7 Fishes Dinner – We had a table of 12 to enjoy the special seven fishes holiday dinner prepared for us by Chef Joe Cicala of Le Virtu in Philadelphia, PA. The Italian tradition of the seven fishes is celebrated on Christmas Eve in honor of Jesus, who was a fisherman. The original fishes were chosen and prepared as a result of the lack of refrigeration, so the choices included Bacala (dried codfish) and fishes preserved in salt or olive oil, such as sardines and anchovies. Thankfully, we have much more flexibility today and so can experience a wider variety of tastes.
The opening course was a salad with Salmoriglio dressing (olive oil/lemon/garlic) with anchovies and grilled octopus. While this sounds a bit exotic, it is very easy to recreate. Good substitutes for those who do not like anchovies or octopus are grilled tuna steak, crabmeat, or even tuna in a can. The second course was handmade squid ink pasta in a white pescatore sauce with clams, mussels, shrimp, and calamari, followed by grilled Orata fish (dorade) with zucchini, mint, and sweet and sour sauce on the side. Dessert was a limoncello tiramisu, which was light and refreshing, perfect with fish.
To do this at home, choose pasta pre-made, either fresh or dried, from the supermarket or you can make your own. Select any shellfish you’d like and steam them in a flavorful broth, such as bottled clam juice, garlic, parsley, and white wine. If you prefer red sauce, include a small can of tomato sauce (Hunt’s). For the grilled fish, your local market’s fishmonger can recommend the best fish for grilling, as well as any specials that fit your palate. Snapper, salmon, grouper, and tuna are good choices for grilling.
For dessert, make sure that the flavors you introduce at the end are light and refreshing and complement the fish, such as lemon or mint. Serve anything from a slice of lemon meringue pie to making homemade limoncello tiramisu. To recreate the traditional meal, select your seven favorite fishes/shellfish and get creative!
For more information on our culinary tours, please call Chef Jacquie at (610) 506-6120.