8 Recipes To Help You Plan Your Feast of the Seven Fishes

8 Recipes To Help You Plan Your Feast of the Seven Fishes

Sure, you can serve a big slab of meat as your centerpiece this holiday season, but why not switch things up and serve seafood? Fish makes for a stellar main entree as it’s super satiating thanks to its ample protein content, and very versatile to cook with. And that’s what the Feast of the Seven Fishes—a seafood-centric dinner that takes place on December 24—is all about.

“The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American tradition of serving seven unique seafood courses on Christmas Eve while refraining from eating meat,” says Ari Lang, chef and blogger at Well Seasoned Studio. “I’ve also heard of family celebrations that include simply one or two main dishes. However, they feature multiple fish or shellfish per course.”

So how did this tradition come about? Abstaining from meat and dairy on the eve of certain holidays is a classic Roman Catholic custom, and eating fish on the night before Christmas first began in the early 1900s, according to Eataly. So why are there seven fishes involved rather than, say, five or six? The number seven is very prevalent in Catholicism—think: seven sacraments, seven days of Creation, and seven deadly sins.

Even if you didn’t grow up celebrating Feast of the Seven Fishes, the idea of a meal centered around seafood is one to get behind. Fish can be a wonderful source of lean protein, anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and many vitamins and minerals including immune-supporting zinc, per the Washington State Department of Health.

Still, cooking seven fish dishes for a crowd could feel overwhelming if you don’t plan ahead. And when it comes to preparing any large meal, there are a few things to keep in mind, Lang says:

  • The preparation and cook time of each dish.
  • Whether the food can be served cold, room temperature, or hot. “Include a variety of dishes that can be prepared in advance, like marinated seafood salad or crudo, that free up your time to finish any warm dishes—like grilled or roasted fish, a soup perhaps, and of course pasta,” Lang says.
  • How heavy each course is. “If I’m sitting down to a multi-course meal, the last thing I want is to fill up by the second dish,” Lang points out.

Still trying to figure out where to start? These delicious fish recipes are sure to please. Try serving them alongside some of these 18 Healthiest Vegetable Side Dishes.

8 Recipes To Help You Plan Your Feast of the Seven Fishes
Courtesy of Liz Weiss, MS, RDN for Seafood From Norway

Liz Weiss, RD, and cookbook author, shares her healthy take on the viral butter board.

“Instead of piling your board with butter, use whipped light cream cheese, which spreads easier than traditional cream cheese, Weiss says. “Then, top it with smoked Norwegian salmon, sliced tomatoes (grape or cherry), capers, fresh dill, and slices of red onion and adorn with fresh lemon wedges.”

Serve with bagel chips or crunchy slices of English cucumber.

spaghetti with garlic, anchovies, and parsley
Courtesy of Savory Simple

This savory spaghetti recipe is adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s final cookbook. So not only do you know it’ll knock your socks off, it also only takes about 20 minutes to make. You’ll cook down briny anchovies and aromatic garlic until they transform into a rich sauce. Add a sprig of fresh parsley and a dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano around out the dish.

Get the recipe from Savory Simple.

seafood salad
Courtesy of Dinner at the Zoo

This easy seafood salad combines imitation crab meat and shrimp folded together with a creamy dill and Old Bay sauce. You’ll want to make an extra-large batch, as this seafood salad makes for great leftovers: Just stuff it into a baguette or scoop it over a bed of greens for a high-protein lunch the next day.

Get the recipe from Dinner at the Zoo.

white fish chowder
Courtesy of Sweet Phi

Your dinner guests will feel like they’ve been transported to a cozy beach town in Maine with every spoonful of this comforting chowder. White wine, heavy cream, and homemade fish stock form the flavorful base of this hearty soup, and it’s studded with mild-tasting tilapia, parsnips, and potatoes. You’d usually serve the chowder with a side of crusty Italian bread, but you’ll want to skip the toast on Christmas Eve, so your guests will have more room for the next course.

Get the recipe from Sweet Phi.

spicy sauteed fish with olives and cherry tomatoes
Courtesy of Love and Olive Oil

Combine red snapper with kalamata olives, blistered cherry tomatoes, and red chili flakes for a mouthwatering meal that’s zingy and savory. If you can’t find red snapper at your local grocery store, feel free to sub it with orange roughy or tilapia. While this fish dish is sure to impress your guests, you’ll be glad to know it all comes together in just 20 minutes and calls for a few simple ingredients you probably have on hand.

Get the recipe from Love and Olive Oil.

fish en papillote with fresh herbs and lemon
Courtesy of Love and Olive Oil

Cooking fish en papillote—or in a parchment paper pouch—infuses it with rich flavors. Plus, it makes for super easy cleanup. (Isn’t that a major bonus when you’re cooking seven different recipes?) This convenient recipe calls for a firm white fish, like cod or snapper, and it’s infused with a delightful shallot butter sauce as well as zingy fennel and flavorful fresh herbs.

Get the recipe from Love and Olive Oil.

seafood pasta
Courtesy of Dinner at the Zoo

What’s an Italian-inspired feast without a big bowl of seafood pasta? This spaghetti recipe features a medley of shrimp, clams, mussels, and scallops tossed together with a garlicky tomato sauce. While nothing beats making your own marinara, you can certainly use your go-to jarred spaghetti sauce to save time.

Get the recipe from Dinner at the Zoo.

parmesan crusted tilapia
Courtesy of Real Food by Dad

Crafting a parmesan crust for a delicate-tasting white fish like tilapia adds tantalizing taste and texture. This simple coated fish is made with umami-rich parm, fresh parsley, and smokey paprika before it’s baked in the oven until fork-tender and flaky.

Get the recipe from Real Food by Dad.

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