven, nine, ten or 12, you’ll be bringing this tradition into new generations.

Hot Ranch Crab DipTotal Time: 50 min
Inactive: 25 min
Cook: 25 min
Yield: 8 servings

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
Kosher salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus more for topping
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked through
Paprika, for topping
Toasted bread or crackers, for dipping

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk and flour in a large bowl. Add the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lemon zest, garlic, parmesan and 1 teaspoon salt; beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the scallions, chives and crabmeat and continue beating until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a shallow 1-quart baking dish; sprinkle with more parmesan and bake until lightly golden and heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Top with paprika and more chives. Serve with bread or crackers.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Magazine.

Dover Sole a la Meunière

2 x 400-450g Dover soles, trimmed and skinned
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
25g plain flour
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
40g unsalted butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges, to serve

Season the Dover soles with salt and white pepper. Dip on both sides into flour and then pat off the excess.

Heat the oil in a large well-seasoned or non-stick frying pan. Add one of the soles, lower the heat slightly and add a small piece of the butter. Fry over a moderate heat for 4–5 minutes, without moving, until richly golden. Carefully turn the fish over and cook for a further 4–5 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Lift on to a serving plate and keep warm. Repeat with the second fish.

Remove the bones. Discard the frying oil and wipe the pan clean. Add the remaining butter and allow it to melt over a moderate heat. When the butter starts to smell nutty and turn light brown, add the lemon juice, parsley and some seasoning. Pour some of this beurre noisette over each fish and serve with the lemon wedges.

Recipe courtesy of Rick Stein’s Fish & Shellfish Book.

Also known just as ‘Dover sole meunière’, this is ‘miller’s style’. The dish gets its name from the light dusting of flour the fish is given before frying.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce


1 pound linguine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 anchovies, packed in oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
18-ounce jar diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 pounds littleneck clams*


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add linguine and cook for 3 minutes. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. Strain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and set aside.

In a very large sauté pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add anchovies, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 minutes until the anchovies “melt” and the shallots become translucent. Add wine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the wine reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Next, add tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of parsley, thyme, and reserved pasta water. season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Add linguine and clams to the sauté pan and cover. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the clams open. Discard any clams that do not open.

Garnish with the remaining parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Steele House Kitchen.

Whole Grilled Fish with Lemon

(Riba na Rostilju) Serves 6

6 whole lean fish, such as sea bream, dorado, orange roughy, or sea bass, scaled, cleaned, and dried (about 1 lb. each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 lemons, quartered
1 bunch parsley, for serving (optional)

Heat a charcoal or woodburning grill or set a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over high heat.) Season cavity of fish with salt and pepper. Rub oil, salt, and pepper on the outside of fish; grill, flipping once, until slightly charred and cooked, 12–15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and parsley.

Seka Salamun, a home cook in Tisno, Croatia, uses olive wood to impart a mild smokiness to this grilled fish. Though delicious with just a squeeze of lemon, it also pairs beautifully with classic French fish sauces like beurre blanc, ravigoté, or tomato coriander broth.

Recipe courtesy of Saveur.

Black Pepper Halibut Steaks with Roasted Tomatoes

Crusted with coarsely crushed black pepper, steak au poivre is a classic preparation for beef, but it’s also a delicious and bold way to flavor meaty fish steaks. Here, the seasoned fish is roasted on a bed of sliced tomatoes, which are served alongside.


6 halibut steaks, each about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick
2 to 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup (1/4 oz./7 g) lightly packed fresh basil leaves

Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C).

Rinse the halibut steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the fish with enough of the melted butter to coat. Sprinkle with the pepper and press gently so the pepper adheres to the fish.

Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer in a buttered baking dish just large enough to hold the fish in a single layer, and arrange the basil leaves, then the fish, on top of the tomatoes. Roast until the halibut flakes easily when gently prodded with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes.

Using a spatula, transfer the halibut steaks and tomatoes to warmed individual plates and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Recipe courtesy of Williams Sonoma.


Linguine with Clams and FennelYield: serves 4 to 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced crosswise (3 cups)
3/4 pound linguine
1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 pounds Manila clams, scrubbed
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup fish stock or low-sodium chicken broth
4 teaspoons neonata, sambal oelek or other chunky chile paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley


In a pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the linguine until just al dente; drain.

Meanwhile, in the pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the fennel and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the clams, white wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the clams open, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer the clams to a large bowl as they open. Remove the pot from the heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Reserve 12 whole clams in their shells; shell the remaining clams.

Bring the juices in the pot to a boil and stir in the linguine, neonata, clams and leeks. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and toss until the pasta is coated and the juices are thickened. Stir in the lemon juice and half of the parsley; season with salt and pepper. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls garnished with basil, the remaining parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

Notes: Neonata is an Italian condiment made from salted fish and chile.

Recipe courtesy of chef Erling Wu-Bower on Food & Wine.

Garlicky Shrimp Scampi

The term “scampi” is used to describe sautéed jumbo shrimp in a butter, white wine sauce. If you like, substitute scallops instead, or use a combination of both. They’re delicious with the sauce, and small bay scallops will cook in about the same amount of time as the shrimp.

1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 lb. (750 g.) jumbo or extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
12 Tbs. (6 oz./185 g.) unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) dry white wine
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Lemon wedges

In a shallow bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a large frying pan, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Toss half of the shrimp in the flour mixture to coat evenly, shaking off the excess. Add to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Repeat with the remaining shrimp, adding more oil as needed.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic softens and is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and the lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to very low. Whisk in the remaining 10 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, letting each addition soften into a creamy emulsion before adding more.

Return the shrimp to the sauce and mix gently to coat well. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve, passing the lemon wedges at the table. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of Williams Sonoma.