Places to eat Feast of Seven Fishes, or cook your own
Whole roast Branzino with Brussels sprouts
Tradition runs deep in Italian culture, from the handing down of recipes to getting messy in the kitchen with grandparents making them.
The importance of Christmas Eve dinner is one of those traditions.
The Feast of the Seven fishes marks the last night of the advent season, which is often meat-free. The idea is that you eat an ocean’s worth of fish with your family before going back to those burgers and steaks.
Denver restaurants have joined in on the culinary tradition, bringing chef-driven meals to the table. For Paul C. Reilly of Coperta, preparing the meal isn’t far from the Italian fare he’s plating on a nightly basis. “Two of the dishes we’re doing are currently on the menu at Coperta,” he said. “We want to keep it traditional as much as possible and have a family, communal dining style.”
Coperta’s $50 prix fixe menu for Feast of the Seven Fishes runs through Christmas Eve. Reilly showcases house-made salt cod ravioli, monkfish fra diavolo, mussels and linguine, wood-fired eel, herring crostini and a calamari-shrimp fritto misto. He shares the recipe for monkfish fra diavolo below; it’s a dish he said is easily whipped up by the home cook. “Monkfish fra diavolo contains little more than a few ingredients that most people already have to make the sauce,” he said. “You could use lobster or shrimp or use mussels, which are a really affordable and responsible source.”
Meanwhile in Boulder, chef Duncan Holmes of Frasca Food & Wine is stepping outside of his typical Friuli region of Italy and cooking dishes you wouldn’t otherwise see on the menu. “Normally we don’t get to do normal classic dishes,” he said. “Like last year, we did linguine and clams. Everybody loves those dishes and to cook them and eat them. We use it as an opportunity to do something fun for our guests.”
The $110 dinner at Frasca includes oysters, clams casino, fritti misti, a sardine insalata, linguine and crab and a few other to-be-named dishes. The headliner of the evening is a whole-roasted monkfish, which Holmes said creates a family feel at the table. “When we create the menus, the number one thing we try to focus on is the communal or family element to it — things that get the group together and talking in that family setting.” He shares the recipe below.
Coperta and Frasca Food & Wine aren’t the only restaurants dishing up fish on Christmas Eve. Here’s a few places you can dine on the Italian dishes.
560 S. Broadway The South Broadway seafood stop will dish up mussels with salsa verde, Mediterranean octopus bolognese and more on Christmas Eve. Call 303-7773474 for reservations.
3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder Chef Kelly Whitaker’s Boulder restaurant will feature wood-fired, sustainably sourced fish you can also find daily on the regular menu. Preorder a whole fish or make reservations by calling—303-997-8775.
2011 East 17th Ave. A mainstay of Denver’s Italian restaurants, Il Posto—hosts the Feast of Seven Fishes annually. The $95 dinner runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Call—303394-0100 for reservations. (feeds 4-6) From Duncan Holmes, Frasca Food and Wine Ingredients
1 whole branzino, 3-4 pounds (cleaned & split down the belly at the fishmonger’s) 2 tbsp olive oil 3 gloves garlic 1 lemon sliced in thin rounds Salt to taste Directions
A hour before serving, take the fish out of the fridge and place on an oven rack and preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Layer several slices of lemon in the cavity of the fish with the garlic cloves, then season with salt and the olive oil. Once the fish has tempered (set out on the counter for about 30 minutes or so), season the outside of the fish with salt and another light drizzle of olive oil and place in the oven to bake, about 15 minutes or until the flesh is tender and flaky. Ingredients
3 pounds Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half 3 Tbsp olive oil Salt and pepper to taste Directions
While the fish is in the oven, heat a medium-sized sauce pan on the stove. Once the pan is hot, pour a small amount of oil into the bottom of the pan. Once the oil begins to ripple and the pan is hot, place the Brussels sprouts in the pan, cut-side down. The oil will splatter a little so be mindful. Once all the Brussels are all in the pan, let them sear and take on a little color on the cut side. Once they begin to take on color and become tender, season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and pour onto a serving tray.
When the Brussels are on a serving tray and the fish is cooked and removed from the oven, place on top of the Brussels sprouts. At this point you can sprinkle chopped hazelnuts, herbs, citrus, etc., over the fish and Brussels sprouts to make it fit your holiday meal.
Pete Marczyk of Marczyk Fine Foods holds a whole fish for sale at the fish counter.