The name of the traditional Feast of Seven Fishes may prescribe the number of fish (though families are known to make less or more), but as to the kind of fish, that’s open to interpretation.
Chefs around town are putting their creative stamp on the Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition.
For the first time in its five-year history, Ai Fiori will offer a Feast of Seven Fishes menu. Executive chef Scott Schneider’s tasting menu includes fluke crudo, American sturgeon caviar, and Meyer lemon; lobster soup with white truffle and tarragon; octopus alla piastra with sweet potato caponata, brown butter, and pine nuts; trofie nero with Ligurian crustacean ragù with scallops, ink, and spiced bread crumbs; butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster, delicata squash, black trumpet mushrooms; and a meringue dessert. Week of Christmas, through Saturday, $175 per person, and Christmas Day, $250 per person. 400 Fifth Ave., 2nd Level, Midtown.
At Faro, chef Kevin Adey will offer carrots paired with uni, aji dulci, and coriander; warm crab with apple, celery, and dates in a cardamom broth; Raviolo al Uovo, an oversized raviolo filled with salt cod brandade, potato cream, and runny egg yolk, topped with caviar; octopus with squid ink frascatelli; lobster with a citrus emulsion, grapefruit, fennel, and pistachio; and a triple chocolate tarte with crémeux, fudge, and housemade Nutella ice cream. Christmas Eve, 6 p.m.–10 p.m., $95. 436 Jefferson St., Bushwick.
At Vic’s, chef Hillary Sterling’s Feast of Seven Fishes menu will be Venetian-inspired, including cicchetti (small bites); antipasti of scallops gratinato and sea robin; risotto with Meyer lemon and little neck clams; buckwheat agnolotti with caramelized onions and anchovies; poached cod; and sweets. Christmas Eve, 4:30 p.m.–10 p.m., $85 per person. 31 Great Jones St., NoHo.
At Oceana, executive chef Bill Telepan will serve a five-course tasting menu, with a lobster and shrimp roll salad with butter vinaigrette, toasted challah, celery, and red onion; a crispy brandade with parsley root and parsley purée; egg fettuccine with bay scallops, uni, and scallion; and poached wild striped bass with potato gratin, sweet onion, anchovies, and thyme. For dessert, there will be baba au rhum with banana toffee, banana gelato, and caramel bananas. Christmas Eve, 3 p.m.–10 p.m., $95 per person. 120 W. 49th St., Midtown.
For those who’d prefer to stay in and take on the preparation of such a feast (and hats off to you!), here’s a cioppino recipe from Elisa Costantini from her recent cookbook “Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table,” featuring seven kinds of seafood.
My Seven Fishes Stew (Cioppino)
Serves 8 to 10 people
- 1 pound small clams and mussels
- 2 tablespoons salt, plus more for seasoning to taste
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped, including the stem
- 1 pound fresh squid with tentacles, rinsed and chopped into 1/2-inch thick rings
- 4 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or three 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 2 pounds large bay scallops, sliced into halves
- 1 pound tilapia, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound flounder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 portions fresh egg tagliatelle or 2 pounds of boxed pasta (optional)
- Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan (optional)
Scrub the clams and mussels under cold water and place in water-filled bowl with 2 tablespoons salt, and soak for 30 minutes; rinse thoroughly and drain. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, parsley, and squid and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and water and simmer for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp, scallops, tilapia, and flounder; allow to simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Add the clams or mussels to the sauce. Add a pinch or two of salt and pepper to your liking.
If you’re using pasta, bring a large stockpot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Drop pasta in and cook according to instructions on box. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl.
Remove half of the stew and place in a separate serving bowl for the table. Ladle the remaining stew over the pasta. Remove any unopened shells. Garnish with some cheese, if using, and serve.
Reprinted from “Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table” by Elisa Costantini. Copyright 2015. Published by Sterling Epicure.