Feast of the Seven Fishes

The feast of the seven fishes is a traditional Italian-American meal served on Christmas Eve. It is a long drawn out affair with many courses of both hot and cold seafood dishes. See this collection of recipes here that pair nicely with the Iron Horse Ocean Reserve Cuvee. In your meal planning, don't forget the vegetables! Serve a number of seasonal sides to accompany the seafood dishes and have fun celebrating the season and the seas.

All recipes for Feast of the Seven Fishes are from the book, For Cod and Country, by Barton Seaver (Sterling 2011).

Marinated Boquerones

I love these little fishies, whether you call them alici (Italy), boquerones (Spain), or white anchovies. I worked at a restaurant where these were always on the menu and the chef liked to have them at room temperature. The door to the service kitchen was in a narrow hallway that backed up to the salad station, and so I had to walk past these little guys every time I went in or out. Let’s just say I ate a lot of them. But that is really the way to enjoy them, in abundance. You can often find these little fillets in the prepared seafood section of your grocery store. They are not raw, and they are not canned, so sometimes you have to look around for them a little bit.

Serves 4 as a snack
1/2 pound vinegar-cured white anchovies
1 red onion, sliced paper thin
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, sliced paper thin
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sliced crusty baguette
Lemon wedges

Arrange the anchovies attractively on a platter. Layer with the sliced onion, thyme, and garlic cloves and pour the olive oil over all. Sprinkle with chile flakes and place the lemon wedges on the side. This preparation is best if you allow the anchovies to sit in the marinade for an hour or so at room temperature. Serve with sliced bread and lots of crisp white wine.

Oyster Risotto With Butternut Squash, Crème Fraîche, and Fresh Herbs

Oysters are a great addition to risotto, as the heat of the rice itself gently cooks the mollusks and the liquor from the oysters infuses the whole dish with sweet, briny, delicate flavor.

Serves 4
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice
2 cups white wine
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups peeled, diced (1/2-inch) butternut squash
4 cups water
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
24 large oysters, shucked, with liquid and meat reserved

Sauté the onion in the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until translucent. Add the rice and toss to coat with the butter. Cook until the rice begins to toast and has a nutty aroma, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and orange juice and zest and cook until there is no longer an aroma of alcohol and the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Add the squash and water. Season to taste with salt and stir as you continue to cook over medium heat. When the rice has absorbed most of the water, about 12 minutes, add the crème fraîche and herbs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and allow the rice to absorb the remaining liquid, about 5 minutes.

Add the oysters and their liquor and stir to combine. The residual heat of the rice will cook the oysters; the dish is ready to serve when the edges of the oysters begin to curl, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately in shallow bowls, doing your best to distribute the oysters evenly.

Mixed Seafood Salad

This chilled marinated salad, inspired by the Italian dish frutti di mare, is equally at home at a fancy dinner party or a casual lunch. Use whatever seafood looks best at market, adding Maine shrimp, clams, poached fish, smoked oysters, or anything else that catches your eye.

Serves 4 as a first course
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that won’t close)
1 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 pound cleaned squid
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 head frisée lettuce, separated into leaves and heavy stems removed
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro about 2 cups loosely packed
2 ribs celery, sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
Red chile flakes

Place the mussels in a covered pot with the water and half the lemon juice. Cook over high heat until the shells begin to open; remove the mussels to a bowl as they open, leaving behind as much of the broth as possible. Discard any mussels that won’t open after 5 minutes. Remove the mussels from their shells, saving only the meat.

Prepare the squid by slicing the tubes across into the thinnest possible rings. Leave the tentacles intact. Place the squid in the pot with the mussel broth and place over medium heat. Cook until the squid begins to stiffen. Stir constantly so it cooks evenly and does not glom together. After about 5 minutes, the squid will be cooked. Remove it from the broth, and add it to the mussels.

To make the dressing, mix 1 tablespoon of the cooking broth with the remaining lemon juice. Season with a little salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Add the olive oil and whisk to combine. Pour over the mussels and squid and mix. Marinate the seafood for at least 1 hour but no longer than overnight.

To serve, mix the frisée with the cilantro, celery, and onion and add the marinated seafood. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Toss to combine and serve immediately. Offer a pinch of red chile flakes at the table.

Tilapia With Cauliflower Puree and Maple-Cranberry Sauce

I love the bold, romantic flavors of winter cooking. In this combination, tangy cranberries are matched with the bite of shallots and the sweetness of maple syrup. Cauliflower has the property of holding air when it is pureed, enabling you to make a silken puree that has the texture of soft butter without using a bit of fat. Just make sure to cook the cauliflower until it is soft and falling apart. The tilapia fillets are baked in a very low oven to preserve their moistness and flavor.

Serves 4
1 head cauliflower (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
Four 5-ounce tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (if using sweetened, omit the maple syrup)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 small shallot, finely diced
3 cracks freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cauliflower into similar size pieces. It will usually break off at the stem, then all you have to do is to chop the core. Place the cauliflower in a saucepan just large enough to hold it all and cover with cold water. Season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer until the cauliflower is soft and just beginning to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the cauliflower to a blender or food processor. Puree, adding 1 tablespoon of the cooking water at a time to facilitate the process. The puree should be perfectly smooth and silky. If you like, you can add the butter for richness. This can be made ahead and gently rewarmed in a microwave or on the stovetop over low heat for serving.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Place the tilapia fillets on a baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bake just until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes for a 1-inch-thick fillet. During the last few minutes of cooking, set the serving plates in the oven to warm. This method of cooking fish, while it guarantees moistness, doesn’t ever get the fish really hot, so warming the plates is key to keeping the fillets from cooling too quickly.

While the fish is cooking, make the sauce. Put the cranberries in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to plump them. Drain, then combine the cranberries with the maple syrup, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the shallot, and pepper in a medium bowl. Season with a pinch of salt.

To serve, divide the cauliflower puree among the 4 warm serving plates, spreading it over the surface. Set a tilapia fillet on top, spoon the salsa onto it, and serve immediately.

Wahoo Tartare With Nutmeg, Mint and Lemon

Appetizer portion for 4
3/4 pound wahoo loin
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 piece whole nutmeg
Sea salt, preferably Maldon
1 bunch mint, leaves picked from stem
2 lemons

For the wahoo, clean the loin of any dark colored blood line. Slice the loin into long thin sheets that are about a 1/4 inch thick. Slice each sheet crosswise into 1/4 inch strips and then again crosswise into 1/4 inch cubes. Place the cut fish in a large mixing bowl over another bowl filed with ice. Add in the zest of the two lemons, EVOO, salt and a quarter of the nutmeg clove grated very finely on a microplane. Toss very gently to combine so as not to crush the fish. Let sit for twenty minutes. Just before serving add in the mint leaves finely julienned and toss again. The olive oil will be slightly congealed and so will be a little hard to mix.

Smoked Bluefish Spread With Toasted Bread and Olive Oil

This recipe is a wonderful use of smoked bluefish, which can be strongly flavored. I love to serve it at parties or enjoy it as an afternoon snack. If you cannot find smoked bluefish, try smoking it yourself. Or you can substitute smoked trout or hot smoked salmon. The taste won’t be the same, but it’ll still be good.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or snack
8 ounces smoked bluefish
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 loaf crusty baguette, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Remove any skin from the bluefish and flake the fish into a bowl. Add the sour cream and whip with a whisk until the mixture forms a thick paste and the flakes have all broken down into a puree. Check for seasoning and adjust with a little salt if necessary. This can be made up to a few days ahead of time; keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Brush the bread with olive oil and toast under the broiler (or in a toaster oven) until golden brown.

Serve the spread in a bowl with the toasted bread and lemon wedges surrounding it. Finish the spread with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, then serve.

More Recipes

Sweet Potato Soup With Cured Salmon Roe

This is a great way to start out an elegant meal or a simple weeknight dinner. The soup can be made with any variety of sweet potato or autumn squash so buy what looks best and don’t be afraid to experiment a little with something new. The salmon roe is always sold salted and I like to re-brine it for a few minutes to remove a little of the salt to draw out more of its flavor. It also benefits from a quick marinade in a splash of sparkling wine, lime and olive oil.

Serves four
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 pound sweet potato or autumn squash, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cups water
4 ounces cream cheese
1 lime juiced
1 ounce sparkling wine
1 ounce salmon roe

For the soup, start with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the sweet potato and the water and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are falling apart. Transfer the soup to a high-speed blender and add the cream cheese and all but a few drops of the lime juice. Puree the soup until it is a very smooth texture. Place back in the pot to stay warm.

For the roe, cover the eggs with a little cold water and add a pinch of salt. Mix gently with your fingers to separate the eggs and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Pour off the water and any broken and floating eggs. Add the remaining lime juice, sparkling wine and the remaining olive oil to the eggs and stir gently.

To serve the soup ladle it into bowls and then spoon into the center the marinated salmon roe. Any remaining marinade can be drizzled over the top of the soup. Serve immediately.

Eastern Shore Autumn Vegetable Bouillabaisse With Striped Bass

This dish captures the last of the summer’s tomatoes and introduces the new harvest flavors of fall. The Striped Bass are swimming south down the coast from their summer feeding grounds and anglers and commercial fishermen alike are reveling in the sweet flaky meat of this prized fish. The smoky sweet broth is accented by a lime aioli that adds richness and a bright counterpoint.

Serves four
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 pounds autumn squash, peeled and diced in 1 inch cubes (I prefer hubbard or kabocha squash for this, but acorn or butternut also work well)
1 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
1 pound diced roma tomatoes or 1 can stewed tomatoes
1 pint water
1 ¼ pounds striped bass fillet, skinless and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 lime juiced
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 loaf crusty bread such as baguette

For the stew, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic, ginger and onions and sauté over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Clear a space on the bottom of the pan and add the remaining olive oil and the smoked paprika and cook separately for a minute. Smoked paprika is an oil soluble ingredient and so it is important that the spice cook for a minute or two in the oil to get the most flavor and to reduce its grainy texture. Add the diced squash and stir to combine. Add the diced tomato and the water. Season with salt and bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is just beginning to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the fish cubes and reduce the heat to low. Cook for another ten minutes without stirring.

For the aioli, combine the yolk with the lime juice, garlic and a pinch of salt. Whisk to combine and then slowly begin to drizzle in the oil drop by drop. Whish constantly as the oil is added in order to create a thick sauce with the consistency of mayonnaise.

Toast the bread to heat through.

Serve the stew in large bowls with a couple slices of bread on top. Garnish the bread with a dollop of the aioli and serve immediately.

Grilled Mackerel With Fig and Citrus Dressing

There is nothing more seductive than the taste and texture of ripe figs. I like to pair them with the bright taste of citrus and the bite of shallots to offset the richness of the mackerel. The mackerel cooks very quickly due to its thin fillet so this whole dish can come together in a matter of minutes. I like to grill spicy greens such as mustard or turnip to accompany the meal.

Serves four as an entrée
4 each fillets Boston mackerel, skin on 5 ounces each
4 each ripe figs, either brown or green, cut into eighths
1 orange, cut into segments
1 shallot, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced

Prepare a charcoal grill with the coals on one side of the grill.

For the fig dressing, combine the figs, shallots, orange segments, olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl. Season with salt and toss to combine. Allow to sit at least 10 minutes for the flavors to harmonize.

For the mackerel, season generously with salt and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Brush the fillets with half a tablespoon of the olive oil and place skin side down away from the flame. Cover the grill and allow to cook for about 12 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through. Rotate the grill grate so that the fish is over the flame and cook for another minute to get the fish hot. Remove from the grill and top each fillet with a spoonful of the fig dressing and serve immediately.

Broiled Oysters With Smoked Paprika and Peach

I love to pair something a little sweet with oysters. The salty punch of the oyster liquor is well balanced with the aromatic sweetness of the peach and the slight bite of the paprika. This dish is great to cook over the grill if you are entertaining outside.

Serves 4 as an appetizer
16 oysters, washed thoroughly
1 large peach, diced into ¼ inch pieces
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pre-heat the broiler to high

For the oysters, open each one and discard the top shell. Slice the oyster free of the bottom shell so that the oyster is sitting freely in the shell. Reserve as much of the liquor as possible by placing the opened oysters on a bed of salt on a broiler pan.

For the peach topping heat the olive oil with the paprika over medium heat for three minutes. Mix the infused oil with the diced peaches and toss to combine. Place a spoonful of the peach mixture on top of each oyster and place under the broiler. Cook for about 4 minutes or until the edges of the oysters begin to curl and the peaches are slightly browned.

Serve immediately.

Grilled Clams With Lime-Oregano Butter

This is a great dish to start off any gathering as the clams cook in just a few minutes and the butter is served melted on the side. If you can’t get outside to grill, then cook the clams under the broiler in the oven.

Serves 4 as an appetizer
24 each littleneck clams, washed
2 sprigs fresh oregano, finely chopped
½ lime, juiced
3 tablespoons butter

For the butter, combine the lime juice with the oregano and butter in a small saucepot. Place on a burner over medium heat and cook until the butter is about halfway melted. Remove from heat and swirl the pan to melt the rest of the butter.

For the clams, place them cup side down over the hottest part of the grill and cook until they begin to pop open. Remove them one by one as they open and transfer to plates. Discard any clams that do not open after 6-7 minutes of cooking.

Serve immediately with the melted butter.

Barton Seaver, Chef/Conservationist

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    Barton Seaver is a chef who has dedicated his career to restoring the relationship we have with our ocean. It is his belief that the choices we are making for dinner are directly impacting the ocean and its fragile ecosystems.

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