Feast of the Seven Fishes

I know I’m tardy, but I wanted to go waaaay back to last year.  In fact, the last day of 2007.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, there were a number of Italian American families that had a big family dinner on Christmas Eve that was called The Feast of the Seven Fishes.  The concept was fairly simple – seven courses were served, each which contained seafood (seven because of the number of sacraments in the Catholic Church).  If you know east coast Italian families, there was usually a fair amount of pasta with clams, fried shrimp, fried calamari, steamed mussels, and fried calamari – it was not a light meal.  The last one I went to was several years ago at friends of my brother’s, and it was a lot of fun.

Since we were staying put in San Diego (i.e. not traveling back to the east coast this year), the Beloved and I decided that we would host a New Year’s Eve party.  When we were thinking about a theme, Seven Fishes popped into my head.  However, we thought that we wouldn’t rely on the dishes above, but would celebrate the New Year with Seven Fishes California Style.  The idea being that we would use local ingredients and prepare them in “traditional” west coast ways instead.  We wanted to serve light courses that people could eat standing up or in a chair (too many and too long to sit formally).   We started about 7 pm, and I think we rolled out the last course around 11:00.

Note: If the pictures get worse along the way, you should know that I put my new cocktail shaker to good use.

First Course.  Shrimp cocktail with tomatoes, lime, cilantro, onion and avocado salsa with (optional) tequila lime shooters and sangrita chasers (actually in limes).  The shrimp cocktail had a great light taste much like a ceviche.  We used a good Herradura  tequila that was very smooth.  The sangrita was a great finisher – like tangy, salty, lime-tomato juice.  Really fun way to kick off the night!

Second Course.  Grilled Pacific lobsters Baja-style with rice and salsa-fied black beans.  Even though all the courses were designed to be light, we thought that people should get something substantial on their stomach before any drink might kick in.  We served with corn tortilla in case folks wanted to make little lobster tacos or burritos.

Third Course.  Crabby-deviled eggs.  The Beloved is a believer in deviled eggs and these were heaping with crab.  They were very yummy and a nice light snacker after the lobster.  Served on a bed of greens — because really there wasn't a whole lot of salad going on.

Fourth Course.  Fresh-caught California Sheephead fishcakes.  One of our good friends is part owner of a boat and so a day or so before the party, he went out and caught several sheephead off the coast and he and his wife prepared a breaded fishcake with scallions and wasabi which they lightly fried in olive oil and served.  Really good.

Fifth Course.  Sesame-crusted seared Ahi tuna with wasabi sauce.  A staple in nearly every restaurant when I first moved here and still good for a light bite.  The tuna was very tender and my old college roommate (who was visiting for the party) did the searing.  Perfectly done on the outside, still cool (aka raw) on the interior.  Yum!

Sixth Course.  Grilled Tilapia Fish Taco.  As the cheesesteak is to Philly, so is the fish taco to San Diego.  Grilled white fish with a sour-cream/yogurt salsa and red cabbage served on a corn tortilla.  Delicious calories to load up those who might need something before getting on the road.

Seventh Course.  A Trio of Fish-themed Desserts.  These were brought by friends of ours that attended.  First was a collection of fish shaped cookies, with dark chocolate covered Pepperidge Farm goldfish.  Tiramisu layered with fish-cookies and fish and crustacean shaped rice-krispy treats.

By that time, it was time to uncork the champagne and welcome in 2008!!  It was a lot of fun and scurrying frenzy in the kitchen, but doing prep work during the day, keeping the serving size down and having a others bring a course or two made it very manageable and fun.

A Belated Happy 2008 to all!

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26 thoughts on “Feast of the Seven Fishes

  1. This is awesome! I had never heard of The Feast of Seven Fishes until I started watching Rachael Ray. She talks about it a lot although her description makes it seem like it's eating fish for 7 days. Either way it's a great idea! I'm not Catholic but I LOVE fish and aside from the raw ahi everything looked incredible. Also kudos for giving a traditional east coast feast and light, hip west coast flair. Sounds and looks like great fun plus much yum!

  2. [this is cooking show worthy] Excuse me Mr. Betz, we have The Food Network holding on line three.
    Amazing!!! You have officially knocked my socks off and now my feet are very cold. Thanks a lot!

  3. 8gurl — hah it does not surprise me that RR has talked about 7-fishes. She seems just like the type that would have been around that. And the ahi was cooked — on the outside!

  4. This looks incredible! I've never heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes before but what a great twist you and the Beloved put on it. Very creative and fun! And as long as Jen and Hannah are coming to your house next NYE, then I am too!

  5. You know it Mello — it sounds like what we'll need for the Great Vox Get-Together is to make dishes that represent the different places that people have come from… Minnesota, DC, Texas….even Indiana (Hannah — what IS local hoosier cuisine??)

  6. oh boy oh boy oh boy! that's a LOT of fantastic food! and what a theme. this is going to go down as one of my favourite posts on your blog, steve. thanks for sharing, i feel like i was there!

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