Places to eat Feast of Seven Fishes, or cook your own

Whole roast Branzino with Brus­sels sprouts

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Justin De La Rosa

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.

Chow­der Room

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.

Il Posto

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.

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