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A Christmas Eve Italian Seafood Feast

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A modern take on the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes

This menu serves four but can easily be doubled. To serve eight, double all recipes except the fritters, calamari, and cheesecake.

The Feast of Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve tradition in Southern Italy; what was once considered a meat-free fast has evolved into a lavish dinner of at least seven different kinds of seafood–often more.

This menu is more doable for one cook than many traditional menus, but still plenty festive. It starts with two fried seafood hors d’oeuvres: salt-cod fritters and calamari rings. Next, it moves onto a mixed shellfish dish with crusty bread to mop up the delicious garlicky sauce. For the main course,  red snapper in a spicy puttanesca sauce is paired with sautéed broccoli raab and a simple spaghetti with pecorino and garlic. A rich cannoli-inspired cheesecake, flecked with orange zest and chocolate chips, finishes the meal.

Menu Timeline

One Day Ahead:

  • Soak the salt cod for the fritters.
  • Make the cheesecake.

4 Hours Ahead:

  • Make and shape the fritters but do not fry; keep refrigerated.
  • Clean the squid and shellfish.
  • Blanch the broccoli raab.

1-1/2 Hours Ahead:

  • Make the puttanesca sauce for the snapper.
  • Grate the cheese for the pasta and the lemon zest for the broccoli raab.
  • Prep all the ingredients for the mixed shellfish.

45 Minutes Ahead:

  • Heat the oil for frying the squid and cod fritters.
  • Mince the garlic for the pasta and broccoli raab
  • Season the squid rings and coat in flour.

As Guests Arrive:

  • Fry the squid and salt-cod fritters and serve them with drinks.

30 Minutes Ahead:

  • Cook the garlic and herbs for the pasta.
  • Make the browned butter for the mixed shellfish.

15 Minutes Ahead:

  • Cook the mixed shellfish.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

After the first course is cleared:

  • Nestle the snapper fillets in the puttanesca sauce and cover. While the fish braises, finish pasta and the broccoli raab.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 1 lb. broccoli raab
  • 1 small bunch kale
  • 1 small head escarole
  • 1 lb. medium Yukon Gold potatoes (3 or 4)
  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 12 grape tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 1 medium orange

Seafood, Eggs & Dairy

  • 4 5-oz. skinless red snapper fillets (about 3/4 inch thick)
  • 2-1/2 lb. squid, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch-wide rings
  • 8 oz. jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 16 littleneck clams
  • 6-1/2 oz. medium shrimp (41 to 50 per lb.; preferably wild)
  • 8 oz. dried salt cod
  • 5 large eggs
  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 2 oz. Pecorino Romano

Other Groceries

  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread
  • 2 14.5-oz. cans petite-diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 lb. dried spaghetti
  • 8 oz. vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup fish broth or bottled clam juice
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives (about 3 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 Tbs. amontillado sherry
  • 1 Tbs. capers

Pantry Staples:

  • Vegetable or sunflower oil, for deep frying
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. hot pepper sauce; more to taste
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • Kosher salt
  • Table salt
  • Black peppercorns

The Menu

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