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Feast of the Seven Fishes – Sicilian Style

See what it’s like to celebrate Christmas Eve with a Sicilian-style seven fishes dinner.

Seven Fishes Menu
Seven Fishes Menu

Our excitement started three weeks ago when we got the official invitation to the best dinner of the year – Alec and Kat’s Christmas Eve seven fishes dinner.

This year’s feast was to have a Sicilian theme and included the members of our no-name wine group. So, leading up to the sixth annual dinner, we shopped at various stores for Sicilian wines and went to our favorite local cheese shop, DiBruno Brothers, to purchase eclectic cheeses for a dessert plate. Before we knew it, it was 6:00 on December 24th – Seven Fishes o’clock!

In the fine style our overachieving hosts, Alec and Kat prepared nine fish dishes instead of seven.

Upon our late arrival, we were immediately offered sparkling wine. We each started the festivities with a glass of Prosecco and then enjoyed a glass of Lambrusco.

Seven Fishes Starters

Joe, Flo and Bob Enjoying the Appetizers at Seven Fishes Dinner
Joe, Flo and Bob Enjoying the Appetizers

The first two fish courses were served as appetizers in the living room. Anchovies were served on a platter but eaten one at a time with a marinated red pepper atop a cracker. The mussels, brimming with garlic and bread crumbs, slid easily from the shells to our mouths.

Fish Number 1 - Anchovy with Olive Oil, Garlic and Roasted Pepper
Fish Number 1 – Anchovy with Olive Oil, Garlic and Roasted Pepper

We also put out one of our cheeses – a camembert fermier au lait entier from France. The creamy, ripe raw cow’s milk cheese was a fine accompaniment to the delicious fish, nuts and olives.

Fish Number 2 - Mussels with Bread Crumbs, Garlic and Parsley
Fish Number 2 – Mussels with Bread Crumbs, Garlic and Parsley

Seven Fishes Wines

Some of the Evening's Many Wines
Some of the Evening’s Many Wines

As we all happily nibbled on the appetizers and sipped bubbly wine, Alec was busy in the kitchen. He soon summoned us to the dining room, as dinner was about to be served. First things first, it was time to open some wine. It’s fair to say the wine group was thirsty.

Seven Fishes Mains

Fish Number 3 - Octopus with Radicchio, Endive, Fennel and Mint
Fish Number 3 – Octopus with Radicchio, Endive, Fennel and Mint

We started the seated part of the meal with a generous amount of octopus.

Octopus on the Fork
Octopus on the Fork

The conversation flowed between courses as Alec worked in the kitchen.

Karl and Heidi between Courses
Karl and Heidi between Courses

Next up was clams. They were worth the short wait.

Fish Number 4 - Clams with White Wine, Garlic and Parsley
Fish Number 4 – Clams with White Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Kat entertained us between courses. And, of course, we drank more wine.

Kat, One of the Gracious Hosts of the Seven Fishes Dinner
Kat, One of the Gracious Hosts of the Seven Fishes Dinner

Next up? Crab Arancini with a surprising burst of mozzarella in the middle.

Fish Number 5 - Crab Arancini with Saffron, Risotto and Fra Diavolo Sauce
Fish Number 5 – Crab Arancini with Saffron, Risotto and Fra Diavolo Sauce
Inside the Crab Arancini
Inside the Crab Arancini
Daryl and a Long Strand of Cheese
Daryl and a Long Strand of Cheese

Although it wasn’t a contest, the scallop course seemed to be the crowd favorite of the night.

Fish Number 6 - Scallop with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Pistachio-Basil Pesto
Fish Number 6 – Scallop with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Pistachio-Basil Pesto

Not everybody likes sardines. Somehow, though, everybody liked Alec’s Sicilian pasta version featuring the small oily fish.

Fish Number 7 - Sardines with Bucatini, Fennel, Currants, Pine Nuts and Almonds
Fish Number 7 – Sardines with Bucatini, Fennel, Currants, Pine Nuts and Almonds

The seven fishes dinner is a leisurely event with time between courses.

Chef Alec at Work
Chef Alec at Work
Daryl, Joe, Alec & Karl Chilling between Courses
Daryl, Joe, Alec & Karl Chilling between Courses

Enough relaxing, it was time for the next fish. The salt cod dish kept with the Sicilian theme and tasted as good as it looked.

Fish Number 8 - Salt Cod with Fregula, Tomato, Capers, White Wine and Oil-Cured Olives
Fish Number 8 – Salt Cod with Fregula, Tomato, Capers, White Wine and Oil-Cured Olives
Salt Cod Dish as Served
Salt Cod Dish as Served

We’ve been doing this fishy dinner for six years, and six of us have been at every dinner so far. We now have inside jokes and annual traditions. One tradition is Stephanie falling asleep during the annual dinner.

Stephanie as the Evening Progresses
Stephanie as the Evening Progresses

Another annual tradition is Alec ending the meal after midnight with a beautiful whole fish. This year was no exception.

Alec Serving the Striped Bass
Alec Serving the Striped Bass
Fish Number 9 - Striped Bass with Lemon, Potato, Parsley - Before, During and After
Fish Number 9 – Striped Bass with Lemon, Potato, Parsley – Before, During and After

Seven Fishes Desserts

We all saved just enough room for dessert.

The Final Course - Dessert
The Final Course – Dessert

Keeping with the Sicilian theme, we had baklava, pistachio gelato and our cheese plate. The baklava was flaky and sweet. The cheese plate had a mix of flavors.

Karl's Homemade Baklava
Karl’s Homemade Baklava

Although the Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar is always a favorite, the shining cheese star was the rich yet bold Testun di Castagno wrapped in fresh Chestnut leaves.

Cheese Plate - Testun di Castagna, Chirboga Blue and Montgomery's Farmhouse Cheddar
Cheese Plate – Testun di Castagna, Chirboga Blue and Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar

Formality gone for the evening, we passed the ice cream around in the pint container so that everybody could dig in with their own spoons.

We toasted our wonderful hosts with dessert wine and port. Another year, another seven-hour seven fishes dinner. Life is good.

Alec and Kat’s house is located at an undisclosed location in Philadelphia, PA, United States.

About the Authors
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

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mgeno

Sunday 29th of December 2013

Looks amazing. And, nice cheese choices to end with! M

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Sunday 29th of December 2013

Very nice cheese indeed! Perhaps even worthy of your wonderful portraits...

Vonnie

Sunday 29th of December 2013

Scallops, yummy!

polianthus

Sunday 29th of December 2013

looks stunning - and very involved, I guess Alec has a big kitchen. I like the idea of a seven fishes dinner, interesting to read up on where it originated. Live and learn everyday. Merry Xmas and happy new year. PS just posted a photo of fishes :) random snap!

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Sunday 29th of December 2013

Here's a link to a New York Times article with some interesting background on the seven fishes tradition. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/dining/surfs-up-on-christmas-eve.html?_r=0

We'll check out your fish photos for sure. Cheers!

Red Hen

Sunday 29th of December 2013

So much food! So much fish! I realise from reading this I need to up my game on cooking fish in 2014. It`s a wonderful food but there`s a million ways to cook it.

Doubt any of you ate a whole pile on Christmas Day after that fish feast!

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Sunday 29th of December 2013

You are so right. We hardly ate anything on Christmas Day, though we did have some Chinese food for dinner.