Fish, fish and more fish

Medicine Hat News - - CUI­SINE -

For a hol­i­day so widely cel­e­brated, the tra­di­tions sur­round­ing Christ­mas are as unique as the or­na­ments that dec­o­rate your tree. From decor, songs, sto­ries and gifts, Christ­mas looks a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent in ev­ery home across the world, but of course, here at The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica, we’re es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in what’s on the ta­ble.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can tra­di­tion to ring in Christ­mas Eve, when Ro­man Catholics cel­e­brate the mid­night birth of Je­sus, known in Ital­ian as “La Viglia.” Fish is a tra­di­tional in­gre­di­ent in the Christ­mas Eve din­ner be­cause cus­tom calls for the eschew­ing of red meat lead­ing up to the hol­i­day.

Though to­day the feast is com­monly re­ferred to as the “seven fishes,” the ori­gin of that num­ber is un­clear, and in fact, many Ital­ian and Amer­i­can homes may serve up­wards of 10 dishes to cel­e­brate the feast. Recipes vary from re­gion to re­gion, but com­mon in­gre­di­ents can in­clude salted cod, cala­mari, shell­fish, and shrimp, which may be stewed, fried, sauteed, or even served raw. Of course, you're likely to find a pasta dish in the mix.

This can lead to a long day in the kitchen, but it doesn't have to be a strug­gle. If you want to cel­e­brate Christ­mas Eve the Ital­ian way, try this quick and easy Seven Fishes Sauce recipe.

This sim­ple sauce is a tra­di­tional mix of aro­matic in­gre­di­ents, white wine, and fish broth that will lightly coat the fish(es) and pasta. For our main in­gre­di­ents, we've cho­sen the seafood heavy hit­ters: crab, shrimp, cala­mari, clams, mus­sels, scal­lops, and white fish. You can serve the shell­fish in their shells for a dra­matic pre­sen­ta­tion, or serve them shucked for a more user-friendly ex­pe­ri­ence.

Depend­ing on where you live, your fish mar­kets may be buzzing in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the hol­i­day, but don't be tempted to se­cure your catch too early. Your in­gre­di­ents should be as fresh as pos­si­ble, kept cold and over ice, if your re­frig­er­a­tor is es­pe­cially crowded. Make sure you give your clams and mus­sels some breath­ing room if they came packed in plas­tic.

While we’ve added it to the Christ­mas Eve menu, you can use this recipe as a base for week­night din­ners all year long. Add Thai-style aro­mat­ics to the broth, like gin­ger and le­mon grass, and a squeeze of lime juice for a Tom Yum-style broth. Or, dur­ing the sum­mer, add chopped fresh to­ma­toes, cilantro, and some hot chilis for a Latin flair.

We like serv­ing this sauce over pasta (be­cause ev­ery­thing is bet­ter with pasta), but you will also love it over creamy po­lenta, roasted vegeta­bles or pota­toes, or steamed rice. You can even serve it on its own, along­side some crusty bread for dip­ping.

Depend­ing on how you serve it, this can be a deca­dent first course or sat­is­fy­ing en­tree, but we think how­ever you fill your ta­ble, your guests will be lucky to share a buon Natale with you and your loved ones. ___ This ar­ti­cle was pro­vided to The As­so­ci­ated Press by The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica in Hyde Park, New York.


This Nov. 8 photo pro­vided by The Culi­nary In­sti­tute of Amer­ica shows a seven fishes sauce served over pasta in Hyde Park, N.Y. This dish is from a recipe by the CIA.

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