If you don’t already know what you’re eating this year on December 24 (or on any festive day this season), maybe it’s time to start a new holiday tradition: The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Or perhaps it isn’t new to you at all. This sumptuous, multicourse seafood extravaganza is a Christmas Eve tradition in many Italian American homes and restaurants.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
The Origins of the Feast of the Seven Fishes
The custom of celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes originates in southern coastal Italy, where it’s called La Vigilia (The Vigil) and where Catholic tradition dictates abstinence from meat on holy days. But abstaining from meat never felt so indulgent. Though the specific origin of the more American focus on the number seven remains unclear (possibly the seven sacraments or seven days of creation), it’s hard to argue with the appeal.
What to Eat on Feast Day
What could be more celebratory and satisfying than a dinner with more than a half-dozen types of seafood? The litany of dishes common to the feast is long, with some popular choices including:
Our Favorite Recipe for Counting Up Those Fishes
Some die-hards follow the tradition of preparing seven types of seafood with seven different methods, but if you’re looking for a more manageable (yet still celebratory and irresistible) way to get to the magic number seven, look no further than our Marinated Seafood Salad, which will get you more than halfway there.
Marinated Seafood SaladYou don’t need seven fishes to make your holiday swimmingly delicious.
This recipe, which can be made in advance, is fundamentally very simple. Our version features four kinds of seafood perfectly poached in a white wine and garlic broth until just cooked through and tender. In classic Italian fashion, the fresh seafood—an abundant mix of scallops, calamari, mussels, and shrimp—is at the forefront, adorned only with an uncomplicated dressing made primarily with good-quality olive oil, vibrant lemon juice, emerald-green parsley, and a bit of garlic. (Pro tip: Add one or two minced anchovies to the dressing, and you’ve got five fishes!) Dicing the cooked seafood before marinating it in the bright dressing ensures that one spoonful of the salad can contain every element, packing an entire feast into a single bite.