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Foodstuff: Feast of (almost) Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve

My traditions with Christmas Eve seafood

Katherine Roberts
Foodstuff
Holiday-themed plates, a silver seafood platter and a holiday-themed spreader (classic Christmas gifts from mom)
Katherine Roberts / Photo Credit

Several years ago, I established a Christmas Eve tradition in my family that we never did while I was growing up, but I thought it would be a fun hostess project: the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Grilled sea scallops brushed with butter.
Katherine Roberts / Photo Credit

An Italian-American tradition, this Christmas Eve meal originates from Southern Italy, where both of my maternal grandparents are from, and signifies Christmas Eve as a vigil or fasting day. The abundance of seafood reflects the observance of abstinence from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself.

Lobster tails boiling in the pot for seafood paella.
Katherine Roberts / Photo Credit

While salted cod and fried smelt are typical offerings during the meal, I have improvised over the years, making everything from stuffed, baked calamari in marinara sauce, to lobster ravioli, grilled scallops, fried clams, and even seafood paella.



This hostessing gig is not for the faint of heart. I generally start prepping around midday on Dec. 22 and am working right up until Christmas Eve dinner.

Calamari salad with chickpeas.
Katherine Roberts /Photo Credit

Hot tip: Cook something with multiple types of fish in one dish to make your life a tad easier or throw in something you don’t have to cook at all, like raw oysters on the half shell or smoked salmon on potato chips (topped with crème fraiche and caviar — yum!). Done right, it’s all sure to be a hit.




Speaking of hits, I always must include a longtime family recipe from my mother: a hot, crab-dip appetizer, which was en vogue in the 1980s and, with a little bit of an upgrade, has stood the test of time on my holiday table. And, it could not be easier. You can throw it together in advance and pop it in the oven right before your guests arrive. It also makes a great addition to a holiday potluck, as you can transport it raw and bake it at your hosts’ house.

HOT CRAB DIP

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 6oz. can lump crab meat*

1 – 2T of milk

1t horseradish**

Salt and pepper to taste

Slivered almonds***

1 14oz. can artichoke hearts in brine, chopped (optional)****

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, except almonds.

Bake is a small baking dish with almonds on top for 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve with wheat crackers on the side.

COOK’S NOTES

*Go for the upgrade! Skip the can, and get an eight-ounce tub of jumbo lump-crab meat. It’s a splurge, which makes all the difference — just be gentle when you stir it into the cream cheese mixture, to keep the meat intact.

**I like a lot of horseradish, so I put about two tablespoons in here. Add more if you like a kick. You can find this in the refrigerated section.

***I use sliced almonds; I think they look prettier on the top.

****This is not part of the original recipe, but I love the combination of artichoke and crab, as it reminds me of Christmases I spent living in San Francisco. Try it!

My Christmas Eve plans are pretty easy breezy this year, so I’ll do three or four fishes instead of the usual seven, but I can’t wait to pop the champagne, enjoy this decadent dinner, and continue my tradition of watching It’s A Wonderful Life. Everyone who knows me isn’t surprised that this is my favorite holiday film. Because, at the end of the day, I firmly believe in counting your blessing and making your blessings count. To that end, I hope you’re happy, healthy, and able to do the same today and heading into 2023. Merry Christmas!

Katherine Roberts is a mid-valley based writer and marketing professional who loves hearing from all of you after her columns come out in print. Drop her a line and share some of your favorite holiday recipes. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative

Hot crab dip being devoured.
Katherine Roberts / Photo credit
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